On the afternoon of April 20, Malibu High School’s Relief for Yemen club led a demonstration at the LA Federal Building, protesting President Donald Trump’s veto of a congressional resolution to withdraw US Armed forces from hostilities in Yemen. The bill, with bipartisan support would go a long way towards ending the horrifying Saudi-led coalition war in Yemen, which has already taken over 70,000 lives, and pushed over half of its population – a staggering fourteen million – into what the UN calls deadly “pre-famine conditions,” the “world’s worst famine in over 100 years.”
Liberation News spoke to Relief for Yemen presidents Theo Detweiler and Luke Lindstrom about the development of the club. They told us that the organization started out as a group of concerned friends, but grew after activities such as flyering, social media promotion, and a fundraising effort for humanitarian aid to Yemen. Relief for Yemen plans to continue with anti-war grassroots organizations in future protests.
The event, named the LA Rally Against U.S. Intervention in Yemen, was co-sponsored by Relief for Yemen, Code Pink and ANSWER Coalition. The rally was also endorsed by United for Peace and Justice, the Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice, March and Rally LA, Courage to Resist, the Los Angeles Green Party, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Abby Martin of the Empire Files, the Socialist Unity Party and International Action Center.
Representatives from the different organizations displayed signs to busy Wilshire traffic, bearing messages that included “How many lives per gallon?” and “80,000 children’s dreams destroyed.”
Theo Detweiler, one of the co-presidents of Relief for Yemen at Malibu High School, was the first to take the megaphone at the rally, and began by condemning the almost non-existent reporting carried by corporate media outlets during Yemen’s U.S.-caused famine. “This is the everyday reality in Yemen, but it was the only story mainstream media outlet MSNBC ran on the crisis for nearly two years, all the while reporting on Stormy Daniels 455 times over the same period. That’s shameful!
“And what does it say about American values that we’re supplying arms to such an oppressive regime [in Saudi Arabia], while underfunding education, green energy and healthcare? This is not what the people want. We demand an end to the blockade and the disregard for human life, and we demand an end to the arms sales. We, the people, demand an end to this genocide.”
Carley Towne, a member of the anti-war organization Code Pink spoke about the role of major U.S. defense companies, such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, and Raytheon in the war. These gigantic monopolies – otherwise known as the military-industrial complex – rake in tens of billions of dollars a year in profits producing the machinery of death, and comprise a huge lobbying group pushing wars like those in Yemen.
“The reason why we go to war is for profit. The reason why the U.S. is interested in maintaining the war on Yemen is simple but important. U.S. weapons manufacturers sell millions in weapons to Saudi Arabia, and as long as there’s money to make, there will be war. Even though it leads to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, even though both the House and the Senate has voted to invoke the War Powers Act and end U.S. aid to Saudi Arabia, Donald Trump used his second veto to block legislation and make sure that his powerful friends continue to make money from war around the world.”
Nicholas Avedisian-Cohen, an activist from the ANSWER Coalition, detailed what we know about the effects of the U.S. war. “The Saudi/American/UK/UAE/Qatari war coalition has bombed funerals, hospitals, water treatment facilities, and food storage sites – leading in 2016 to a pre-modern cholera epidemic spreading at a rate of 5,000 new cases each day, all while the U.S. Navy has been enforcing an inhuman blockade of a country that, pre-war, imported 80 percent of its food supplies … this depravity, using starvation and disease as weapons of war, is an attempt to devastate Yemenis into submission … this is because at the end of day, this war is being waged against Yemen to further U.S. dominance in the Middle East.”
He connected the struggle against U.S. military aggression in Yemen to the anti-imperialist movements around the world. “The Yemeni struggle to live in dignity, is for us, the most inspiring act of resistance, part of an ongoing global struggle against imperialism that we are determined to be on the right side of – in whatever small way. This is the least we owe to Yemenis and everyone else in the world who is existentially threatened by American militarism.”
In her speech, Abby Martin of teleSUR’s documentary series The Empire Files pointed out the necessity for maintaining the grassroots anti-war movement rather than relying on the good intentions of U.S. administrators. “Trump has already said that nothing will stop the cash flow to his friends in Saudi Arabia. They [Congress] can’t stop that $100 billion weapons deal! They can’t stop the blood money flowing to Boeing and Lockheed Martin. That’s what the basis of U.S. capitalism is about: US empire. It’s predicated on blood money, on oil money. They’re not going to stop until we demand an end to this system. An end to this war and so many others waged by the US empire must come from actions like these. Mobilizations from the masses, occupying space, demanding it: U.S. out of Yemen!”