Feature image: Milwaukee car caravan, April 25. Liberation photo.
North, south, east and west, activists across the country gathered for car caravans and rallies demanding the end of the U.S. blockade of Cuba. The last Sunday of each month since early this year has seen growing actions here in support of Cuba. President Biden does not intend to lift the 242 brutal measures signed by President Trump. These include the 2019 banning of all remittances by Cuban Americans to their families on the island and placing Cuba on the “supporters of state terrorism” list, an outright lie that is intended to harm Cuba’s international relations and trade even further. In early April, National Security Council Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere Juan González announced that Biden will not take action to ease up on the blockade.
ANSWER Coalition’s director Brian Becker stated this week, “This means that Trump’s vicious policy toward Cuba is now Biden’s policy. The government has claimed for 60 years it is acting for the Cuban people by maintaining the blockade. That is a lie, which the whole world rejects. It is a calculated, multi-pronged weapon designed to cause suffering for the Cuban people. Yet, Washington’s goal of regime change has not succeeded and it never will.
“It is up to us in the progressive movement to stand with Cuba and to organize against these illegal, coercive measures.”
Cars with placards and Cuban flags lined up from New York City to Nashville to San Diego to Miami, to ride through city streets with more than 20 rolling protests, with the aim of raising awareness and a spirit of solidarity with Cuba. All pledged to build for the next Cuba caravan on May 30. These actions will culminate in support for the United Nations’ General Assembly vote on the yearly resolution of “The Need to End the Embargo of Cuba.”
A couple hundred Cuban American families and others from the Cuba Solidarity Movement gathered in Miami’s little Havana neighborhood to hear rousing speeches, music and announcements of birthday celebrations before returning to their cars, trucks and bicycles that made up the monthly End the Blockade of Cuba Caravan. More than 80 cars, trucks and bikes made their way through the streets of Miami’s Little Havana. Car horns honking and flags flying, many onlookers waved approval at this display of action in the ongoing struggle to end the blockade and travel ban and for the uniting of Cuban families, which has now become a global movement including in Cuba.
In a rally before 25 cars proceeded through the historic Latino Mission District, Nathan Kim, a medical resident from the “Do No Harm” coalition of doctors, told the crowd: “We have stockpiled vaccines that the world needs; we do not give them out. We do not really send out doctors. And then I look at Cuba. … They are sending brigades of doctors, they’re sending public health knowhow. They are creating their own vaccine, not just for themselves, but for other countries that have been abandoned. Even a portion of their health care system would do so much here.”
Despite rain, the turnout was the largest yet in San Francisco. Activists from ANSWER Coalition, Code Pink, Task Force on the Americas, Peace and Freedom Party, Do No Harm, Freedom Archives, Socialist Workers Party, Party for Socialism and Liberation, and the Cuba and Venezuela Solidarity Committee took part.
On 24th and Mission Streets in particular, people in their cars and out on the street could be seen taking out their phones to film the caravan going by, with many waves, cheers and honks in support of the message of opposition to U.S. aggression towards Cuba.
To close out the opening rally, Gloria La Riva, coordinator of the Cuba and Venezuela Solidarity Committee said: “When Joe Biden was running for president he said, ‘I will return to the measures that Obama passed,’ allowing group and individual travel to Cuba, allowing remittances to Cuban people and other positive measures, although the blockade was still in effect.
“Biden promised to change it publicly because he knew people want the end of the blockade and what has he done? In fact, the opposite. … We will stand with Cuba, we will stand with Venezuela, we will stand with all the countries sanctioned, blockaded.”
Forty cars and 60 people participated in a car caravan through Milwaukee’s diverse Walker’s Square neighborhood, where a large portion of the Puerto Rican, Afro-Caribbean and Latino community lives. The support was overwhelming, with dozens of people coming out of their homes to wave Puerto Rican and Cuban flags as the caravan rolled past. The caravan was planned by The Milwaukee Coalition to Normalize Relations with Cuba, Party for Socialism and Liberation – Milwaukee, and Los Brown Berets Milwaukee.
During the rally prior to the car caravan, the crowd heard a voice message from a young person from Milwaukee currently studying to become a doctor in Cuba. Olivia Albanese, who is from Milwaukee’s North Side stated: “All Cuba has asked from me in return for this education is to return to my home country and serve the poor and most oppressed people who cannot access healthcare. The blockade doesn’t only hurt Cuba, but it hurts the people of the United States as well. Cuba has so much to offer the world, but because of the blockade it cannot do so.”
Auburn and Birmingham, Alabama
PSL members from Auburn, Opelika, Phenix City, and Goodwater came together to demand an end to the blockade on Cuba. In Auburn, after decorating cars, the activists had a small introductory rally. PSL Birmingham member Jamie Johnson said: “This caravan is a major moment in the Deep South. It is showing that there is support for the Cuban people and there is support for the revolution of the Cuban people.”
The caravan headed out at 11 a.m. to follow a route three times down College Street past the historic Toomer’s Corner, onto East Samford Ave. and Gay Street in a highly residential area. After looping around the large Tiger Town shopping district three times, the caravaners held a small demonstration where chants such as “Hands off Cuba!” and “Cuba YES! Blockade NO!” could be heard echoing down the road. Aside from a handful of hecklers, reception was overall positive with people giving thumbs up and raising their fists in the air.
That evening, PSL Birmingham held a screening of the three-part documentary “The War On Cuba” at East Village Arts. The event included a Q&A and discussion. It went off exceptionally with a strong attendance and overall support from everyone present. Discussion revolved around topics such as the blockade of Cuba, U.S. foreign policy, Cuba’s relationship with Vietnam, medical diplomacy, and the current vaccine apartheid by the U.S. and Europe.
Over a dozen participants gathered mid-day at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido for a car caravan organized by ANSWER Coalition San Diego, Unión del Barrio, the PSL, and San Diego Brown Beret National Organization. At the initial rally, Gretel Rodríguez of ANSWER told the crowd: “Cuba needs us working people to realize our freedoms are tied together! We as a community must raise the visibility of this struggle and push to educate as many people as possible about the deadly policy the U.S. wages against the Cuban people.”
Young activists in several cars rode through Nashville’s famed music district and downtown with signs that read “Cuba is not our enemy,” “End the blockade now.” Veterans for Peace, ANSWER Coalition, PSL and community activists worked together for the city’s first caravan in support of Cuba.
Four cities — Indianapolis, Goshen, Ft. Wayne, and Evansville — were the sites of speak-out rallies to educate the public about exactly what the blockade is and why U.S. people should oppose it.
Members of the community in solidarity with Cuba gathered on foot at NE 125th St. and Lake City Way for a picket, speak out and social media livestream event at 11 a.m. At noon, about 12 cars took off from a parking lot near the Lake City Post Office. Cars were decked out with Cuban flags and laminated signs. The picket and car caravan both received positive responses from pedestrians and drivers passing by. The event was sponsored by the Seattle Cuba Friendship Committee and co-sponsored by ANSWER Coalition, U.S. Women and Cuba Collaboration, Party for Socialism and Liberation, Puentes de Amor and Socialist Workers Party.
John Waller of the Seattle Cuba Friendship Committee said: “This Car Caravan movement began with one Cuban American in Miami. We in Seattle, together with Los Angeles, were the first cities to follow Miami’s lead. Now we are witnessing this incredible geographic explosion of Caravans — in the United States and Canada, in Cuba itself and around the world. The next challenge in Seattle and everywhere else is to increase our numbers and amplify our voices so that the Cuban people know they are not alone, that Cuban Americans who want normal relations with their homeland and families know that they are not alone, and so that President Biden knows that we will not accept him carrying on with Trump’s brutal attack on Cuba.”
There were also car caravans in Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Oakland, Albany, New York and Washington, D.C.
Miami reporting by Rosemari Mealy, Cuba Sí.