Picket Action

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On Tuesday March 25th, energetic chants of “Free the Cuban 5 now!” and “Justice for the 5 now!” rang throughout the streets of Downtown Vancouver as over 25 people gathered outside the U.S. consulate for Vancouver’s monthly picket action. This was the 27th consecutive monthly picket held to demand freedom for the Five Cuban Heroes held in U.S prisons.

David Whittlesey, a participant in the U.S. civil rights movement and long time social justice activist and supporter of Cuba opened the protest with an update on the case of anti-Cuban terrorist Louis Posada Carriles who currently walks free in the U.S. while the Cuban 5 remain in prison. David explained that despite a report made two years ago by a U.S immigration officer who stated that Posada “has a history of engaging in criminal activity” and “pose(s) a risk to the national security of the United States”, a U.S envoy for legal affairs recently declared in the United Nations that there is “insufficient evidence” to charge or extradite this international terrorist. David echoed the international demand “Extradite Posada to Venezuela now!”

After David spoke, the picketers hit the pavement and chanted and marched in a long picket line stretching in front of the building that houses the US Consulate in Vancouver. Chants of “9 Years Too Long – Free the Cuban 5 Now!” were heard by passers-by who stopped to picked up information on the case.

The next speaker was Kira Koshelanyk, a coordinator of the Alison Bodine Defence Committee (ABDC). Kira passionately related the case of the Cuban Five to the Case of Alison Bodine, a young Cuba solidarity activist and Pastors for Peace Caravanista who was politically targeted by the Canada Boarder Services Agency for her anti-war and Cuba solidarity work and now faces a two year ban from Canada. Kira announced a new step forward in Alison’s legal case – that the Federal Court of Canada has approved the case for a judicial review. Like the case of the Cuban 5, the Alison Bodine Defence Committee is using all legal and political avenues to fight for justice.

After several more rounds of pickets and chants with Cuban flags waving in the wind, the last speaker to take the megaphone at this picket was Noah Fine, coordinator of the Free the Cuban Five Committee-Vancouver. Noah spoke about the wives and family members of the Cuban Five who have continuously been denied visas by the U.S government to visit their loved ones in prison. He explained that some family members have not been able to see their loved ones for almost ten years now and that the daughter of Rene Gonzales only saw her father for the first time when she was eight years old. Noah affirmed that as we fight for the freedom of these Five Heroes we must stand in solidarity with their families whose lives and relationships and experiences together are held hostage by the empire in its unjust imprisonment of the five and campaign against the Cuban revolution.

The MC of the picket Sarah Alwell, organizer with the Free the Cuban 5 Committee Vancouver and Social Justice Coordinator for the Capilano Students Union, wrapped up the picket declaring that as long as the Five are imprisoned there will be a protest in Vancouver every single month to demand their freedom! She encouraged supporters of the Cuban 5 to be ready for a campaign to begin the day after the next court decision is released in their case. The latest hearing of the Five was held in August 2007 in which the lawyers for the Five appealed the charge of “conspiracy to commit murder” laid against Gerardo Hernandez.

Enthusiastic and lively picketing followed each speaker as protesters loudly and passionately demanded the immediate release of the revolutionary Five Cuban Heroes with chants of “Hey Bush you will see, the Cuban 5ive will be free!”, “Freedom for the 5ive now!” and “We fight, we fight for dignity, the Cuban 5 will be free!”