A BIG VICTORY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS!
- A BIG VICTORY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS!
Canadian and American activists successfully transport humanitarian aid across the US/Canada border in spite US border authorities’ intimidation and harassment
On Sunday July 3, 2011 over 70 peace and social justice-minded people from across the province of British Columbia and the state of Washington merged together at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in White Rock/Blaine. They gathered to send off the 22nd Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba, with route speaker, Alicia Jrapko, coordinator of the International Committee to Free the Cuban 5, who came to BC from San Francisco. The border crossing was organized by Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC), the newly formed BC Aid Network for Cuba (BCANC), as well as other Cuba solidarity organizations and individuals from Vancouver, the Lower Mainland, Victoria, Nanaimo, Salt Spring Island, Courtney/Comox, Penticton, Bellingham, Tacoma, Seattle and Olympia. Before heading to the border on Sunday, the Caravan had finished its visit of British Columbia, having visited Victoria, Salt Spring Island, Nanaimo, Courtenay/Comox, Penticton and Vancouver.
After an energetic picnic and program, everyone picked up banners, signs and Cuban flags to march to the border crossing. Chanting: “Lift the Blockade on Cuba!” and “Cuba Si! Bloqueo No!” caravan supporters followed a van full of humanitarian aid collected by the BCANC to the crossing. The protest continued with chanting and singing, while the van was pulled over and searched by US border guards. Meanwhile 6 caravanistas also crossed from Canada into the US: 4 from Vancouver, 1 from Victoria and 1 from Germany.
News was soon received that the van carrying the humanitarian aid for Cuba was denied entry into the US at the border crossing, as border guards claimed the aid was actually goods for commercial use, and therefore needed to be brought into the US through the commercial truck crossing.
Caravan supporters and organizers quickly re-grouped and organized to send the van full of humanitarian aid to the commercial truck crossing. A contingent was also organized to go and stage a protest if the aid was again denied entry into the United States.
The first news received from the commercial truck crossing was that the humanitarian aid was again being refused entry into the US. The border guards told the Caravanistas they would have to pay a bond for the aid before crossing into the United States.
Caravan supporters arrived quickly on scene and began chanting, “Let the aid through!” and “The US Blocked Our Aid to Cuba! Shame! Shame! Shame!” Caravan supporters and caravanistas were adamant that no bond money would be given to the US border guards, as on the second year of the Caravan, a bond of $800 was paid to the United States government and never returned when the aid left the US.
The Caravanistas with the van of humanitarian aid, who were inside insisting that the US border officials must let the humanitarian aid through, confirmed they could hear the chanting outside loud and clear. Shortly after, through the pressure of a Pastors for Peace lawyer and increasingly loud and angry protest, the border authorities backed off on their demand for a bond.
Before long, Caravan supporters received word from those with the van of humanitarian aid that the aid would be granted entry to the United States. A great victory!
The humanitarian aid was then loaded from the van onto the bus along with Caravanistas and began its travel through the United States, Mexico and on to Cuba!
However our job is not done! July 20, 2011 will be the 22nd Pastors for Peace Caravan crossing from the United States into Mexico. In the past this has been the most challenging border crossing and it is important that people across the United States, Canada and around the world are ready to respond if the US government attempts to stop the Caravan from its mission to break the US blockade on Cuba!
~ * ~ * ~ * ~* ~* ~* ~*
WHAT IS THE PASTORS FOR PEACE CARAVAN TO CUBA? Traveling in school buses across 130 Canadian and American cities the Caravan will venture along 12 different routes from June 25-July 16. In all 130 cities they will talk with people about the 50-year-long immoral and illegal United States blockade on Cuba while collecting construction supplies and tools, medical supplies and equipment, educational and cultural supplies, which will be taken to Cuba! The Caravan website explains, how “from Texas we will travel to Cuba via Mexico, without asking for or accepting a US government license, as a disciplined act of civil disobedience against the blockade and travel ban, and as ambassadors for a ‘people-to-people’ foreign policy based in mutual respect. When we return to the US, we will proudly declare our travel to Cuba and our opposition to the immoral blockade”.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~* ~* ~* ~*
For further news coverage of the Caravan crossing please visit:
** News1130 – “Vancouver protestors head to Cuba with 100 tonnes of aid”
** Pacific Free Press – “Canadian Aid Convoy to Cuba Refused Entry at Blaine, Washington Border Crossing”
For more information about the Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba please visit: http://www.pastorsforpeace.org/
For more information about the British Columbia the Aid Network for Cuba please visit: http://www.bcanc.net/