Growing Stronger Together - Resisting the 'Drug War' Across the Americas.
Social change needs grassroots power. Photos and report back from the 2015 Spring Days of Action in Wshington, DC
Wednesday, April 22 (#EarthDay)
On Wednesday morning,SOA Watch activists, including several former Prisoners of Conscience, joined the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance at two actions at the Environmental Protection Agency and at the Pentagon. We called out the Pentagon's role in the destruction of Mother Earth. Eight of the activists were arrested by Pentagon police, when they demanded a meeting with Pentagon officials and refused to leave without it. Click here for photos from the march and the arrests.
Since the SOA graduate-led military coup in 2009, Honduras has become the most dangerous country in the world for environmental and land activists. Indigenous environmental campaigners are particularly at risk because they are up against powerful political and economic interests who have grown used to exploiting their land with impunity.
Wednesday, April 22, 6pm-8pm Corruption, Crime and Community Organizing in the US and Mexico, by Simón Sedillo, an independent journalist and a documentary film maker.
Simón Sedillo presented new material from various struggles for dignity and self determination taking place in Mexico today. Sedillo presented an insightful breakdown on the supposed "war on drugs", with updates from Michoacán and Guerrero as well as a broader analysis of the the effects of the U.S. military political economy on Mexico and the Mexican people. The story in the news today is about Mexican crime and corruption, but what about the role of crime and corruption in the USA? Sedillo's presentation included community based video productions. Click here for photos from the presentation.
Following the talk, we came together at Haydee's for a karaoke party, to join into the rich tradition of music and resistance, and to build community.
Thursday, April 23
On Thursday morning, SOA Watch Legislative and Advocacy Coordinator, Arturo Viscarra, and activante Jenne Ristau, led a lobby training to inform the movement about our grassroots lobby efforts. As SOA Watch activists listened and participated, so too did SOA Watch Latin America Liaison Brigitte Gynther, who provided insight to the destructive impact the ill-named Aliiance for Prosperity will have on Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador if passed through Congress. John Lindsay-Poland provided the participants with up to date research on US military aid.
The day before, as US-supported Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez spoke in Washington, DC about supposedly promoting peace and prosperity in Honduras - the most violent country in the world, especially after the 2099 SOA-led coup - SOA Watch kicked off the Spring Days of Action by accompanying Honduran Human Rights activist Berta Cáceres from COPINH in speaking truth to power before Congress.
12pm - 4:30pm Lobbying. Grassroots activists from across the country visted their Representatives.
In the evening, we came together for a social gathering.
Friday, April 24
We spoke truth to power on Capitol Hill. After an intense day of grassroots lobbying, SOA Watch activists decided to take lobbying on Capitol Hill a step further and protest inside Sen. Marco Rubio's office, to call him out on not taking a stand in opposition to the failed "Drug War".
As the activists entered Senator Rubio's office, they immediately unfurled a banner reading "The War on Drugs is a War on Us" in English and Spanish. Rubio, who is an outspoken critic of the normalization of US relations with Cuba, and actively seeks to continue tired Cold War policies of the past, has failed to take a stand on the issue of the Drug War, funded by Plan Mexico, a 2 billion dollar Congressional initiative that has caused immense suffering in Mexico at a high human cost in the name of security and the Drug War. In addition to Plan Mexico, recent news reports that the US has recently sold over $1 billion in weaponry to the Mexican military and police.
Also on Friday morning, four human activists staged a sit-in at the embassy of El Salvador, with the intention of getting arrested to call attention to the situation of a group of Salvadoran women currently serving extreme prison sentences in El Salvador for having had miscarriages. Protesters included Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of Latin America solidarity organization School of the Americas Watch; Ed Kinane, of Syracuse, NY, retired educator and nonviolent peace activist; John Honeck, a counselor and activist from Hamlin, NY; and Paki Wieland, of Northampton, MA, longtime peace and justice activist and member of Grandmothers for Peace. The group delivered a letter to the embassy to express their solidarity and to seek the release of the 17 women. Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse, NY, and Palma Ryan of Cliff Island, ME, also participated in the sit-in. The four spent the night in general lock up, and the following day in the holding cells of the district court. They were released on Saturday afternoon, and will have to return to DC for a court date in May 2015. For the media release and photos, click here.
8pm CONCERT at Don Juan's at 1660 Lamont St NW, Washington, DC
Art and music are the backbone of the Resistance, and have always been a vital pat of the SOA Watch movement. As part of our Spring Days of Action, we had a concert featuring Elena of Elena y los Fulanos, Fenomedon, Alumbra DC, Luci Murphy, Kumara, Juan, Xavier, Cesar. Come Rock against militarization and the failed Drug War! For photos from the concert, please click here.
Saturday, April 25
9:00 am - 4:30 pm Forum and Strategy Session. University of DC David A. Clarke School of Law, 4340 Connecticut Ave. NW.
Growing Stronger Together: Resisting the "Drug War" Across the Americas
We held a strategy session for grassroots organizers who are pushing back against militarization. Participants learned from and strategized together with Berta Cáceres, the general co-ordinator of Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Indígenas Populares - COPINH (Civic Council of Popular Indigenous Organisations) from Honduras, Simón Sedillo, a community rights defense organizer and film maker, who has spent the last 8 years documenting, producing and teaching community based video documentation in Mexico, and many other new and old grassroots organizers like yourself. Following the morning session, part of the group drove up to Baltimore, to join the protests against the police killing of Freddie Gray, a 25-year old black man who died of severe injuries to his spine in police custody. Break out groups engaged in a brainstorm and visioning process to plan for our next steps as a movement.
Click here for photos from the strategy session.
Growing The movement's continued commitment to justice has only made our roots deeper and our reach towards the sun lengthen. More recently, SOA Watch's partnership with groups protesting the U.S. funding and militarizing of the Drug War in Mexico, have made seedlings whispering in the wind take root and cultivate in our shared communities. This April we continue in this same tradition of growing by challenging the Drug War in Mexico, Central America, Colombia, and in the U.S.
Stronger Change occurs over time, sprouting from the seeds planted by those who have come before us. Now, it is our job to continue to grow the movement, push for greater change, and continue building an alternative to war and empire, state violence and impunity, Mass incarceration, the root causes of migration, the criminalization of dissent - the greatest social struggles we are currently resisting in the hemisphere are linked by the disastrous "Drug War".
Together We are many communities in resistance, in Mexico, the U.S. and throughout the Americas, working for self-determination, justice, and an end to the violence of the Drug War. We are taking our message to Washington, DC not as individuals, but as a collective, echoing the millions of voices speaking truth to power and telling our own histories and herstories so that the powers that be cannot claim ignorance of the truth, and make a decision whether or not they will be part of the change for a better, more peaceful world.
Confronting The War on Drugs
The "Drug War" is militarizing, incarcerating, and killing communities in Latin America and in the U.S., especially traditionally oppressed peoples. Let's join join together to tell Congress the War on Drugs must end.
The enforced disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa, Mexico proved once again that the disastrous results of U.S. military aid and training in Latin America are ongoing. Similarly, in Ferguson and other U.S. cities have reminded us that police militarization and the treatment of black and brown people as internal enemies are also major problems in the U.S., while putting into context what militarization looks like on the ground for so many in Latin America and beyond.