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    Anywhere and Everywhere: The Case of the 5 Cuban Heroes Gaining More Support in the US

    By Alison Bodine
    September 12th 2008 marks 10 years since the imprisonment of the Cuban 5. Like any period since that day, this summer has been a period of both continued injustice for the 5 heroes and increased struggle for their freedom. In the United States, peace and justice loving people are coming together, now more than ever, to demand “Free the Cuban 5 Anti-Terrorist Heroes!” “Justice for Ramón Labañino, René González, Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernández and Fernando González!”

    US Ruling Class Pulls the Rope Tighter

    Since the June 4th 2008 ruling of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals there has been increased action in solidarity with the Cuban 5. People all over the world have vowed not to step down until the 5 are free. People in the United States demonstrated creativity and determination with a variety of actions.

    In the two days following the release of the June 4th decision about the case of the Cuban 5, there were immediate responses all over the world. People took to the streets in all major US cities and some smaller ones to demand freedom for the 5, in response to yet another “guilty” verdict handed down in the US courts. This included an action in Miami, the city where three of the Cuban 5 are now facing re-sentencing and the most fiercely anti-Cuban city in the world. There was also an important press conference scheduled in order to continue to try and break the media silence on the case of the Cuban 5. Activists handed out hundreds of leaflets in the city of San Francisco alone, where they had gathered for a public rally on a busy street. These “Day After” actions were the result of a call by the National Committee to Free the Cuban 5 (US) to assure united actions the day after the decision was handed down. Due to this effort the June 5th and 6th actions were organized quickly and successfully.

    Resistance and Fight Back

    Following the international protest organized by the National Committee to Free the Cuban 5, the Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba took to the road, as it does every year. Pastors for Peace is an organization which, for the past 16 years, has been defying the US blockade by taking people and aid from across the US to Cuba. A component of this effort to break the immoral and inhuman blockade against Cuba is a Caravan throughout the US and Canada, where people travel on brightly painted school buses and hold meetings in cities along the route. This year each of the 5 buses that went on different paths through the US were dedicated to one of the Cuban 5. In this way people driving on the road could learn about the case of the 5 case by seeing a bus, and also learn about how to get involved. At every one of the 120 stops that the Caravan made on its way to Cuba, a major element of the program was the case of the 5. Each year thousands of young people, students, workers, and elders find out about their case through the work of the Caravan.

    When the Caravan made its way back along the west coast, returning with people from the trip to Cuba, there was yet another show of growing solidarity with the Cuban 5 waiting in San Francisco, CA - a gigantic billboard displayed on a busy street for the entire month of August. The billboard measured 35 by 75 feet, with pictures of the Cuban 5 and “10 years in US prisons: persecuted for stopping terrorism: Free the Cuban 5!” written in large yellow letters. The unveiling of the billboard got support from Cindy Sheehan, an important US antiwar activist who is also running for US Congress in San Francisco. Tim Paulson, Executive Director of the San Francisco Labour Council, was also present. Through this billboard, thousands of people in San Francisco could learn about the case of the Cuban 5 and how to get involved. The fundraising effort for the billboard also drew lots of support, including donations from Cuban 5 committees all over the world. The billboard campaign was also organized by the National Committee to Free the Cuban 5.

    At the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in late August and early September 2008, the case of the Cuban 5 was yet again brought to the streets. In Denver, at the Democratic National Convention, there was a political prisoners rally that went from a large park in Denver, along the busy downtown pedestrian mall to the Federal Courthouse. The Cuban 5 were a large component of this march, with people holding signs and handing out leaflets about their case along the entire route. Their case had a presence alongside other political prisoners in the United States, including Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal. Cuban 5 activists also participated in the mass antiwar march on the Republican National Convention.

    Most recently, there was a series of events organized in many cities of the US to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the arrest and imprisonment of the Cuban 5. All of these actions are organized within an entire month of activities called in solidarity with the Cuban 5. This month was initiated by the Popular Education Project to Free the Cuban 5, and now has dozens of endorsers all over the US and Canada, from Latin American solidarity organizations to community groups and individuals. Below are reports from some of the actions during this time. Also keep in mind that there are still many more to come.

    Action and Action and More Action

    On September 12th there was a press conference at the White House called for by the National Committee to Free the Cuban 5. The conference marked the collection and attempted delivery of 102,000 signatures on petitions from 78 countries demanding freedom for the Cuban 5. In an act of civil disobedience during the attempted delivery of the signatures to George W. Bush, 5 people were arrested, each one representing one of the Cuban 5. This press conference brought out many different media outlets including Al Jazeera English, Univision and CNN. This event also announced the delivery of a letter signed by many important supporters of the Cuban 5 and their wives. Addressed to Bush, the letter was signed by Howard Zinn, Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky, Martin Sheen and Ramsey Clark (former US Attorney General), among others.

    On September 13th there was a march on Washington organized by a coalition of Cuban 5 committees and solidarity groups. This brought people from different parts of the US to Washington DC in order to march in front of the White House in defense of the Cuban 5. It began with a rally at Malcolm X Park, which included messages of solidarity from many local and visiting groups. This was followed by a loud and energetic march through many busy streets and different neighborhoods in Washington DC with constant chants of “Free, Free, Free the Cuban 5!” People then gathered for an indoor rally at the local SEIU union hall. Leonard Weinglass, a lawyer for the Cuban 5, gave an important update about the case of the Cuban 5, making clear the necessity of support and solidarity at this moment. Other speakers followed Leonard leading up to the special guest of the afternoon. The head of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington DC, Jorge Bolaños, gave an inspiring speech to a room full of solidarity activists. He outlined the importance of solidarity work with the Cuban 5 and continuing the struggle to defend Cuba. As everyone left the event to return to their homes, near or far away, it was apparent that everyone was inspired by the events of the day and would carry this new energy back to their organizing.

    In the evening on September 13th there was also an important concert organized in New York City for the Cuban 5. Many famous Puerto Rican and other Latin American musicians, as well as artists, participated in the concert, entitled “Five Stars and One Song,” after the Cuban 5. It also brought out many people from New York City, especially from the large Dominican and Puerto Rican communities. Performing at the concert were the Puerto Rican Golden Jazz All Stars, the Dominican songwriter Victor Victor and his group, and Puerto Rican legend Danny Rivera. There was a message of solidarity from Danny Glover read during the celebration of hope and struggle. The concert, organized by the International Committee to Free the Cuban 5, also had a special focus on the campaign to pressure the United States government to grant visas for Olga Salanueva and Adriana Perez, who have been unable to visit their husbands in US jails for over 9 years.

    This Long Struggle Will Continue

    Since the June 4th decision against the Cuban 5, it is apparent that solidarity is growing across the United States. From rallies and pickets, to press conferences and concerts, thousands and thousands of people in the US who did not know about the case of these 5 anti-terrorist fighters now do. It is only with this continued energy and coordinated action that justice loving people in the US can raise the campaign for the freedom the Cuban 5 to the level needed to guarantee their freedom. In the next few months, time is especially vital. Three of the Cuban 5 will be re-sentenced in Miami, while the other 2 and the entire case of these 5 Cuban heroes goes in front of the Supreme Court of the US. Now is the time more than ever to get involved.

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