Category Archives: Social movements

Canada enables corrupt Haitian president to remain in power

At the front of a protest against Haiti’s president last week a demonstrator carried a large wooden cross bearing the flags of Canada, France and the US. The Haiti Information Project tweeted that protesters “see these three nations as propping up the regime of President Jovenel Moïse. It is also recognition of their role in the 2004 coup.”

Almost entirely ignored by the Canadian media, Haitian protesters regularly criticize Canada. On dozens of occasions since Jean Bertrand Aristide’s government was overthrown in 2004 marchers have held signs criticizing Canadian policy or rallied in front of the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince. For their part, Haiti Progrès and Haiti Liberté newspapers have described Canada as an “occupying force”, “coup supporter” or “imperialist” at least a hundred times.

In the face of months of popular protest, Canada remains hostile to the protesters who represent the impoverished majority. A recent corruption investigation by Haiti’s Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes has rekindled the movement to oust the Canadian-backed president. The report into the Petrocaribe Fund accuses Moïse’s companies of swindling $2 million of public money. Two billion dollars from a discounted oil program set up by Venezuela was pilfered under the presidency of Moïse’s mentor Michel Martelly.

Since last summer there have been numerous protests, including a weeklong general strike in February, demanding accountability for public funds. Port-au-Prince was again paralyzed during much of last week. In fact, the only reason Moïse — whose electoral legitimacy is paper thin — is hanging on is because of support from the so-called “Core Group” of “Friends of Haiti”.

Comprising the ambassadors of Canada, France, Brazil, Germany and the US, as well as representatives of Spain, EU and OAS, the “Core Group” released another statement effectively backing Moise. The brief declaration called for “a broad national debate, without preconditions”, which is a position Canadian officials have expressed repeatedly in recent weeks. (The contrast with Canada’s position regarding Venezuela’s president reveals a stunning hypocrisy.) But, the opposition has explicitly rejected negotiating with Moïse since it effectively amounts to abandoning protest and bargaining with a corrupt and illegitimate president few in Haiti back.

In another indication of the “Core Group’s” political orientation, their May 30 statement “condemned the acts of degradation committed against the Senate.” Early that day a handful of opposition senators dragged out some furniture and placed it on the lawn of Parliament in a bid to block the ratification of the interim prime minister. Canada’s Ambassador André Frenette also tweeted that “Canada condemns the acts of vandalism in the Senate this morning. This deplorable event goes against democratic principles.” But, Frenette and the “Core Group” didn’t tweet or release a statement about the recent murder of journalist Pétion Rospide, who’d been reporting on corruption and police violence. Nor did they mention the commission that found Moïse responsible for stealing public funds or the recent UN report confirming government involvement in a terrible massacre in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of La Saline in mid-November. Recent Canadian and “Core Group” statements completely ignore Moise’s electoral illegitimacy and downplay the enormity of the corruption and violence against protesters.

Worse still, Canadian officials regularly promote and applaud a police force that has been responsible for many abuses. As I detailed in a November story headlined “Canada backs Haitian government, even as police force kills demonstrators”, Frenette attended a half dozen Haitian police events in his first year as ambassador. Canadian officials continue to attend police ceremonies, including one in March, and offer financial and technical support to the police. Much to the delight of the country’s über class-conscious elite, Ottawa has taken the lead in strengthening the repressive arm of the Haitian state since Aristide’s ouster.

On Wednesday Frenette tweeted, “one of the best parts of my job is attending medal ceremonies for Canadian police officers who are known for their excellent work with the UN police contingent in Haiti.” RCMP officer Serge Therriault leads the 1,200-person police component of the Mission des Nations unies pour l’appui à la Justice en Haïti (MINUJUSTH).

At the end of May Canada’s ambassador to the UN Marc-André Blanchard led a United Nations Economic and Social Council delegation to Haiti. Upon his return to New York he proposed creating a “robust” mission to continue MINUJUSTH’s work after its planned conclusion in mid-October. Canadian officials are leading the push to extend the 15-year old UN occupation that took over from the US, French and Canadian troops that overthrew Aristide’s government and was responsible for introducing cholera to the country, which has killed over 10,000.

While Haitians regularly challenge Canadian policy, few in this country raise objections. In response to US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s recent expression of solidarity with Haitian protesters, Jean Saint-Vil put out a call titled “OH CANADA, TIME TO BE WOKE LIKE ILHAN OMAR & MAXINE WATERS!” The Haitian Canadian activist wrote:

While, in Canada, the black population is taken for granted by major political parties who make no effort to adjust Canadian Foreign policies towards African nations, Haiti and other African-populated nations of the Caribbean, where the Euro-Americans topple democratically-elected leaders, help set up corrupt narco regimes that are friendly to corrupt Canadian mining companies that go wild, exploiting the most impoverished and blackest among us, destroying our environments in full impunity… In the US, some powerful voices have arisen to counter the mainstream covert and/or overt white supremacist agenda. Time for REAL CHANGE in Canada! The Wine & Cheese sessions must end! We eagerly await the statements of Canadian party leaders about the much needed change in Canadian Policy towards Haiti. You will have to deserve our votes, this time around folks!

Unfortunately, Canadian foreign policymakers — the Liberal party in particular — have co-opted/pacified most prominent black voices on Haiti and other international issues. On Monday famed Haitian-Canadian novelist Dany Laferrière attended a reception at the ambassador’s residence in Port-au-Prince while the head of Montréal’s Maison d’Haïti, Marjorie Villefranche, says nary a word about Canadian imperialism in Haiti. A little discussed reason Paul Martin’s government appointed Michaëlle Jean Governor General in September 2005 was to dampen growing opposition to Canada’s coup policy among working class Haitian-Montrealers.

Outside the Haitian community Liberal-aligned groups have also offered little solidarity. A look at the Federation of Black Canadians website and statements uncovers nothing about Canada undermining a country that dealt a massive blow to slavery and white supremacy. (Members of the group’s steering committee recently found time, however, to meet with and then attend a gala put on by the anti-Palestinian Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.)

A few months ago, Saint-Vil proposed creating a Canadian equivalent to the venerable Washington, D.C. based TransAfrica, which confronts US policy in Africa and the Caribbean. A look at Canadian policy from the Congo to Venezuela, Burkina Faso to Tanzania, suggests the need is great. Anyone seeking to amplify the voices from the streets of Port-au-Prince should support such an initiative.

Global rebellion to Save Our Planet

“The greatest threat to the Earth is thinking someone else will save it.” The responsibility is ours; politicians and governments are complacent, dishonest and buried in the ideology of the past. Despite repeated warnings nothing substantial has been done and time is running out.  No one else is going to Save Our Planet; a global movement of civil disobedience is needed to force governments to take the radical action needed.

In 1992 the Union of Concerned Scientists (made up of 1,700 of the world’s leading scientists) issued the ‘World Scientist’ Warning to Humanity’. They stated that, “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.” Their words fell on deaf ears. Decades of inaction and procrastination has allowed the crisis to escalate and escalate, leading to the point where we are now, the very edge of total catastrophe.

Given the enormous scale of the issue, many people feel overwhelmed, hopeless. Eco-anxiety, defined as “a chronic fear of environmental doom”, is on the rise in many countries triggering feelings of rage, grief, despair and shame. Some people are so worried they are taking the extreme decision not to have children until climate change is dealt with. ‘Birth Strike’, The Guardian reports, is ‘a [UK based global] voluntary organization for women and men who have decided not to have children in response to the coming “climate breakdown and civilization collapse.” … It is a “radical acknowledgment” of how the looming existential threat is already “altering the way we imagine our future”.’

The aim of BirthStrike is not to discourage people from having children, but to communicate the urgency of the environmental crisis. Many of its members are also involved with the groundbreaking movement, Extinction Rebellion (XR), a UK-based socio-political group using non-violence resistance to create a sense of urgency about tackling the environmental crisis. XR chapters now exist in dozens of countries including the US, the Solomon Islands, Australia, Spain, South Africa and India.

Extinction Rebellion is calling for an ecological emergency to be declared by governments, the UK to lead the way and reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025 – ambitious certainly, but we need such targets, and for citizens assemblies to be established to devise a plan of action to tackle climate breakdown and biodiversity loss. They want to create ‘peaceful planet-wide mobilization of the scale of World War II’, only such a global response they say, ‘will give us a chance to avoid the worst case scenarios and restore a safe climate.’

Consistent with other major social movements such as the Suffragettes, the US Civil Rights movement and the Freedom Movement in India led by Mahatma Gandhi, civil disobedience is at the heart of Extinction Rebellion’s methodology. In April this year the group mounted a major non-violent action in central London. Thousands of people occupied public spaces in the capital, closing bridges, causing disruption and staging a spectacle. ‘Dilemma actions’ were designed in which the authorities were faced with a choice – whether to allow the action to take place or not, to arrest and contain people or not. The demonstrations lasted for ten days and were part of an integrated global action with people in over 33 countries across six continents taking part.

In London more than 1,100 arrests were made as people peacefully asserted their right to demonstrate. The rebellion was substantial and historic. The result was widespread media coverage and a debate in the UK parliament, at the end of which a national ‘climate emergency’ was declared. A positive step, although we are yet to see what it actually means, and what policy action/s will follow.

Together with School Strike for Climate Change and other groups, XR is part of a worldwide movement the like of which has not been seen before; a diverse united group of environmental activists and concerned citizens, men women and children who care deeply about the environment, recognize that their governments are doing little or nothing to tackle the issues and that radical systemic change is urgently needed.

Engagement is one of the most positive ways to overcome eco-anxiety and a feeling of disempowerment; engage and discover there are huge numbers of people who feel the same, who are extremely worried, who don’t really know what to do, but are determined to do something. Engagement around shared issues builds strong bonds, creating solidarity and strengthening commitment.

At the end of the April action Extinction Rebellion said, “we will leave the physical locations but a space for truth-telling has been opened up in the world…in this age of misinformation, there is power in telling the truth.”

Simplicity of living

The environmental crisis is universal, existential and exponential and is made up of a number of interconnected issues: ecological collapse, extinction of species, deforestation, air, water and soil pollution and climate change. Manipulating existing systems and making small changes won’t solve the problems; radical systemic and social change is required and urgently. Governments are weak and compromised by their relationship to business and their obsession with the economy; they are deceitful and refuse to take the necessary actions to save the planet, so they must be forced to listen, and to act in accordance with the need, which is immense.

Unbridled, irresponsible consumerism must be brought to an end; sustainability and simplicity of living must now be the keynote of our lives. Individual and collective commitment is essential, commitment to live in an environmentally responsible way, to be aware of the environmental impact of everything we as individuals do – what we buy, what we eat, how we travel, how we use utilities etc., and commitment to participate and engage; to take part in protests and/or online activism, to pressurize politicians and corporations, and to support radical green movements in any way possible.

All governments, particularly those in western democracies need to be pushed to make the environment their number one priority. The environmental crisis is the greatest emergency of this or any other time; every area of policy making must now be designed to bring about the most positive environmental impact; short (five years), mid (10 years) and long term (25 years) plans, ambitious but with full commitment, attainable, need to be agreed and implemented, the voice of climate scientists and of environmental activists listened to and major public information programs set up.

The work of environmental salvage is not separate from the prevailing crisis of democracy and the need to fundamentally change the destructive, unjust socio-economic order. For ecological harmony to be reestablished and healing of the natural world to occur we need to radically change the systems and ways of life that are fueling the crisis, and inculcate new modes of living based on more humane values.

Consumerism and greed is the poison that is driving ecological collapse, and consumerism is the life-blood of the economic system; endless growth the aim of deluded governments – on a planet with finite resources. It is collective madness, and it must end. Politicians and corporate power, however, will not suddenly wake up to the scale of the emergency and act to bring about the required radical changes. Worldwide acts of coordinated civil disobedience by huge numbers of people, designed to bring about the maximum amount of disruption in a peaceful way are required. When people unite all things are possible; now is the time to come together to Save our Planet.

Denmark Peace and Justice Conference Connects Activism Against Poverty, Pollution and War

Most people in the West think of Denmark as a tolerant, peace-loving country, even—according to Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump—as a socialist country. Trump views this as a disease to be excised, and avoided in the US at all costs, while Sanders sees this as an ideal for America.

The truth is far from these tales. Denmark runs on a solidly capitalist economy, and it has been at war against all the countries the US has invaded since Iraq in 1990. Its troops remain in Afghanistan and Iraq; and its planes bombed Syria not long ago. The various governments have cut back the social network of “free” education and healthcare to the bare bones in the last decade. The elderly, for instance, who cannot bathe themselves, must wait up to seven weeks before a social welfare assistant can come to wash them and clean house, and must do so in the few minutes strictly allotted. (See my series, ”Scandinavia on the Skids: The Failure of Social Democracy”.)

There are a few, quiet progressive or radical groupings in Denmark, no peace movement, but a burgeoning climate movement. Yet one alternative institution, Tvind, tries to influence people in Denmark, throughout Europe and in some “third world” countries to be activists and teachers of activism. Tvind started in 1970 (see sidebar below) and for the past five years has sponsored an international Peace and Justice Conference.

One of the unusual aspects of Tvind, at its schools, residences and conferences, is that no alcohol or any drugs are allowed. I was there four days and never did anyone, not even the 20-30 year-old majority, speak of any need for these normal crutches, and they danced after all the work until after midnight stone sober. Maybe they got their energy from a sense of fulfilling togetherness and the delicious vegetarian-ecological food they prepared for two dozen students and another 150 people, who came to the conference from Denmark and a dozen more European countries east and west, a handful from India, Africa and Latin America.

This year’s conference took place in mid-May for three days. The kick-off speech dealt with “the Russian ‘peace threat’”, other global perspectives, and how to resist; how to bring the deadly and polluting institution of militarism and its wars into the consciousness and the agenda of those opposing climate change. Previous conference themes had dealt with how to stop wars not refugees; to transform from militarism to conflict resolution and peace; and no justice no peace.

”A culture of peace will be achieved when citizens of the world understand global problems, have the skills to resolve conflict constructively; know and live by international standards of human rights; gender and racial equality; appreciate cultural diversity; and respect the diversity of the earth. Such learning cannot be achieved without intentional sustained and systematic education for peace,” read the invitation.

This year’s program included over 30 workshops, half-a-dozen key speeches, music, a theater piece, artwork, poems, sports and networking. Workshop topics included: fighting with the poor; humanity in action in India; youth in climate action with refugees in Europe; movements for change in the USA; the difference between what the US government tells us about why it wages war and what the real reasons are; war and ecocide; songs for peace; pedagogy of liberation; what is going on in Venezuela; perspectives for our future, and how to take part of creating one.

Making music together with Italian musician Paolo Rossetti

Hans Blix-Noam Chomsky did not attend but Blix was interviewed for the conference, and a Democracy for Now interview with Chomsky was viewed. Blix was the UN’s chief investigator sent to Iraq in 2002-3 to find out if the government had “weapons of mass destruction,” the excuse that President George Bush used to invade it. In 2004, Blix stated that, “there were about 700 inspections, and in no case did we find weapons of mass destruction.” Nevertheless, “let’s kick ass” Bush set up the “coalition of the willing” to destroy much of Iraq and murder over one million people. The Danish government declared war on Iraq to please the US—the only country to actually declare war. While Blix is a man of the Swedish Establishment, a strong supporter of capitalism, EU and nuclear energy, and Chomsky is a rebel anarchist, the two agreed that the greatest threats and challenges to humanity are: climate change and the growing possibility of a nuclear war. Blix said that the former is slow suicide; the latter is quick suicide. The doomsday clock stands at two minutes to midnight, the first time since it did during the Cuba missile crisis, in 1962.

Trine Wendelboe is a Dane who moved to Dowagiac, Michigan 13 years ago. She directs research and development at the One World Center connected to Tvind. This small town is headquarters for the Pokagon band of Potawatomi Indians. The center aims to take action against worldwide poverty and climate change.  Wendelboe spoke of the growing poverty and anxiety overwhelming Americans, and about some of the movements resisting the disasters people confront.

The closing workshop and last speech were held by the Dutch transformation coach and Camino Real guide Gert-Jan van Hoon. Along with young DNS teachers Nadezda and Justas they asked how participants can stick together, how do they not get “blown away”, in order to heal the soul and Mother Earth.

Gert and open future workshop at Tvind’s Peace and Justice conference

I spoke with a dozen participants about what the conference had meant to them. Some were DNS students, a few were in the 10-month international development volunteer program, and some had only attended the conference. Here are comments regarding what they got out of it and how they might “not get blown away”.

Annie Wood, an English student in the DNS program, immediately took up planning her first action following the conference—a student strike in the nearby city of Holstebro. This would be part of the Friday For Future movement actions, which began in March with about 1.6 million strikers at 2000 locations on all continents

She had been inspired by her studies at Tvind and by the conference to write a poem, “The Choice”, which she read to the participants. Here are excerpts:

Here’s my first rhyme for the world to hear
written from inspiration about something I hold dear.
To me it makes clear sense and I think it should to you too,
because right now I’m heartbroken, this has got me feeling blue.

We are killing our home, this great big planet earth.
We are plundering, draining and polluting it for everything its worth.
Yes you’ve heard this story before, maybe you’re bored with the same old lines
but if you don’t help make it better, this story will tell the end of our times…

Maybe we don’t know what is right or what we want,
but we should know by now it’s not war but it is provident.
It’s not hate, destruction or poverty.
It is love, peace, justice what brings a happy life to me.

A Danish youth, Lars, heard of Tvind from The Establishment’s prejudiced view that its founders and teachers are authoritarian “brainwashers”. “Strange”, he surmises in typical Danish irony, “I never knew that brainwashing actually could open up hearts as it has done these days. We clearly felt a warm welcome to share our ‘stories’, as they say in America. We did that but most importantly we engaged in enthusiastic discussions one-to-one and in groups what it is that we want and need to do to save this world, to make it better than it is.”

Maxsim, a 22-year old Lithuanian, said, “We are all impressed with one another in that each of us has so much to share that is useful and positive.”

Maxsim had been deluged with a hateful view of Russia so pervasive in his country. But at the conference he heard a different picture of Russia today, one that indicates neither its people nor its leaders wish nor are acting to make war but rather are acting to protect their sovereignty and defend themselves against an escalating war threat from the US/NATO.

Mariana is a college student from Portugal studying management. She won a free week-long trip to Tvind to help prepare the conference. “These days have shown me that I am not content with becoming a manager for capitalism. I have to find something else for my future, some kind of education that can lead to a job that people actually need. I don’t know what but it shall come.”

Jette, a retired nurse and amateur illustrator, felt it was “lovely to see that people actually looked at one another and smiled or spoke a few words together as they passed by, instead of what we are used to here that one looks away from one another when passing by. And then such a pleasure to see how effective everyone is in doing their tasks while also so willing to play.”

Yusef is a 22-year old Kurdish refugee from Syria who looks ten years older. His parents fled the war-torn land first and made it to Denmark. Yosef was homeless for a time, hungry, on the run. He came to Denmark five years ago, and now lives with his parents.

One summer three years ago, Yusef wanted to do something useful, to participate in a summer camp. A camp at Tvind was among the choices his social worker showed him, something unusual for government paid workers to do.

Yusef said that he, “fell in love with the place and I’ve come here three years in a row now—to the camp and to this conference. I’ve learned a lot especially at this one. As a teenager, I had joined some demonstrations against Assad. I thought it was cool, you know. But I saw that the opposition was brutal too, and some of them were/are being supported by the US. One of the issues that we Kurds had was that we couldn’t automatically get government work when we graduated from universities with degrees, say, in medicine but Arabs could. Otherwise, we also had free education and health care. Shortly after demonstrations began in 2011, Assad agreed to change the rules so we could get government paid work. I realized after a while and since being here, that we were, and are being used and misused by the Americans and all the media hysteria. I now regret that I took part in demonstrations. Assad is not nearly as bad as he is painted to be.”

Vladimir is a 19-year old Russian, offspring of South Korean parents, living in the Czech Republic where he saw an announcement about this conference. He and I worked together in the kitchen one morning, two persons from two entirely different worlds and one four times the age of the other.

Vladimir is shy and not much for words but he opened a bit in our talk. “It is new for me to see people embrace one another and to work together. People here are not thinking so much about themselves. They are not selfish but thinking about the environment, about humanity and the planet.

“I’ve decided to join the ten-month traveling-learning-teaching program. I’ll be back to prepare for the African program, to open new horizons.”

*****

Sidebar: About Tvind

Tvind started (1970) near Ulfborg village (2000 pop.) on Denmark’s west coast by the North Sea. A small group of young teachers settled there to live collectively and with a shared economy. They sought to become pioneers in social development, education and with sustainable environmental projects. Today, there are hundreds of members in the “Teacher’s Group” in several countries.

The first task was to build living quarters, mainly from prefabricated wooden buildings. They dug foundations and made water and sewage systems. They bought and repaired ten buses, which would be used to travel to other countries to learn and teach.

The “Teacher’s Group” developed an educational system based on the concept of a rural collective and a travelling school. They expanded internationally becoming a global people’s corporation.

On September 1, 1972, 100 youth—ten young teachers and 90 students—created a four-year training program to become teachers in primary and secondary schools. This program is called the Necessary Teaching Training College (DNS in Danish letters).

DNS was started from a “necessity to train another kind of teachers to bring more relevant knowledge, mobilization and life to children.”

The times were a-changing but the Establishment and its schools were not. There were pressing issues and contradictions, such as the growing inequality between rich and poor, which were not on the agenda of society’s schools.

DNS became an international program. Today most students at Tvind are from many European countries. There are few from Denmark since the state has refused to support studies at Tvind financially following allegations of tax evasion and misuse of funds by former leaders—a matter still pending. Clearly Tvind/DNS are as controversial today as they were half-a-century ago.

In 1996, Tvind started an international network “Humana People to People”. Humana assists people to lift themselves out of poverty. During a ten-month program, international volunteers learn and work with poor people to learn new skills to farm organically, using windmill energy, assuring clean water, building solar water pump and solar light systems, producing jatropha seed oil for biodiesel energy and animal feed, building homes, and establishing mini-loans for self-employment especially for women. Another aspect is planting tens of millions of trees.

Humana programs exist in the Caribbean, India, Malawi, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and Zambia. One form of financing these activities is the UFF—development aid from people to people—which collects used clothing that is sold to support Humana projects.

With a DNS bachelor monograph graduates (now over 1000) can become teachers at some schools in a few countries; take jobs with UN aid programs; work with the poor in many countries. Their notion is that the battle for the future of humanity is, “the fight of the poor against the three sisters of capitalism: free trade, free enterprise, freedom of endless profiteering.”

Tvind in Ulfborg also has a care center for people with special needs, a day school, and a school for youth with special needs and others who seek an alternative education—all supported by the local municipality. Students, other than those in the day school, live on campus. The DNS students also live there. There is a second school in Denmark, One World Center at Lindersvold.

The “Teachers Groups” has three other schools in England, Norway and Michigan, USA using the “determination of modern method”, the pedagogical approach shaped at DNS. This gives the student the main responsibility for training and results. Learning is structured with 50% individual studies, 25% common courses, and 25% personal experiences.

Tvind is renowned for building the first modern windmill (1975-8), the largest in the world at that time (54 meters tall with a 54 meters wingspread). Four hundred people began the construction, and through the years several thousands participated. An estimated 100,000 people visited Tvind to watch the process. When the mill was completed, it had only cost the equivalent of $1 million in today’s value—paid for out of Tvind teachers’ salaries.

Tvindkraft (windmill’s name) offered the designs and ideas to any and all, but the state didn’t want them because it was committed to going with nuclear energy. Nevertheless, the Danish people soon rejected this idea, in part because Tvind showed that windmill energy was possible, cheaper and much better for the environment. Tvindkraft is the basis for all of Denmark’s famous windmills.

By 2015, the windmill had produced 20 million kWh. Tvindkraft still provides all the energy Tvind uses. Yet Tvind gets no credit from Denmark’s Establishment since they teach that collective living, common production and sharing is better for people and the environment than capitalism’s greedy foundation.  Nevertheless, in 2008, they won the European Solar Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in renewable energy.

Tvindkraft still standing and functioning 41 years later. Tvind comes from the local dialect word for the surrounding “twisting” brook in that area (Jette Salling Photo)

Showdown at the Venezuelan Embassy

Photo by Alex Rubinstein

This article describes a tense showdown that took place Monday evening between the Embassy Protectors and federal authorities, and concludes with URGENT ACTIONS people can take to resolve this dispute and stop a US-orchestrated coup.

Writing on Day 36 of the campaign to prevent a US-sponsored coup by protecting the Venezuelan Embassy from illegal takeover

Events reached a climax this Monday, as well as a new level of absurdity, when for the first time, federal authorities cut the locks and opened the embassy doors to tell us we were being evicted, based solely on orders from a fictional Venezuelan ambassador named Carlos Vecchio. (Vecchio is a member of the tiny, right-wing Popular Will Party in Venezuela, and is living in the US in exile out of fear of arrest in Venezuela for his role in organizing violent protests that resulted in over 100 deaths.)

It began around 5 or 5:30pm when the DC Metropolitan Police, along with federal authorities, began negotiating our eviction and possible arrest with our lawyer, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, outside the embassy. They presented her with an order, not signed by any US agency (or any person for that matter) on plain paper without even a letterhead, saying that we were trespassing in the building and were required to leave.

“Required by whom,” Mara asked, and maintained that we were in the embassy legally, with the permission of the elected Venezuelan government, and that we were not violating any laws.

The police refused to allow her to talk to us, but they did allow her to watch from the doorway when around 7PM, the authorities cut the chains and bike lock placed on the embassy’s front doors by the legitimate embassy staff back when diplomatic relations were severed.

When the authorities opened the door, four of us were right there in the lobby (the authors of this report, along with Adrian Pine and David Paul), and we immediately began chanting, “We are here legally! You are breaking international law!”

There were US Marshalls present, members of Federal Protective Services, and a spokesperson from the State Department. They began to read the illegal eviction order, and as soon as they mentioned Vecchio’s name, we interrupted and told them it was an illegal order, that a fictional ambassador from a non-governmental group of coup plotters cannot give legal orders regarding the legitimate Venezuelan embassy.

They then asked us if we would leave voluntarily. Each of us, in turn, said “no.” We then attempted to open a dialogue with them, to let them know we are here legally, and that the only way we would leave voluntarily is if presented with a mutual Protecting Power Agreement (PPA), signed between the US and Venezuela guaranteeing the protection of both this embassy and the corresponding, vacant US embassy in Caracas. Such PPAs are historically common when diplomatic relations break down between two countries. In that even, neutral third countries agree to maintain staff at each respective embassy, protecting it until relations can be reestablished.

They listened. Then the State Department spokesperson simply repeated, “Will you leave voluntarily?”

Again we said no. We told them that entering the embassy was in the violation of the Vienna convention, and that further action could set a precedent that would put all embassies around the world at risk, including US embassies and their personnel.

They let us continue speaking.

We explained to them that removing us and taking over the embassy would also escalate the conflict between Venezuela and the United States, and that this could lead to a military conflict, creating chaos in the region and resulting in many lost lives, including that of US soldiers. “We do not want Latin America to turn into another middle east,” we said. “This would be a quagmire and would cost the US trillions of dollars. And with Russia and China allied with Venezuela, it could potentially lead to a global conflict. So be very careful. Your actions right now are important. If you cross this threshold, your name could very well go down in history as the officers who violated international law and started World War III.”

They glanced back and forth at each other with seeming concern over what they were hearing.

But the spokesperson simply repeated, “will you leave voluntarily?”

Again we said no. We told them, “Listen. The coup plotters cut off our power. They cut off our water. The secret service outside has allowed these terrorists to surround us, to assault us, to prevent food and water from getting inside. They have tried all this on us, and we are still here. If this hasn’t forced us to leave, what do you think will? Please understand we are staying until a mutual PPA is reached between the two countries. Either that or you will have to carry us out on stretchers.”

We continued for quite some time with similar themes about the Vienna convention, and that we were concerned about the personnel in US embassies around the world. We said we hoped the State Department shared our concerns. We told them that the precedent set by violating the Vienna convention would embarrass President Trump and become his legacy. We told them that John Bolton was already making a fool of Trump by misjudging the situation in Venezuela, that the people of Venezuela will not give up their independence or their sovereignty, and that they want peace with the United States. We told them there’s no reason for the US to be enemies with Venezuela, but that if they—right here and right now—cross this threshold by removing us, they could set in motion something they might regret.”

Silence. More glances. Then once again, “will you leave voluntarily?”

We continued, presenting them with an alternative. “Why violate international law,” we asked them? “International law already provides a peaceful resolution to this conflict through what are known as mutual Protective Power Agreements, or PPAs, which have been standard diplomacy since the 1870s.” We educated them that there are currently 29 PPAs in place around the world. “When there’s a peaceful path already established,” we said, “it will be especially bad for your careers and reputations if you violate international law in such a major way that could lead to war.”

Silence this time.

For good measure we added, “Following an illegal order is no defense to criminal prosecution. So we suggest you close the door, go back to your superiors, and discuss with them what we’ve just told you.”

The officer who was acting as a spokesperson left. Another officer took his place.

“Will you leave voluntarily?” he asked us.

We explained the same things to this new officer. Ten minutes later the first officer returned. We told them both that our position hadn’t changed, that we will leave voluntarily only when presented with a mutual PPA.

The officers thought for a moment. Then they informed us that they were going to close the door behind secure it. They said they would station a federal Marshall outside the door.

We told them, “make sure the entire embassy compound is under police protection because these violent terrorists have broken in three times and have yet to be prosecuted.” He replied that they would, but added that if we changed our mind, all we had to do was knock on the front door and they would let us leave peacefully.” They then shut the door and placed plastic zip ties–the same ones typically used for handcuffs– around the handles of the door.

Mara, our attorney, walked the embassy compound with the police to ensure it was fully protected. It was.

The secret service has been removed from duty, replaced with DC Metro police and officers of Federal Protective Services, which is part of DHS. Finally, for the first time, Federal authorities are now protecting the embassy—and us—from the terrorists who have been attacking us.

Monday and Tuesday night we slept peacefully for the first time in weeks.

What Social Movements Around the World Should Do

We urge social movements around the world to show their solidarity with the Embassy Protection Collective by going to US embassies to demand respect for the Vienna convention and the rule of law, and to urge the US and Venezuela to sign a mutual Protecting Power Agreement (PPA).

Furthermore, people in the United States need to become the media, because despite this being a truly unique event in US history where US citizens have gone into a foreign embassy in DC to prevent a US-orchestrated coup, the corporate media has barely covered the story.

Lastly, people should contact their members of congress. Tell them to support a mutual Protecting Power Agreement, or PPA, the usual procedure for protecting embassies when diplomatic relations break down.

Time is of the essence. Resolution of this conflict should not be a unilateral decision by John Bolton, Elliot Abrams, and Mike Pompeo. It’s up to social movements and people everywhere to elevate this issue to international dialogue.

National Mobilization at the Venezuelan Embassy in DC, Saturday May 18th at noon

A Statement from the Embassy Protection Collective

The Growth of Popular Democracy

In 1975 just 46 countries were considered to be electoral democracies; forty years later, according to The Global State of Democracy report 2017, the number had risen to 132, accounting for 68% of nations. The bulk of the increase occurred after 1989 following the collapse of the Soviet Union and what was to be the beginning of the global protest movement. While staging general elections every five years or so is an important step away from the autocratic alternative, unless democratic values are embraced and introduced, true democracy remains little more than a slogan, social injustice and suppression in various forms continue and concentrations of power persist.

Although the number of electoral democracies continues to increase, throughout the world democracy is in crisis; governments have become increasingly partisan, populism and extremism of all stripes have flourished, and people have lost confidence in democratic institutions as the means of solving the various crises confronting us. Politicians are viewed with suspicion or outright contempt, regarded as ambitious, ideologically compromised men and women with little concern for the majority, who make policy based on self-interest and party doctrine.

Democracy has been hijacked by ‘the economy’ – twinned with capitalism and the ‘free market’, and corrupted thereby. Democracy is, or should be, a living organism, an evolving form that sets the parameters within which society functions, based on principles that are rooted in and cultivate expressions of unity and love.

The democratic ideal seeks to guarantee basic freedoms, establish social justice and equality and ensure government accountability. It recognizes that human beings are equal, diverse but united, that their needs are universal and that meeting these needs is a right not a luxury. True democracy cannot exist where the ideology of commercialization, consumerism and greed resides. The crisis in democracy is inextricably linked to the socio-economic crisis; changes in one will trigger a revolution in the other. And this process is well underway.

Collective action

Despite the decline in civil liberties and deep disillusionment with the functioning of governments throughout the world, various studies, including The Economist’s Democracy Index 2018 have found that political participation is significantly increasing. Exasperation with politicians and institutions together with an intense desire for fundamental change has impelled huge numbers to unite and act; people, particularly the young, are engaging, joining political parties, taking part in demonstrations and online activism, signing petitions or joining local community groups.

This surge in democratic participation represents a major shift in attitudes, a new collective consciousness that tends towards unity and cooperation, and offers hope – not hope based on a distant belief that someone else, a government, institution or God will make all things new – such are the ways of apathy and self-deceit, but hope anchored in action, in committed consistent engagement.

At the heart of many of the protest movements that have swept the world since the Berlin Wall came down, is democracy. Demanding democracy where none exists, as was the case with the Arab Spring (widely put down), for example, and more recently in Algeria, Sudan and Ethiopia, or, in countries broadly aligned with democratic principles, calling for a deepening of democracy, the structures and institutions opened up, and for the voice of the people to be heard and concerns acted on.

As more people engage and the power of popular democracy grows, democratic platforms for engagement such as Citizens Assemblies will become increasingly relevant. In early 2018 the UK government commissioned a Citizens Assembly to discuss Social Care: 47 individuals chosen at random, and, with the support of experts spent two weekends discussing the subject. At the end of their deliberations a report was sent to the government and their views helped fashion government proposals.

In order for the collective voice to have increasing influence, people need to be educated about the issues/s of concern; this is an act of democratic responsibility. A well-informed populace free from ideological allegiance is required in order to reach views free from bias and prejudice, and contribute to discussions with decision makers. Ignorance, complacency and fear are fertile ground for propaganda; they are the friends of the duplicitous politician and the enemy of the people and common sense – a much-underrated quality.

Sharing, participation and responsibility

Within the evolving democratic environment the role of politicians as co-workers, as collaborators for the common good, becomes ever more important. They need to engage with activists, listen – not to the loudest flag-waving faction, not just to their own supporters, but to the broad consensus, and respond, and not, as has historically been the case, reluctantly and over decades, but swiftly and whole-heartedly. A positive example of this is the decision by the Scottish parliament to declare a ‘Climate Emergency’, in response “to young protesters who went on strike from school to urge action.” The declaration of a climate emergency by governments has been a key demand of environmental campaigners, including Extinction Rebellion (which staged huge, peaceful protests in London for two weeks recently), for some time.

Announcing the step on 29th April, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon said, “they [environmental activists] want governments around the world to declare a climate emergency. They say that’s what the science tells us, and they are right … I am declaring that there is a climate emergency and Scotland will live up to our responsibility to tackle it.” The UK government followed Scotland’s example on 1st May, making it the first national parliament to declare a Climate Emergency.

Democracy is not in decline, as some believe; like all existing systems – social, economic, political and religious. Democracy in its current form is inadequate to the challenges and the nature of the present time, and is being fundamentally challenged. Democratic forms need to change, to be allowed to evolve – to be re-imagined. Crucially democracy needs to be unshackled from economics and the socio-economic system reexamined in light of the growing demands for social justice, environmental action and freedom.

The principle of sharing is a core democratic ideal that, if incorporated into all areas of life, would allow democratic values to be made manifest: students sharing in the organization of schools and the design of curricula; employees sharing in the management and standards of businesses; sharing animating the socio-economic systems under which we all live and coloring geo-political decisions. Sharing, responsibility and participation are interrelated; they sit together and reinforce one another. An unstoppable movement of change is being created by the growing inculcation and expression of these democratic principles; a momentum that may just be strong enough to save the planet and usher in a new and just way of living.

Black Women Political Prisoners of the Police State

The Rev. Joy Powell says she was “raped, railroaded and bamboozled” by police.  Her crime?  Being a poor black woman who faced off against the police—protesting their violent brutality against black people in Rochester, NY.  Once she defied them, she was warned, then targeted and framed for serious crimes.  A few weeks ago, Australian Julian Assange was forcibly dragged from his political asylum to face the American police state.  His crime?  Like Rev. Powell, he dared to tell the truth about the violence and brutality that defines the American state.  Scottish political analyst Jon Wight, citing the treatment of American political prisoners Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal, calls the US “justice” system the “most cruel and callous in the world.”  That system does not tolerate the exposure of its war crimes and abuses of its police state quietly—it retaliates against those who expose its injustice by treating them to cruel and callous punishment.

Black women who have confronted the abuses of America’s white authority have suffered its punishment throughout our history.  Anarchist Lucy Parsons, born in 1853, is one of the few black women mentioned in labor histories, usually as the wife of the martyred Albert Parsons, who was executed in the wake of Chicago’s Haymarket Riot of 1886.  Parsons was a dedicated “revolutionist” for labor’s cause, leading rallies and making speeches in 43 states, advocating the use of explosives by tramps and their taking a “few rich people with them.”  She was constantly arrested, roughly handled, and jailed:  in 1913, at age 60, she was stripped and jailed in Chicago for “peddling literature without a license.”  Another labor radical, Claudia Jones, who headed the Women’s Commission for the US Communist Party, was jailed in 1955.  She fought the “madam-maid” relationship of white to black women, and felt socialism was the only hope for American blacks.  Jones was deported to England where she continued to work for socialism.

Women who joined the struggle against American racism in the 1960s and 70s met particularly violent reprisals from their government.  In the early 60s, 17-year-old Ruby Doris Smith, Spelman student and eventual SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) leader, picketed, protested, and did sit-ins, trying to integrate Atlanta.  She suffered “the indignities of southern jails and numerous injuries.” As a freedom rider, she underwent the vicious white punishment at the Montgomery bus station and was arrested and jailed by Sheriff Bull Conner.  SNCC’s Diane Nash was an important member of the first Nashville sit-ins in 1960.  After her arrest, she refused to pay her fine.  Six-months pregnant and facing a Jackson, Mississippi jailing, she vowed to “hasten the day when my child and all children will be free.”  The women of the black liberation movement of the late 60s and 70s faced even harsher reprisals—from the federal government.

Black women liberation women political prisoners, included the Black Panther’s Assata Shakur and MOVE women Janine Phillips Africa, Debbie Sims Africa, Merle Austin Africa and Janet Holloway Africa.  Janine and Janet Africa are still in prison.   In March 2019 Jet Blue was forced to take down a black history month poster which included a tribute to a “convicted murderer,” Assata Shakur.  President Trump railed against the “cop killer” and demanded Cuba return her.  Shakur was able to escape from her jail, to political exile in Cuba, and that is unforgivable to the American police state.  Assata Shakur was a major inspiration for me in writing my book Women Politicals in America:  Jailed Dissenters from Mother Jones to Lynne Stewart, and because of that she appears on the cover of my book, shackled but defiant.  As a member of the BP and Black Liberation Army, Shakur was an FBI target for a long time.  As per usual with the FBI, she had been accused of a number of serious crimes, and convicted in the media of all of them and more, although she had committed none of them—including murdering police officer Werner Foerster.  All the evidence points to the impossibility of her shooting him, after having been grievously shot herself.  She was convicted and treated very harshly in prison, including 20 months in solitary in two men’s prisons under horrible conditions.  Her comrades managed to get her out, after she concluded she would be killed in prison.

Women who joined the MOVE organization in Philadelphia in the early 70s also faced incredibly unfair and violent treatment.  These followers of John Africa lived “naturally” in a community—very like other 70s communes–and believed in fighting the “system.”  The black militancy of fighting the system had them on police radar and resulted in raids that turned violent, with people who ran out to escape fires the authorities set being shot, and in which Officer James Ramp was killed—the evidence indicating probably friendly fire.  Four women were arrested:  Debbie, Janine, Janet and Merle Africa.  Merle died in prison (her family said mysteriously).  Debbie was released in June 2018, but Janine Phillips and Janet Holloway Africa remain in prison, serving their 100-year sentences.  They are periodically denied parole for not “showing remorse,” remorse for being innocent and harshly, unfairly jailed.

Joy Powell is also not remorseful for being “raped, railroaded and bamboozled,” and unfairly jailed, by police/government authorities.  In the present-day police state, African-Americans are first in the line of fire, incarcerated in huge numbers, trapped on the bottom of the economic ladder, and prey to racist civilians and authorities alike.  When black women like Joy Powell speak out against militarized police brutality against blacks—they go right into the belly of the beast.  When in 2014, unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, the black community had had enough of assassinations and stood their ground:  “Hands up, don’t shoot.”  Black activists were energized by Ferguson and interest in the new group Black Lives Matter intensified.  Jasmine Richards was one young woman inspired by Ferguson.  Once she “picked up a bullhorn” to organize in her hometown of Pasadena against police brutality, she became “a target.”  While trying to protect a black woman crime victim in 2016, she was arrested, convicted and jailed.  Richards was kept in solitary and roughly strip-searched.  She said it’s “violent to be a woman in jail.”  But she was undaunted, rallying her followers in court with “We have a duty to fight for freedom!”  Illinois BLM activist Sandra Bland also believed that.  When she was pulled over for a traffic violation in Texas in 2015, she was slammed to the ground and charged—of course—with assaulting the officers who had slammed her down.  Two days later she was found dead in her cell.  Her family suspects foul play.  Ajamu Baraka called her death “political murder” of a “defiant black woman.”  Black women defiant of the police will pay.

Joy Powell has paid dearly for fighting police brutality.  She is in solitary at Bedford Hills, stalked and harassed by guards, and denied medical treatment for her asthma and diabetes.  She wrote:  “I never thought in my wildest dreams after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which supposedly freed slaves, that in 2007 we’re still in chains and shackles.  This is far from the American dream.”  Powell had a rough start in life; she was jailed for drug dealing from 1992 to 1995 at Albion Correctional Facility. She suffered what many women in jail suffer—she was raped by an officer.  When the man continued to stalk her, she was put in “protective custody.”  She says she developed “PTSD, anxiety and bi-polar” because of the attack.  When she got out she said she wanted to “give back to the community” instead of the destruction she felt she did as a drug dealer.  Powell became a Pentecostal pastor and a community organizer against violence, including police violence.  She organized rallies against drugs and violence after a 15-year-old neighbor boy, and then her own 18-year-old son, were killed.  She worked for 12 years, as she said, with only the weapon of “non-violence protest.”  In 2002, six people died in Rochester PD custody.  In 2005, a 13-year-old suicidal girl was shot several times by police.  After Powell led protests about such events, she was charged with abusing her granddaughter (by an officer who had shot the 13-year-old girl).  The police warned her she was a “target” and should be careful.

She was definitely a target. In October 2006 she was a victim of a violent crime—not investigated—instead, after complaining, she was charged with burglary and assault.  Her accusers were the same people who had attacked her!  She was found guilty by an all-white jury and got 16 years.  As she said, “I was like so many activists before me, be killed or definitely set up.”  In May 2011, things got worse.  She was convicted of killing a man in Rochester in 1992.  She was not guilty.  “I am actually and factually innocent!”  Her court-appointed lawyer ignored her pleas for meetings or for interviewing witnesses who could have proved her innocence.  She got 25 years to life.

Rev. Joy Powell has stated:  “The only thing I am guilty of is standing up for Equality and Justice for all. . . I never realized how much of a threat one individual could be unarmed, until I began to speak out against police brutality.”  She also wrote that she is like so many poor black people in prison “rotting in cages with lengthy sentences for crimes they did not commit.”  And that she had four strikes against her:  “1. I am Black; 2. I am poor; 3. I am incarcerated; and 4. I am a woman.”  Black women “politicals,” political prisoners who have stood up against white America’s racist injustice—Lucy Parsons, Claudia Jones, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson, Diane Nash, Assata Shakur, Sandra Bland, Jasmine Richards, the still jailed Janine and Janet Africa, and the woman still in solitary confinement, Rev. Joy Powell—are defiant female rebels against a state which will go to any lengths to punish women exposing its crimes.

Black Women Political Prisoners of the Police State

The Rev. Joy Powell says she was “raped, railroaded and bamboozled” by police.  Her crime?  Being a poor black woman who faced off against the police—protesting their violent brutality against black people in Rochester, NY.  Once she defied them, she was warned, then targeted and framed for serious crimes.  A few weeks ago, Australian Julian Assange was forcibly dragged from his political asylum to face the American police state.  His crime?  Like Rev. Powell, he dared to tell the truth about the violence and brutality that defines the American state.  Scottish political analyst Jon Wight, citing the treatment of American political prisoners Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal, calls the US “justice” system the “most cruel and callous in the world.”  That system does not tolerate the exposure of its war crimes and abuses of its police state quietly—it retaliates against those who expose its injustice by treating them to cruel and callous punishment.

Black women who have confronted the abuses of America’s white authority have suffered its punishment throughout our history.  Anarchist Lucy Parsons, born in 1853, is one of the few black women mentioned in labor histories, usually as the wife of the martyred Albert Parsons, who was executed in the wake of Chicago’s Haymarket Riot of 1886.  Parsons was a dedicated “revolutionist” for labor’s cause, leading rallies and making speeches in 43 states, advocating the use of explosives by tramps and their taking a “few rich people with them.”  She was constantly arrested, roughly handled, and jailed:  in 1913, at age 60, she was stripped and jailed in Chicago for “peddling literature without a license.”  Another labor radical, Claudia Jones, who headed the Women’s Commission for the US Communist Party, was jailed in 1955.  She fought the “madam-maid” relationship of white to black women, and felt socialism was the only hope for American blacks.  Jones was deported to England where she continued to work for socialism.

Women who joined the struggle against American racism in the 1960s and 70s met particularly violent reprisals from their government.  In the early 60s, 17-year-old Ruby Doris Smith, Spelman student and eventual SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) leader, picketed, protested, and did sit-ins, trying to integrate Atlanta.  She suffered “the indignities of southern jails and numerous injuries.” As a freedom rider, she underwent the vicious white punishment at the Montgomery bus station and was arrested and jailed by Sheriff Bull Conner.  SNCC’s Diane Nash was an important member of the first Nashville sit-ins in 1960.  After her arrest, she refused to pay her fine.  Six-months pregnant and facing a Jackson, Mississippi jailing, she vowed to “hasten the day when my child and all children will be free.”  The women of the black liberation movement of the late 60s and 70s faced even harsher reprisals—from the federal government.

Black women liberation women political prisoners, included the Black Panther’s Assata Shakur and MOVE women Janine Phillips Africa, Debbie Sims Africa, Merle Austin Africa and Janet Holloway Africa.  Janine and Janet Africa are still in prison.   In March 2019 Jet Blue was forced to take down a black history month poster which included a tribute to a “convicted murderer,” Assata Shakur.  President Trump railed against the “cop killer” and demanded Cuba return her.  Shakur was able to escape from her jail, to political exile in Cuba, and that is unforgivable to the American police state.  Assata Shakur was a major inspiration for me in writing my book Women Politicals in America:  Jailed Dissenters from Mother Jones to Lynne Stewart, and because of that she appears on the cover of my book, shackled but defiant.  As a member of the BP and Black Liberation Army, Shakur was an FBI target for a long time.  As per usual with the FBI, she had been accused of a number of serious crimes, and convicted in the media of all of them and more, although she had committed none of them—including murdering police officer Werner Foerster.  All the evidence points to the impossibility of her shooting him, after having been grievously shot herself.  She was convicted and treated very harshly in prison, including 20 months in solitary in two men’s prisons under horrible conditions.  Her comrades managed to get her out, after she concluded she would be killed in prison.

Women who joined the MOVE organization in Philadelphia in the early 70s also faced incredibly unfair and violent treatment.  These followers of John Africa lived “naturally” in a community—very like other 70s communes–and believed in fighting the “system.”  The black militancy of fighting the system had them on police radar and resulted in raids that turned violent, with people who ran out to escape fires the authorities set being shot, and in which Officer James Ramp was killed—the evidence indicating probably friendly fire.  Four women were arrested:  Debbie, Janine, Janet and Merle Africa.  Merle died in prison (her family said mysteriously).  Debbie was released in June 2018, but Janine Phillips and Janet Holloway Africa remain in prison, serving their 100-year sentences.  They are periodically denied parole for not “showing remorse,” remorse for being innocent and harshly, unfairly jailed.

Joy Powell is also not remorseful for being “raped, railroaded and bamboozled,” and unfairly jailed, by police/government authorities.  In the present-day police state, African-Americans are first in the line of fire, incarcerated in huge numbers, trapped on the bottom of the economic ladder, and prey to racist civilians and authorities alike.  When black women like Joy Powell speak out against militarized police brutality against blacks—they go right into the belly of the beast.  When in 2014, unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, the black community had had enough of assassinations and stood their ground:  “Hands up, don’t shoot.”  Black activists were energized by Ferguson and interest in the new group Black Lives Matter intensified.  Jasmine Richards was one young woman inspired by Ferguson.  Once she “picked up a bullhorn” to organize in her hometown of Pasadena against police brutality, she became “a target.”  While trying to protect a black woman crime victim in 2016, she was arrested, convicted and jailed.  Richards was kept in solitary and roughly strip-searched.  She said it’s “violent to be a woman in jail.”  But she was undaunted, rallying her followers in court with “We have a duty to fight for freedom!”  Illinois BLM activist Sandra Bland also believed that.  When she was pulled over for a traffic violation in Texas in 2015, she was slammed to the ground and charged—of course—with assaulting the officers who had slammed her down.  Two days later she was found dead in her cell.  Her family suspects foul play.  Ajamu Baraka called her death “political murder” of a “defiant black woman.”  Black women defiant of the police will pay.

Joy Powell has paid dearly for fighting police brutality.  She is in solitary at Bedford Hills, stalked and harassed by guards, and denied medical treatment for her asthma and diabetes.  She wrote:  “I never thought in my wildest dreams after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which supposedly freed slaves, that in 2007 we’re still in chains and shackles.  This is far from the American dream.”  Powell had a rough start in life; she was jailed for drug dealing from 1992 to 1995 at Albion Correctional Facility. She suffered what many women in jail suffer—she was raped by an officer.  When the man continued to stalk her, she was put in “protective custody.”  She says she developed “PTSD, anxiety and bi-polar” because of the attack.  When she got out she said she wanted to “give back to the community” instead of the destruction she felt she did as a drug dealer.  Powell became a Pentecostal pastor and a community organizer against violence, including police violence.  She organized rallies against drugs and violence after a 15-year-old neighbor boy, and then her own 18-year-old son, were killed.  She worked for 12 years, as she said, with only the weapon of “non-violence protest.”  In 2002, six people died in Rochester PD custody.  In 2005, a 13-year-old suicidal girl was shot several times by police.  After Powell led protests about such events, she was charged with abusing her granddaughter (by an officer who had shot the 13-year-old girl).  The police warned her she was a “target” and should be careful.

She was definitely a target. In October 2006 she was a victim of a violent crime—not investigated—instead, after complaining, she was charged with burglary and assault.  Her accusers were the same people who had attacked her!  She was found guilty by an all-white jury and got 16 years.  As she said, “I was like so many activists before me, be killed or definitely set up.”  In May 2011, things got worse.  She was convicted of killing a man in Rochester in 1992.  She was not guilty.  “I am actually and factually innocent!”  Her court-appointed lawyer ignored her pleas for meetings or for interviewing witnesses who could have proved her innocence.  She got 25 years to life.

Rev. Joy Powell has stated:  “The only thing I am guilty of is standing up for Equality and Justice for all. . . I never realized how much of a threat one individual could be unarmed, until I began to speak out against police brutality.”  She also wrote that she is like so many poor black people in prison “rotting in cages with lengthy sentences for crimes they did not commit.”  And that she had four strikes against her:  “1. I am Black; 2. I am poor; 3. I am incarcerated; and 4. I am a woman.”  Black women “politicals,” political prisoners who have stood up against white America’s racist injustice—Lucy Parsons, Claudia Jones, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson, Diane Nash, Assata Shakur, Sandra Bland, Jasmine Richards, the still jailed Janine and Janet Africa, and the woman still in solitary confinement, Rev. Joy Powell—are defiant female rebels against a state which will go to any lengths to punish women exposing its crimes.

Tackling the “Impossible”: Ending Violence

Whenever, in ordinary circumstances, the subject of violence comes up, most people throw up their hands in horror and comment along the lines that it is ‘in our genes’, ‘nothing can be done about it’ or other words that reflect the powerlessness that most people feel around violence.

It is true that violence is virtually ubiquitous, has a near-infinite variety of manifestations and, at its most grotesque (as nuclear war or run-away climate catastrophe), even threatens human extinction in the near-term.

Nevertheless, anyone who pays attention to the subject of violence in any detail soon discovers that plenty of people are interested in tackling this problem, even if it is ‘impossible’. Moreover, of course, at least some people recognize that while we must tackle each manifestation of violence, understanding the cause of violence is imperative if we are to successfully tackle its many manifestations at their source. To do all of this effectively, however, is a team effort. And hopefully, one day, this team will include all of us.

In the meantime, let me start by telling you a little about some of the people who are already working to end violence by tackling one or more of its many manifestations. These individuals are part of a worldwide network set up to focus on ending violence – ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ – and they have signed a pledge to do so.

Concerned about US government threats to Iran and Venezuela, several Charter signatories were part of one or both recent peace delegations to Iran and Venezuela respectively. These delegations were designed to open more lines of communication and to demonstrate solidarity with those who do not submit to US hegemony.

The 28-member US peace delegation to Iran from 25 February to 6 March 2019 included long-term nonviolent activists Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese and David Hartsough. Unfortunately for David, author of Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist and director of Peaceworkers, his trip didn’t go as planned. If you would like to read a compelling account of his time in Iran with some wonderful Iranians, while learning something about what it means to be on the wrong end of US sanctions, you will find it in ‘An American Casualty of U.S. Economic Sanctions on Iran’. Glad you got the lifesaving medical treatment from our Iranian friends that you needed, David, despite the sanctions! And it is a tragedy that Iran has recently suffered even more, as a result of the devastating floods that have hit the country, with the sanctions cruelly denying them vital emergency assistance.

In relation to Venezuela, a 13-member peace and solidarity delegation from North America landed in Caracas, Venezuela on the weekend of 9-10 March 2019. The delegation included leaders of antiwar groups from the US and Canada and, once again, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers of ‘Popular Resistance’ and ‘Clearing the Fog’ podcasts. You can read an account of this delegation’s findings in Kevin and Margaret’s highly informative report.

Another initiative to support Venezuelans was outlined in the article ‘A Nonviolent Strategy to Defeat a US Military Invasion of Venezuela’.

Traveling widely to witness and demonstrate solidarity with those on the receiving end of US military violence, another long-term nonviolent activist, Kathy Kelly, recently wrote an article pointing out that ‘Every War Is a War against Children’ in which she evocatively documented examples of what this means for those children living in the war zones we call Yemen and Afghanistan. In an earlier article, Kathy questioned the morality of those corporations – such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics and Raytheon – that profit from the killing their weapons inflict.

Environmental journalist Robert Hunziker continues to fearlessly research and truthfully document the ongoing assaults that humans are inflicting on Earth’s biosphere. In his most recent article ‘The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems‘, Robert straightforwardly explains the content of a recent interview of Dr. Peter Wadhams, the world’s leading Arctic scientist. Robert notes that ‘Currently, the Arctic is heating up about 4 times faster than the rest of the planet… the temp difference between the Arctic and the tropics is dropping precipitously… thus, driving the jet streams less… creating meandering jet streams… in turn, producing extreme weather events throughout the Northern Hemisphere, especially in mid-latitudes where most of the world’s food is grown.’ Robert also notes that the study of ancient ice cores by a team from the British Antarctic Survey, University of Cambridge and University of Birmingham found ‘major reductions in sea ice in the Arctic’ which will crank up (via temperature amplification as a result of no Arctic sea ice) Greenland regional temperatures ‘by 16°C in less than a decade’ with horrific implications for life on Earth. Thank you, Robert, for reporting what the corporate media won’t touch and even many activists find too terrifying to seriously contemplate.

In Chile, Pía Figueroa continues her heavy involvement in efforts to network those committed to peace and nonviolence and to develop media channels that report the truth. Pía reports that ‘Pressenza International Press Agency’, which celebrated its tenth anniversary last November ‘in more than 40 places of the world’, continues to advance its contribution ‘with a journalism focused on peace and nonviolence, to a world in which all human beings have a place and their rights are fully respected, in a framework of disarmed and demilitarized societies, capable of re-establishing the ecological balance through governments of real and participatory democracy.’

Since attending the Media Forum organized in the city of Chongqing, China, by CCTV+ and CGTN, in October last year, Pía has been busy organizing the upcoming Latin American Humanist Forum in Santiago with the objective of ‘Building Convergences’, as its slogan points out. It will be held on 10-12 May with the participation of many grassroots and social organizations involved in more than twenty networks of nonviolent action and inspired by the European Humanist Forum that took place in Madrid, Spain, in May 2018.

Anwar A. Khan was born into ‘a liberal Muslim family in Bangladesh’. As a 16 year old college student, he participated in the ‘Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which resulted in horrendous loss of life, genocide against Bangladesh’s intelligentsia and systematic rapes.’ This experience taught him the nature of the US establishment as he was ‘on the battle field along with so many friends of mine and Indian soldiers to fight back the obnoxious nexus of the Pakistani military regime and the Whitehouse establishment’ to create Bangladesh. Khan Bhai went on to complete a post-graduate education, before embarking on a 43-year (so far) business career, involving many different levels of corporate engagement and which took him to many countries of the world, including Venezuela in 2010 where he met both Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro.

He also writes regularly in his spare time and recently wrote an article highlighting the adverse impact of the lack of infrastructure under which many impoverished countries suffer, given the way in which the global economy functions to exploit them. In the article, he describes an inferno that started on the night of 20 February 2019 in a building at Chawkbazar, a 300-year-old Dhaka neighbourhood, ‘where chemicals for making deodorants and other household uses were illegally stored’. The fire ‘quickly spread to four nearby buildings where many people were trapped. Hundreds of firefighters rushed to the scene but traffic jams in the narrow streets held them up. It took almost 12 hours to bring the fire under control….’ The horrific inferno claimed about 100 lives and more were injured.

Commenting on the current project that she is organizing with friends, Lori Lightning outlines the rationale behind ‘Bear Bones Parenting’:

There’s no course or exam to pass to become a parent, and most try to figure this out once a parent, and usually in an exhausted overwhelmed state. Bedtimes, meals, chores, and healthy open communication all become a task without a trusted framework in place.

Based on 51 years of combined wisdom as educators, counselors, health practitioners, moms, step moms and foster moms, Bear Bones Parenting offers an intuitive formula to demystify the basics of parenting and a workbook with tools for reflection and wellness practices to take you actively through day to day living no matter where you are at in your life. You dedicate 15 minutes a day and in trade stop being overwhelmed. A “do it yourself” workbook filled with tools to turn life into what you envision for yourself and your family.

Our cast of puppets help to inspire playful reflection on our children’s temperaments and our own. Eventual creation of short videos will be easily accessible for busy parents and provide some examples of how things typically play out with temperaments and inspiration of the Bear way, which is curious, intuitive, firm and loving.

We hope that BBP can help reduce parental stress and frustration so there is time to connect in joy and curiosity with our children and foster their independence.

For more information, you can contact Lori at this email address: moc.liamgnull@gnitneraPsenoBraeB

Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh is volunteer Director of The Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS) and the Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH) but he is also actively engaged in the Palestinian struggle for liberation from Israeli occupation. As he evocatively noted in a recent Easter reflection:

This is the tenth Easter I celebrate after returning to Palestine in 2008. When we native Christian Palestinians have a few moments to meditate and reflect in this season, we reflect that some 2.5 billion human beings believe in a message that originated with a Palestinian baby born in a manger here and was crucified for being the first revolutionary Palestinian to push for caring for the sick and the poor.

We reflect on the real message of Jesus, a message of love and coexistence. The harsh reality on the ground reminds us of our responsibility to shape a better future.

We are hopeful because we take a long view of history. Some 150,000 years ago, humans migrated from Africa using Palestine as the passage way to Western Asia and then the rest of the world. 12,000 years ago, this area became the center of development for agriculture (the Fertile Crescent). This was where we humans first domesticated animals like goats and donkeys and plants like wheat, barley, chickpeas, and lentils. This transformation allowed our ancestors time to evolve what we now call “civilization”. Hence, the first writings, the first music, and art, and the first thoughts of deities. From our Aramaic alphabet came the Latin, Arabic, Syriac, and Hebrew alphabets. Aramaic was the language of Jesus and much of our current Palestinian Arabic is still Aramaic words.

Mazin continues to travel regularly, lecturing about initiatives of the museum but also about the political reality in Palestine. If you would like to volunteer to assist the museum’s projects, or to donate money, books, natural history items or anything else that would be useful, you are welcome to contact Mazin and his colleagues at gro.erutanenitselapnull@ofni

Finally, we are deeply saddened to report the passing of Tom Shea, a long-time stalwart in the struggle for a better world and one of the original team of individuals who launched ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ on 11 November 2011. We include below the testament of his great friend and fellow nonviolent activist, Leonard Eiger:

For Tom Shea, Peace WAS the Way

My dear friend and fellow Ground Zero member Tom Shea passed away peacefully in the early morning hours of April 3rd surrounded by his family.

Earlier in his life Tom had been a Jesuit, a high school teacher, and had started an alternative high school and Jesuit Volunteer Corp: Midwest. He had also been involved in social justice issues on the national level with the Jesuits. Ground Zero member Bernie Meyer remembers Tom with great fondness, from being a student at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland where Tom was teaching, to resisting together at Ground Zero many years later.

Tom was 47 when he left Cleveland for Traverse City, Michigan in 1977. There he met his partner Darylene, and they were inseparable from then on. Together, they participated in the Nuclear Freeze movement, and were part of the Michigan Peace Team. They traveled to New York for the second Conference on Disarmament in 1982. They protested both the first Gulf War and the war in Iraq. They also engaged in war tax resistance.

At Darylene’s suggestion, they attended a course in conflict mediation in the early ‘80s at a time when there was little written on the subject. That experience led them to a course taught by Quakers at Swarthmore College in 1986. In 1990 Tom and Darylene founded the five-county Conflict Resolution Service in Northern Michigan and trained the first group of volunteer mediators. Their mission was to promote peace and civility in the community through the use of mediator guided dialogue. In the early days of the program, volunteers met in church basements and around kitchen tables to train, role play and share experiences. They would travel to the homes of people needing mediation, focusing on resolving family and neighborhood conflicts.

Tom and Darylene moved to Snoqualmie, Washington in 2007 to spend more time with Darylene’s children. Tom got involved in community issues and continued his war tax resistance work. You could find him every April 15th, in front of the local post office, offering tax resistance information.

I was still leading a social justice ministry at the Snoqualmie United Methodist Church when one day Tom called the church office and asked who was doing social justice work in the area. We connected immediately due to common work and friends. Soon, Tom and I were making the pilgrimage together across the water to Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, and the rest (as they say) is history.

I have spent countless hours with Tom and Darylene, discussing world affairs and working together on strategies and tactics for our work with Ground Zero. Tom and Darylene have been inseparable as both life partners and co-conspirators for peace. Tom once said that Darylene is like a Jesuit herself: “Jesuits are taken as very scholarly people and she’s very scholarly.”

In addition to working on media and communications for Ground Zero, and planning vigils and nonviolent direct actions at the Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base, Tom put himself on the line many times, often entering the roadway blocking traffic, both on the County and Federal sides, symbolically closing the base and risking arrest. Tom also created street theatre scripts that have been used during vigils at the submarine base to entertain and educate people.

Robert Burrowes, who cofounded ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’, said that “Tom was one of the true legends in my life. A long-standing symbol of, and nonviolent fighter for, everything that could be in our world.” When all is said and done, Tom’s life can be summed up by A.J Muste: “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”

We will be scattering some of Tom’s ashes (per his wishes) at Ground Zero Center during our August Hiroshima-Nagasaki weekend of remembrance and action.

I invite you to honor Tom’s memory by supporting the work of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. There are many ways we can engage in war tax resistance in the context of a broad range of nonviolent strategies for social change.

While diminished by the passing of Tom, the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action continues ‘to explore the meaning and practice of nonviolence from a perspective of deep spiritual reflection, providing a means for witnessing to and resisting all nuclear weapons, especially Trident. We seek to go to the root of violence and injustice in our world and experience the transforming power of love through nonviolent direct action.’ You can read about their ongoing efforts on their website, Ground Zero, which also features a ‘Current Action Alert: Stop the “Low-Yield” Trident Warhead!

Each of the individuals mentioned above is part of the ongoing and steadily expanding effort to end the violence in our world. They refuse to accept that violence cannot be ended, and each has chosen to focus on working to end one or more manifestations of violence, according to their particular interests. If you would like to join these people, you are welcome to sign the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.

If your own interest is campaigning on a peace, climate, environment or social justice issue, consider doing it strategically.

If your focus is a defense or liberation struggle being undertaken by a national group, consider enhancing its strategic impact.

If your preference is addressing the climate and environmental catastrophes systematically, consider participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

If you would like to tackle violence at its source, consider revising your parenting in accordance with ‘My Promise to Children‘. If you want the evidence to understand why this is so crucial, see ‘Why Violence?‘ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice‘.

If you are aware enough to know that you are not dealing effectively with our deepening crisis, consider doing the personal healing necessary to do so.

It may be that ending human violence is impossible, as many believe. But there are a great number of people around the world who do not accept this and who are struggling, relentlessly, to end violence before it ends us. What about you?

Solidarity With Venezuela Now! Protect The Embassy

Activists gather in front of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC in March, 2019.

We are writing to you from inside the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC where we are taking action against a US coup of the independent and sovereign Bolivarian Republican of Venezuela. The Embassy Protection Collective (Colectivos Por La Paz) is here with the permission of the Venezuelan government to show our solidarity with the Venezuelan people. The upcoming week will be a critical one, as we explain below.

The opposition, with its illegal, pretend government, say they will attempt to take over the embassy this week after the diplomats leave on Wednesday, as ordered by the US State Department. If they do, it will be a theft from the Venezuelan people who own the building. As we describe in some detail below, the opposition is acting in violation of the Venezuelan Constitution and the US is acting in violation of international law.

US and Canadian Peace Delegation organized by US Peace Council in Venezuela, 2019.

Guaido’s Power Shrinks, The Roots of Opposition are Based in Violence and US Coup Attempts

The opposition leader, Juan Guaido’s power is shrinking in Venezuela and he is often ignored. He has no transitional government, even Elliot Abrams admits he is not in power, and Guaido has been barred from running for office for financial improprieties after being investigated for illegally taking money from a foreign government. Guaido’s immunity from prosecution has been removed and he has been forbidden from leaving the country. He has announced major protests multiple times to support his takeover of the Venezuelan government on behalf of the US government, but the protests are often canceled or have small turnouts.

Mision Verdad, in “Guaido, A Laboratory Product That No Longer Works,” describes how the coup was designed in meetings in the Organization of American States (OAS) in December and January that included the convicted criminal, Leopoldo Lopez, and his protegé Juan Guaido by video link.

Lopez was convicted for his role in inciting fatal violent protests and road blockades in 2014 and 2017 that killed almost 200 people in an attempt to take over the government. He is currently under house arrest. While Lopez has tried to distance himself from the unpopular failed 2002 coup of Hugo Chavez, video and news from that time show he was one of the leaders of the Chavez coup. Lopez participated in the illegal detention of then-Minister of the Interior and Justice Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, as this video shows, as well as violent attacks against Caracas’ Cuban Embassy.

Chavez pardoned Lopez for his role in the coup in 2007, but Lopez was barred from holding political office from 2008 to 2014 for his misuse of public funds while mayor. Guarimba victims have pursued new charges against Leopoldo Lopez. Just two weeks ago, Lopez was implicated in a terrorist plot, funded by the United States and organized by Guaido’s chief of staff, where mercenaries from Central America, trained in Colombia, planned to attack infrastructure, government buildings, and assassinate political leaders, including President Maduro.

People gather at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC to prevent takeover by the opposition.

What You Can Do to Show Solidarity With the Venezuelan People and Protect Venezuelan Solidarity

In mid-March, the opposition took over the Venezuelan consulate in New York and the Military Attaché office in Washington, DC. People feared the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC would be next and so they mobilized to hold space at the embassy in support.

Since then, people have been staying at the embassy 24/7. During the day, we work, and in the evenings, we hold public events. Yesterday, the ANSWER coalition held a national webinar and then we had an art build for people of all ages and light projection provided by the Backbone Campaign. See the list of events here. We are calling ourselves the Embassy Protection Collective and people in Venezuela are referring to us as Colectivos Por La Paz (Peace Collective).

We view the struggle to prevent the takeover of the embassy as fundamental to stopping this new phase of US imperialism in which the US attempts a coup and fails, but goes ahead and acts like it succeeded. President Maduro remains in power and is actively serving as the president. Juan Guaido has no power, yet the US is giving Venezuelan assets to him. It is truly Orweillian. If the US succeeds in this farce, then no country is safe. Where will the US turn next to appoint a president and give them power and assets? Nicaragua? Cuba? Iran?

You can be an Embassy Protector by doing any or all of the following:

1.Sign on in support of the Declaration of the Embassy Protection Collective.  Hundreds of people and organizations have already signed. Show your solidarity with Venezuela. The Declaration is reprinted below.

2.Spread the word through your communities by forwarding this on email, sharing content from our Facebook page and using the hashtag #ColectivosPorLaPaz.

3.Contact your member of Congress (202-224-3121) and demand they intervene to stop the State Department from giving the embassy to Guaido’s hateful, violent forces and to investigate the US-led coup and ongoing war on Venezuela. Let them know that US citizens are staying in the embassy to defend the rule of law.

4.Join us in person during the day, evening and night. We are particularly looking for people who can join us on Wednesday night April 24 and Thursday morning April 25 because that is the earliest that the opposition will try to seize the building. There are different roles to play and different levels of risk. We need people who can video, photograph, share on social media, call media, rally on the sidewalk (all very safe), sit in on the steps (you can leave before they announce they will arrest if you need to), block the front door (you can still likely leave without arrest) or join us inside the building where we will peacefully resist their trespass (highest risk of arrest). A number of us are committed to staying in the building to defend it.

We are building for the day we anticipate the Guaido forces will try to take over the embassy. If you are interested in being an Embassy Protector, please complete this form and we’ll be in touch. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.  The upcoming week of April 21, 2019 is a critical week. Come and join us.

Please let us know if you can join us on by writing gro.ecnatsiseRralupoPnull@ofni.

The Embassy Protection Collective after a forum on Africom, April 15, 2019. From the Embassy Protection Collective.

Sign on in support of the Declaration of the Embassy Protection Collective.

Declaration of the Embassy Protection Collective (Colectivos Por La Paz)

We have joined together as the Embassy Protection Collective to show solidarity with the people of Venezuela and their right to determine their elected government. We are staying in the Venezuelan embassy with the permission of the legitimate Venezuelan government under President Nicolas Maduro. We seek to provide a nonviolent barrier to the threatened opposition takeover of their embassy in Washington, DC by being a presence at the embassy every day of the week for 24 hours a day.

The Collective is working from the embassy, located in the heart of Georgetown in Washington, DC during the day and holding seminars and cultural events in the evenings, as well as sleeping in the embassy. Events include forums on Venezuela, its government, economy and the ongoing attempted coup. We are also holding seminars on US foreign policy toward Africa, Honduras and Iran, the prosecution of Julian Assange and other issues.

There is great cause for us to be concerned about a hostile takeover of the DC Embassy. On March 18, 2019, the Venezuelan opposition took over the military attaché building on 2409 California St in Washington DC, with the help of the DC Police and Secret Service. On that same day, the opposition also took over the Venezuelan Consulate in New York City. They have publicly threatened to take over the embassy itself.

International Law Protects Foreign Embassies Located In The United States

According to Article 22 of the 1961 Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations, foreign embassies should be protected by the United States government and their space should not be violated by the US government. Specifically, international law requires:

  • The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.
  • The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.
  • The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.

The Trump Administration is violating the Vienna Convention by not only allowing the illegal seizure of diplomatic premises but by facilitating it. The Election Protection Collective is supporting the people of Venezuela by taking responsibility to ensure that Article 22 of the Vienna Convention is followed.

The Elected Government of President Maduro Remains In Power

The government of President Nicolás Maduro was re-elected on May 20, 2018 in response to the opposition demanding an early election. The election was held consistent with the Venezuelan Constitution, in consultation with opposition parties and as determined by the National Electoral Council, an independent branch of the Venezuelan government.

Sixteen parties participated in the election with six candidates competing for the presidency. President Maduro won by a wide margin, obtaining 6,248,864 votes, 67.84%; followed by Henri Falcón with 1,927,958, 20.93%; Javier Bertucci with 1,015,895, 10.82%; and Reinaldo Quijada, who obtained 36,246 votes, 0.39% of the total. A total of 9,389,056 people voted, 46% of eligible voters.

The electoral process was observed by more than 150 election observers. This included 14 electoral commissions from eight countries among them the Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America; two technical electoral missions; and 18 journalists from different parts of the world, among others, “the elections were very transparent and complied with international parameters and national legislation.”

In a letter to the European Union correcting some of the false statements made about the election, election observers wrote: “We were unanimous in concluding that the elections were conducted fairly, that the election conditions were not biased, that genuine irregularities were exceptionally few and of a very minor nature.”

Voting machines were audited before and immediately after the election. Venezuela does something no other country in the world does, of a random sample of 52 to 54% of voting machines. The Citizen’s Audit is observed by the media, the public, and all opposition parties, who sign the audits.

The Invalid Self-Appointment of Juan Guaidó Violated Venezuelan Law

Juan Guaidó’s self-appointment as interim president violated the Constitution of Venezuela. The language of the Venezuelan Constitution is clear regarding when the president of the National Assembly can become president and none of the conditions in the Constitution have been met.

The opposition relies on Article 233 of the Constitution, which allows the National Assembly president to serve as interim president only if the president-elect has not yet been inaugurated. Guaidó’s self-appointment occurred after President Maduro had been inaugurated.

Article 233 allows the president of the National Assembly to become president only if the president-elect:

become[s] permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice [equivalent of impeachment]; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.”

None of these conditions were met.

If Guaidó had met the above conditions, Article 233 allows him to serve for only 30 consecutive days pending election and inauguration of the new President. Guaidó’s self-appointment and fraudulent inauguration occurred more than 30 days ago and no election has been scheduled.

In a press briefing, Elliot Abrams, the US Special Representative for Venezuela, could not explain these violations of law by Guaidó and admitted that Guaidó is not “able to exercise the powers of the office because Maduro still is there.” Even Abrams admits that Guaidó is not the president. Therefore, he has no authority over the Venezuelan embassy.

The Role of the Embassy Protection Collective

The Embassy Protection Collective is in the embassy with the permission of the Venezuelan government. We are upholding international law and the Venezuelan Constitution and opposing a coup attempt against the legitimate government of Venezuela on behalf of the people of Venezuela who elected their government.

The Embassy Protection Collective is made up of civilians, United States citizens, who are peacefully defending the embassy. If the opposition enters, they will be trespassing. We call on the DC police, Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security and any other law enforcement agency to uphold the law and prevent the opposition from trespassing.

The Collective feels a responsibility to hold our government to a standard of respecting the rule of law as well as a responsibility to stand in solidarity with the people of Venezuela.

Signed
The Embassy Civilian Protection Collective

The Prosecution Of Julian Assange Is A Threat To Journalists Everywhere

Supporters of Julian Assange gather outside Westminster Court after Assange’s arrest (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz for AFP-NurPhoto)

Take action to protect Julian AssangeClick here to read about what you can do.

Support the Embassy Protection Collective. The United States is recognizing its fake coup president, Juan Guaido, in Venezuela and we understand that his people will try to take over the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC when the current diplomats leave. We and others are staying at the embassy to protect it from the opposition. Follow us on Facebook here. And please donate if you can to purchase food and supplies for people staying at the embassy.

The arrest of Julian Assange not only puts the free press in the United States at risk, it puts any reporters who expose US crimes anywhere in the world at risk. As Pepe Escobar wrote

Let’s cut to the chase. Julian Assange is not a US citizen, he’s an Australian. WikiLeaks is not a US-based media organization. If the US government gets Assange extradited, prosecuted and incarcerated, it will legitimize its right to go after anyone, anyhow, anywhere, anytime.

The Assange prosecution requires us to build a global movement to not only free Julian Assange, but to protect the world from the crimes and corruption of the United States and other governments. The reality is that Freedom of Press for the 21st Century is on trial.

There are many opportunities for a movement to impact the outcome of this process and to free Julian Assange.  The extradition process includes political decisions by both the UK and US governments. Courts are impacted by public opinion. If courts are convinced this case is about political issues, extradition could be rejected.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen after was arrested by British police outside Westminster in a police van on his way to Magistrates Court in London, Britain April 11, 2019 (Photo by Peter Nicholls for Reuters)

Next Steps, Next Opportunities

Last week’s arrest begins the next phase of Assange’s defense as well as the defense of our right to know what governments do in our name. It may seem like this is now a matter only for the courts, but, in fact, the prosecution of Assange is political. The extradition case is not a hacking case, as the US is trying to present it; it is a prosecution about exposing war crimes, corporate corruption of US foreign policy and other violations of law by the United States and its allies. The government is trying to change the subject to avoid the facts that Assange exposed.

In fact, the indictment does not even allege hacking. As Glenn Greenwald writes: “the indictment alleges no such thing. Rather, it simply accuses Assange of trying to help Manning log into the Defense Department’s computers using a different username so that she could maintain her anonymity.” Assange lawyer Barry Pollack described why journalists everywhere are threatened: “The factual allegations … boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source. Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges.”

The extradition process is likely to last months, most likely more than a year. The Assange case could go into 2020 or beyond. Issues that could prevent extradition include Assange’s health conditions, human rights concerns, and whether there is a political motivation behind the US request. Not only can Assange appeal through the UK courts, but he may also appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

While we should not limit our mobilizations to legal filings, hearings, appeals and administrative decisions, those are all opportunities to educate and mobilize people. The next court date on the extradition will be a preliminary hearing on May 2 where Assange will appear by video link.  Next, the United States must produce its case for requesting the extradition of Julian Assange from Britain by June 12.

These are just initial steps. Lawfare reports, “It may be years before Assange sees the inside of a U.S. courtroom. The initial Swedish request to extradite Assange from the U.K. came in November 2010. Assange successfully slowed the process until June 2012.”

Lawfare also points to the case of Lauri Love, who faced extradition for hacking US government computers. It took three years for the extradition case, and then Love raised health issues that would be impacted by a long sentence and  two years later, he won on appeal with the court ruling it would be “oppressive to his physical and mental condition.” Assange has also developed health issues over the last seven years of living in the Ecuadorian embassy.

Then, there is the case of another British hacker, Gary McKinnon, who was indicted in 2002. The extradition proceedings dragged on for a decade. In the end, then-Home Secretary Theresa May, withdrew the extradition order because of McKinnon’s diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome and depression: “Mr. McKinnon’s extradition would give rise to such a high risk of him ending his life that a decision to extradite would be incompatible with Mr. McKinnon’s human rights.”

That’s right, in one case the court ruled against extradition due to health issues, and the other, Theresa May (yes, the current prime minister) withdrew the extradition due to health reasons. Beyond health, there are other issues that could be persuasive in Assange’s case.

Someone cannot be extradited from the United Kingdom if the extradition is for “political purposes.” The US Department of Justice has tried to avoid the obvious politics of Assange’s case by alleging in the indictment that it is a hacking case. In reality, and everyone knows this reality, Assange is being prosecuted because he exposed war crimes including the wanton killing of journalists and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the violation of human rights in Guantanamo Bay and the corruption of US foreign policy by transnational corporations. These are the big elephants in the room that the United States is trying to hide.

The U.S. prison system is seen around the world as inhumane. The UN Committee against Torture issued a report strongly criticizing the US prisons on a number of issues, among them torture and the extensive use of solitary confinement. The U.S .uses long-term solitary more than any other country in the world, on any given day, at least 80,000 people are held in solitary confinement in the US. The US holds political prisoners in long-term solitary confinement as demonstrated by the imprisonment of black liberation activists who were held in solitary for decades. And whistleblowers have been held in solitary as was Chelsea Manning during her prosecution, including her most recent incarceration for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating Assange. The European Court of Human Rights has prevented extradition to the U.S. from the U.K .in a case involving an alleged terrorist because of inhumane prison conditions.

The US put forward a flimsy indictment that even on its face did not prove the allegation of assisting Manning with the password to access secret documents. The US put forward this weak and relatively mild charge probably to make extradition easier. They sought to avoid the political issue, which could have stopped the extradition. But, they are skirting extradition law with this approach, and if they hit Assange with a superseding indictment when he is extradited, it would be a violation of the doctrine of specialty, which means a person can only face trial for offenses presented to justify that extradition.

Assange on steps of High Court in London, December 2010 (Photo by Stefan Wermuth for Reuters)

The Politics of the Assange Prosecution

The reality of the Assange prosecution being about his journalism is obvious to all. Those in the media making the claim that this is about hacking, know they are stretching the truth in order to side with the U.S. government. People should know media that make this claim cannot be trusted to report the truth.

The editor of White House Watch, Dan Froomkin, pulls the thin veil off of this lie writing: “Julian #Assange has been charged with conspiracy to commit journalism. The free press has not ducked a bullet here; it’s taken one to the chest.” The Assange prosecution is about the criminalization of journalism. The Committee to Protect Journalists writes, the indictment would “criminalize normal journalistic activities.” This obvious truth will become more evident as the case proceeds and the movement educates the public and mobilizes support to free Assange.

Already, in USA Today, Jonathan Turley clarified what the prosecution is really about: “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be punished for embarrassing the DC establishment.” The “embarrassment” really is complicity against crimes that in an effective international judicial system would result in prosecution of US officials and members of the US military who committed them. And in a US justice system that sought justice, there would have been prosecutions of members of the military for torture and of lawyers providing legal cover for these actions.

The US election season is upon us and this presents opportunities for mobilization and making Assange’s case an election issue. One presidential candidate seeking the Democratic nomination, Tulsi Gabbard, has already come out against extradition. More candidates need to be urged to oppose extradition.

Candidates can be pressured from the outside as well. Green candidate, Howie Hawkins already wrote that he opposes extradition and urges people to defend Freedom of the Press. Hawkins is in the exploratory phase of a potential campaign. The Green Party has also published a statement that “unequivocally condemns the arrest of Julian Assange and calls for his immediate release.”

President Trump has kept his options open. Trump said in the Oval Office, that he “knows nothing” about the prosecution and “It’s not my thing.” Sean Hannity, a Trump media cheerleader has offered to let Assange host his show and reach his 15 million viewers. Assange is a wedge issue that divides Trump loyalists.

If the movement does its job and builds a national consensus against the prosecution of a publisher for reporting the truth, Trump may side with those in his voting base that is against extradition; and the leading Democratic candidates may also come out against prosecution and to protect a free press that reports crimes of the US government.

In the United Kingdom, things are in flux as well. While the next election is scheduled for 2022, the government is ever closer to being forced to hold an election as it is trapped in a Brexit quandary and showing its inability to govern. Jeremy Corbyn has already said, “The extradition of Julian Assange to the US for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan should be opposed by the British government.” Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, said Assange should not be extradited: “It is this whistleblowing into illegal wars, mass murder, murder of civilians and corruption on a grand scale, that has put Julian Assange in the crosshairs of the US administration.” In the end, a new government could end the extradition as the Home Secretary can choose to reject the extradition.

There are also international politics impacted by the Assange prosecution. Assange’s lawyer Jen Robinson said “extradition will set a very dangerous precedent for all media organizations and journalists around the world.” This precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for prosecution in the United States for having published truthful information about the United States,

The US is seeking to prosecute a foreign reporter, working from a foreign country about US war crimes. What would happen if a US reporter wrote about crimes in a foreign country? Could that country prosecute a US journalist? That is the precedent the US is setting. And, how hypocritical for the US to seek to prosecute a foreign journalist in the same week that the US celebrated evading an investigation by the International Criminal Court of alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan.

Free Assange protest outside of British Embassy in Washington DC from News2Share.com

Free Assange Campaign Will Be A Global Campaign For The Right To Know

At least five times, the UN, through various committees and special rapporteurs, has called on Assange not to be prosecuted or extradited to the United States. A campaign to stop the prosecution of Assange will build into a global movement because the US has created chaos and havoc around the world, and has killed more than a million people this century and made many millions into refugees.

The people of the world are impacted by the actions of the United States and they have a right to know what the United States is doing. The people of the US are told we live in a democracy, but there can be no democracy when the people are not allowed to know what the government is doing in our name.

Protests occurred immediately on the day Assange was arrested and continued this weekend. We have started a campaign to Free Assange. As people understand the dramatic implications of this prosecution, protests will grow. Daniel Ellsberg described this unprecedented prosecution as a threat to the future of the republic and said it was time “to join ranks here now to expose and resist the wrongful–and in this country unconstitutional–abuse of our laws to silence journalists.”

In court, Assange showed his defiance of the national security state, which seeks to destroy him, by sitting calmly in the dock, reading Gore Vidal’s History of the National Security State and holding it up obviously to give everyone in court a view.  We must be in solidarity with that defiance and build the campaign that is needed to free Julian Assange.