Militant Journalism

In Washington, biggest protest to date demands ‘U.S. hands off Venezuela’

The largest demonstration to date in opposition to President Donald Trump’s planned coup in Venezuela took place in Washington D.C. on March 16. Demonstrators from all over the country filled the streets of the capital with banners and signs that condemned economic sanctions as a form of war against the people of Venezuela.

The demonstration, initiated by the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and endorsed by scores of progressive organizations and hundreds of grassroots leaders, was addressed by some of the most well recognized anti-war leaders in the United States, including legendary whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg who released the Pentagon Papers in 1979, peace activist Cindy Sheehan, Jill Stein the Green Party 2016 Presidential candidate and others.

“We’ve reached one of the most critical stages,” said Eugene Puryear of the ANSWER Coalition. “They want to create a dirty war, they want to foment unrest, they want to use whatever underhanded tactic they can to try and pit the Venezuelan people against each other … to create chaos that they can then use as a pretext for further intervention.”

“There is nobody in that White House or in this administration that cares at all for the Venezuelan people,” said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of anti-war group Code Pink. “That has been made so clear by the sanctions that they have introduced that are designed precisely to strangle the economy and designed to make life miserable for the Venezuelan people.”

Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan told Liberation News she had been engaged in solidarity work with Venezuela since 2006, when she went to Venezuela and learned that “what we believe here is the opposite” of how things really work there. She said the rally was necessary to prove “we don’t believe the lies of bourgeois politicians.”

Sheehan told the crowd it was important for protesters to be there, at the White House, making their voices heard. She told the crowd that Hugo Chavez once told her “I don’t hate Americans, we’re all Americans,” noting that Venezuela had sent low-cost heating oil to Americans in need in the Bronx. “I’m proud of the people of Venezuela for resisting the maniacs over here.”

Journalist and Consortium News editor Joe Lauria said that people need to support whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who are being persecuted by the U.S. state for exposing its war crimes and conspiracies.

Liberation News spoke with Jules Orkin from a New Jersey chapter of Veterans for Peace, who said the U.S. has been “doing the same thing for years,” saying that everybody had a responsibility to “do something to stop this” attempt at regime change. The organization recently issued a statement calling on all members of the U.S. armed forces to refuse any orders given to intervene in Venezuela.

In order to break through the media blockade, several independent media groups traveled to Venezuela to report on the ground what the situation really was. Max Blumenthal from the Grayzone Project told the crowd: “What we say, different from the many things being portrayed” by the mainstream media, “is a reality show coup fall apart before our very eyes.”

“What we saw walking through the communities of Caracas was the conscience of the Venezuelan people who have mobilized on a popular level against this coup,” Blumenthal said. “It’s because of them, because of their conscience, that this coup has failed. It’s not because of some ‘dictator’… it’s because they stood up during an electrical blackout that was designed to destabilize their society, and they pulled together to stand up to the world’s most powerful country, and they have emerged victorious.”

“The danger is there as long as U.S. imperialism exists,” said Gloria La Riva of the Cuba and Venezuela Solidarity Committee, “but we have more power than their bombs and their economic power: we have the people, and the people are waking up in this country!”

The rally preceded a march through the streets of Washington, snaking it way past the White House, down Pennsylvania Avenue and up through the bustling Chinatown district, where shoppers and tourists joined the thousands of protesters in saying “Hands off Venezuela!” once they heard the truth about the U.S. coup and the U.S. government’s phony claims to care about human rights, especially when it stands idly by while the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis unfolds in Yemen at the hands of U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Following the march, protesters grouped together for a teach-in at a local church, where they pledged themselves to carry the anti-imperialist struggle back to their communities and build a powerful movement against U.S. intervention and regime change.

At the teach-in, several speakers joined via Skype, including former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who noted that U.S. imperialist wars aren’t just a catastrophe abroad, they’re a disaster at home, too, where the U.S. military budget dominates state spending to the detriment of basic social programs, welfare and environmental protections, as well as depriving workers of their hard-earned money, of which they have less and less every year.

Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who in the 1970s showed the world how the U.S. government lied about its imperialist motives in the Vietnam War, said that it would take more than simply raising our voices against U.S. regime change wars and interventions to stop them, noting the impact that direct action and concerted long-term resistance has had in the past.

“I’m reminded of a verse from the Internationale,” said Party for Socialism and Liberation organizer Chardonnay Merlot: “‘Kings intoxicate us with gunsmoke.’ That’s what happening here with the American people. When they decide the coup has failed and they decide to put boots on the ground, whose boots are being sent?”

“The best way that we can help the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela is to effect a brand new American revolution right here at home. That is our job, that is our mission, we have a duty to win,” she said.

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