U.S. threats to invade Venezuela, along with Trump’s efforts to instigate a coup d’état, were answered on Feb. 23 by demonstrations in 150 cities across the U.S. and worldwide. The rallying cry for this International Day of Action was “No U.S. War on Venezuela!”
February 23 marked the one-month anniversary of the U.S.-backed coup attempt against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Called by the No War on Venezuela Coalition, the mobilization in the U.S. brought together a diverse range of organizations, including the All African People’s Revolutionary Party, Black Alliance for Peace, Democratic Socialists of America, Fight for Im/migrants and Refugees Everywhere (FIRE), Green Party, International Action Center, Party for Socialism and Liberation, Workers World Party and United National Antiwar Coalition.
The International Action Center initiated the call for coordinated global actions opposing a new U.S.-imperialist war for oil in Venezuela. The IAC contacted immigrant groups and global organizations that have opposed past U.S. wars, asking them to translate the Call to Action and to mobilize. It was posted in 16 languages at NoWarOnVenezuela.org, where hundreds of endorsing organizations and thousands of signers were listed, as well as information on the 150 cities that held actions.
While accepting the Best First Feature award for his film “Sorry to Bother You” at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, director Boots Riley spoke out: “We should all be putting our voices out to stop regime change for oil in Venezuela.” It would seem his message was taken to heart.
Protests were held in over 35 U.S. states, in cities large and small, from Belfast, Maine, in the Northeast to Miami in the Southeast and to Spokane, Wash., and San Diego on the West Coast. Protests were also held in Canada, including Vancouver, B.C.
President Maduro sent a video message to the No War on Venezuela Coalition the next day in appreciation of the solidarity actions.
Here are highlights of the day’s activities:
Boston — Over 200 people gathered downtown to denounce the U.S.-led coup attempt in Venezuela. The Committee for Peace and Human Rights and the WWP Boston Branch initiated the action. Endorsers included former Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner, Bishop Filipe Teixeira, Venezuela Solidarity Committee, United Steelworkers Local 8751 (Boston School Bus Drivers), FIRE, Answer, Veterans for Peace, Palestinian House of New England, United American Indians of New England, Green-Rainbow Party and Massachusetts Peace Action.
Speakers connected the anti-imperialist struggle of the Venezuelan people to struggles facing all of Latin America and the world. They cited the Trump administration’s hypocrisy in claiming a humanitarian motive. Several connected the imperialist offensive against Venezuela with the ongoing anti-government insurrection in Haiti.
Ahmad Kawash, director of the Palestinian House of New England, explained the solidarity between Palestine and the Bolivarian Revolution: “Maduro said, ‘I am a Palestinian,’ and I say, ‘I am a Venezuelan.’ ” Bishop Teixeira criticized military funding that has been diverted from money for essential educational and medical programs. Jill Stein, Green Party 2016 presidential candidate, noted the media’s role in creating a pretext for U.S. imperialism’s oil wars. She stressed, “We need to do whatever it takes to stop this empire from crushing half the world.”
Syracuse, N.Y. — Dozens rallied at Perseverance Park in downtown Syracuse, including members of Upstate Drone Action and the Workers Center of Central New York. A covert U.S. drone was recently deployed in an assassination attempt on President Maduro.
Buffalo, N.Y. — Protesters joined national and global rallies denouncing U.S. aggression against Bolivarian Venezuela, calling for an end to U.S. sanctions and interventions. The demonstration was held at Buffalo’s Federal Building and was called by Buffalo AntiWar, with planning and participation from Buffalo DSA, Buffalo Food Not Bombs, IAC of Buffalo, Buffalo Spring Action 2018, Burning Books, Geneva NY Answer Coalition, Green Party of Erie County, Latin America Solidarity Committee, WWP, U.S. Friends of Soviet People, Veterans for Peace Chapter 128 and Western New York Peace Center..
New York City — Upwards of 1,000 people marched on Wall Street to defend Venezuela. A rally outside the Trump Building near the New York Stock Exchange exposed the forces behind the opposition in Venezuela. The bankers and billionaires who comprise the racist U.S. ruling class have doggedly tried to sabotage the Bolivarian Revolution since it began in 1998.
Many organizations worked together to coordinate this act of resistance, including Call to Action Puerto Rico, IAC, Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle NY, December 12th Movement, Frente Independentista Boricua, WWP, National Jericho Movement, Committee to Stop FBI Repression, U.S. Peace Council, Pastors for Peace, People’s Power Assembly/NYC, July 26 Coalition, NYU Students for Justice in Palestine and NYC Shut It Down.
Showing solidarity that day were people from countries that have also faced imperialist attacks, such as Honduras, Ecuador, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Haiti, Yugoslavia, Iran and the Philippines. The marchers met resistance from the police, but they pushed through the blockade. Some activists then rallied at the center of the giant atrium in the World Trade Center. Nearly 3,000 people have already viewed WWP’s livestream of the event.
Philadelphia — A spirited and diverse crowd of 150 rallied at City Hall before marching to the Liberty Bell. Speakers included Berta Joubert for the Puerto Rican group Comité Boricua Filadelfia y Camden, Pam Africa from the MOVE organization, Mexican activist Carmen Guerrero, Scott Williams from WWP and Asantewaa Nkrumah-Ture from BAP. The action in solidarity with President Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution was confronted by a small group of pro-U.S. intervention demonstrators who unsuccessfully tried to rush the stage, shouting about so-called “humanitarian” aid for Venezuela.
Palestinian activist Susan Abulhawa responded, “Palestinians are living in extreme poverty with many facing starvation, but no Palestinian is asking the U.S. to invade.” She noted that Venezuela has been more steadfast in its solidarity with Palestine than many Arab countries. At a brief speak-out during the march, REAL Justice member Mike Wilson said: “The people of Venezuela have been fighting against the oligarchy there and trying to build socialism. We need to do the same here.”
Durham and Charlotte, N.C. — Socialist formations and progressives from across the state gathered in Charlotte to express solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela and firm rejection of the Pentagon’s attempted coup. Activists and organizers from WWP, PSL, NC Green Party and the Socialist Party convened under a “No War On Venezuela” banner at Eastway Square, a bustling part of town in the heart of the growing migrant and Latinx community. Cars driving by honked and cheered as the crowd chanted, “What do we want? U.S. out! When do we want it? Now!”
Atlanta — A solidarity program called “Stand with the Bolivarian Revolution! U.S. Hands Off Venezuela!” was held at the Arts Exchange, a progressive institution in Atlanta. Featured speakers were Akinyele Umoja, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement leader, university professor and author; and Damani Aaquil, representing the Regional Council of Africans in the Americas. In discussing the origins of the U.S. sanctions, propaganda war and attempted coup, both drew on personal experiences while traveling to Venezuela and meeting with community groups, especially Afro-Venezuelans and government figures.
Discussion focused on the need and the ways to educate and mobilize opposition to all U.S. moves to foment “regime change” in Venezuela. Proposals included organizing a local March 16 demonstration, setting up campus events, pressuring Metro Atlanta Congressional members to oppose the coup and raising funds for Venezuela. Participants included Vets for Peace, housing justice activists, members of the Latinx community, students, and Patricia Rodney, widow of assassinated Caribbean revolutionary Walter Rodney, and her daughter. WWP initiated the event, which was co-sponsored by MXGM, Regional Council of Africans in the Americas, PSL and Friends of the Congo. Later that day the progressive community radio station WRFG 89.3FM aired reports from No War on Venezuela organizers in New York, Houston and Pensacola, Fla.
Pensacola, Fla. — Demonstrators from WWP and PSL gathered outside the Pensacola Bay Center to show solidarity with the people of Venezuela and global anti-imperialist struggles. The activists rubbed shoulders with U.S. armed forces outside Pensacon, one of the city’s biggest annual events that draws over 10,000 people to the military town. Activists handed out fact sheets about Venezuela to the crowd and demonstrated with vivid signage that a broad, diverse group showed what Southern activists think of bold-faced U.S. imperialism.
Wheeling, W.Va. — As part of an International call to defend Venezuela and in support of President Maduro, picketers held signs reading, “No War On Venezuela” and “Support Maduro.” The action received a lot of support from people driving by. It was organized by Ohio Valley Peace and was endorsed by the No War On Venezuela mass organization. One of the participants was Bill Reuther, a local labor activist and relative of the Reuther brothers who were early leaders of the United Auto Workers.
Cleveland — A spirited picket line was held outside military contractor Voss Aerospace, followed by a short march to the Cleveland West Side Market for a rally. Passing cars peeped horns in solidarity. The actions were called by the Cleveland No War on Venezuela Committee and endorsed by Cleveland Peace Action and Interreligious Task Force on Central America.
Houston — Activists gathered at a busy traffic circle in the heart of the city to denounce the U.S. government’s attempted coup in Venezuela and say “U.S. hands off Venezuela!” Armed with bright yellow signs supporting President Maduro and a huge Venezuelan flag, they got a largely positive response, as many drivers honked and waved. Some raised their fists in solidarity. Several new activists attended, having found the information at nowaronvenezuela.org. Youth and seniors agreed at the closing rally that they must stay on alert. Plans were made to protest at the Mickey Leland Federal Building in downtown Houston if the U.S. invades.
Organizer Joanne Gavin with the Houston Friends of Venezuela said: “We found that people in Houston do not want another war.” Activists with Students for a Democratic Society from the University of Houston announced a teach-in on Venezuela on Feb. 25. Pacifica radio hosts of Proyecto Latino Americano, Alma and Henry Cooper, announced their show would have more coverage of Venezuela.
Denver — The 10 inches of snow that fell on the Denver area the night before did not stop about 35 people from rallying Feb. 23 on all four corners of the downtown 16th Street Mall. They handed out fliers and engaged people in learning about the danger of another U.S.-provoked war, this one in Venezuela.
Salt Lake City — Activists of all ages, including members of the Latinx community, gathered at a busy corner holding signs and banners and chanting, “No War on Venezuela!” They were there to show solidarity with the democratically elected government of Venezuela against U.S. efforts to destroy it. They maintained a constant presence on the corner and received positive responses from the community, with supportive honks and thumbs-up gestures by people driving and walking by.
The IAC and Veterans for Peace co-hosted the event, while individuals from Union for Street Solidarity, a local housing activism organization; United for Peace and Justice; and unaffiliated individuals joined. Participants signed an open letter to the people of the U.S. from President Maduro. They were given fact sheets detailing background on the current crisis in Venezuela, as well as WWP newspapers explaining why a new war there should be opposed. Several activists expressed interest in studying together to understand more about how to end U.S. imperialism.
Oakland, Calif. — Over 150 people rallied at Oscar Grant Plaza to demand “U.S.-CIA Hands Off Venezuela.” Organized by UNAC-Bay Area and the Spring Action Antiwar Coalition, the event was endorsed by over 30 organizations. Speakers expressed strong support for the Bolivarian Revolution and the Maduro government.
Alicia Jrapco, representing the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity, said: “Today in Caracas there were hundreds of thousands of people in the street to support the only legitimate president — Maduro. It was so moving to see. Here the news says he has no support. We cannot believe the media. They are lying to us.” The rally was chaired by representatives from BAYAN USA, IAC and UNAC. Solidarity statements were made by Task Force on the Americas, Labor Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, Answer, the Green Party, Peace and Freedom Party and the Communist Workers League.
Vancouver, B.C. — The Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice-Venezuela Solidarity Campaign was on the streets for the “No War on Venezuela” International Day of Action. Marching from the CBC to the Vancouver Art Gallery, the action brought together people from different backgrounds, grassroots groups, organizations and parties to defend the people of Venezuela and democratically elected President Maduro. As protesters chanted, “No to Sanctions! No to War! U.S./Canada Hands Off Venezuela!” passersby were encouraged to sign a petition demanding that the Canadian government end sanctions against Venezuela and end all meddling in the sovereign country’s internal affairs.
Portland, Oregon — Hands Off Venezuela PDX, a coalition of anti-imperialist activists and organizers in Portland, Ore., held a panel discussion at Sunnyside Community Center on Feb. 23. Attended by almost 100 people, the event featured speakers and a community discussion about imperialism and war.
Speakers included Dr. Alma Trinidad, associate professor at Portland State University’s School of Social Work, and Arun Gupta, investigative reporter who was co-founder of the Occupied Wall Street Journal. Candy Herrera, member of the Washington Education Association union that held several recent successful educators’ strikes, highlighted the many social gains of the Bolivarian Revolution that are threatened if U.S. imperialism prevails in Venezuela.
The event concluded with participants delivering a message to Bernie Sanders and congressional Democrats in response to their complicity in Trump’s coup: Hands Off Venezuela!
Contributors to this article include Alison Bodine, Ellie Dorritie, Durham WW bureau, Judy Greenspan, Joshua Hanks, Dianne Mathiowetz, Sam Ordóñez, Pensacola WW bureau, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Gloria Rubac, Salt Lake City WW bureau, Susan Schnur, John Steffin, West Virginia WW bureau, Viviana Weinstein and Dave Welsh.