Vancouver activists hold 24-hour vigil and picket to free the Cuban Five
August 20, 2007
Reprinted from Free the Cuban Five Committee, Vancouver
On Monday, August 20th 2007, five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters underwent another round of appeals hearings in Atlanta, Georgia. The Cuban 5 set out to prove that the 1998 trial in which the US government sentenced them to between 15 years and 2 life sentences had many flagrant violations of court process and convicted them without substantial evidence. For almost nine years, these 5 heroes – Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez, Rene Gonzalez and Gerardo Hernandez - have been held in US prisons for defending humanity and the people of Cuba against U.S.-sponsored terrorism.
On this very important day for their case, people young and old from all different communities joined the Free the Cuban 5 Committee-Vancouver (FC5C-Vancouver) and Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) for the first-ever 24-hour vigil in front of the US Consulate in Vancouver. The vigil in support of the Cuban 5 demanded freedom for these 5 heroes who inspire people in Cuba and around the world to fight for their freedom and justice.
Over 150 people participated throughout the 24 hours, some staying the full 24, others finding half an hour on their way to work to come out and show their solidarity. The vigil began on Sunday August 19th at 3pm, and was kicked off with music from Salvadorian musician Alberto Alarcon, who stayed late into the night sharing his protest songs and inviting the warm singing of the other supporters. Jose Angel, an organizer with the Solidarity Coalition for a United Latin America, spoke to begin the vigil with a message of solidarity for the Cuban 5. The night program was MC’d by VCSC organizer Janine Solanki, and was infused with the poetry of Antonio Guerrero read by members of the Free the Cuban 5 Committee-Vancouver, as well as very moving letters written from jail by Cuban 5 to their families. These elements inspired supporters of the 5 in Vancouver to sign cards and write letters to the 5. Throughout the 24 hours, a table of candles was kept lit for the 5 despite scattered rain, symbolizing the perseverance and the heroic struggle for justice that the 5 heroes demonstrate daily. As supporters passed out information, passers-by were drawn in by a song about the Cuban 5, by speakers on the case, and by the music of Joaquin Ernesto, a passionate Latin American guitarist who came to show his support for the 5.
In the morning, the US Consulate was greeted by the strength of over 45 voices as the vigil wound up with a picket action (the 20th monthly picket action at the US Consulate in Vancouver). Mixed in with powerful chants of “Free the Cuban 5 Now!” were the words Sarah Alwell, organizer with the Free the Cuban 5 Committee-Vancouver and recently returned brigadista with the Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade in Cuba. Civil rights and veteran anti-war activist David Whittlsey shared his insights with the picketers, as did Nino Pagliccia, executive member of Canadian Network on Cuba and coordinator of Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade.
The picket and Monday’s vigil were MC’d by Nita Palmer, an organizer with the FC5C-Vancouver who recently returned from the Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba. Tamara Hansen, the coordinator of VCSC and an executive member of Canadian Network on Cuba, who recently returned from Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade in Cuba, then introduced the Che Brigade Choir. This choir was created during the Che Brigade and joined together to sing a song dedicated to the freedom of the Five, written by members of VCSC. This song was a staple element throughout the 24 hour vigil:
“Why oh why does the U.S. gotta lie,
To lock up the Cuban 5,
Try to bury them alive.
Don’t they realize
That our heroes will never surrender?”
As the picket ended, the last hours of the vigil remained strong and the special song for the Cuban 5 was recorded by Channel M television. These last hours also featured a musical performance by the spirited artist Pablo Oyarzo. The vigil was wrapped up at 3pm by Tamara Hansen, who expressed that because the 24-hour vigil had been such a great success there is a strong need to plan more of these actions in order to involve more and more human loving people and groups into this struggle for freedom of our Cuban 5 heroes. Just after 3pm, the final chants of “Free the Cuban 5!” were made, along with the resounding promise that everyone would be back at the US Consulate, month after month, until the 5 Cuban heroes are free!
** Free the Five Cuban Heroes Held in U.S. Jails! ** VOLVERAN! (They will return!)
Click here to see more pictures of the vigil and picket