Embassy Protectors speak out in Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale, FL – Over 60 people from South Florida’s tri-county area gathered at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation Church of Fort Lauderdale to hear a panel and question-and-answer session featuring anti-war activists Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers. Zeese and Flowers are two of the four Embassy Protector activists who spent 37 days protecting international law and peace within the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C. They are currently facing bogus federal charges brought by the Trump administration that, if convicted, would mean up to one year in prison and $100,000 fines each.
Also on the panel was a representative from the National Lawyers Guild – criminal and civil rights attorney Audrey Bomse. Bomse provided illuminating perspective on the history of politically-motivated attacks by the federal government in the United States, and the ongoing injustices faced by present-day political prisoners such as Leonard Peltier, Julian Assange and the MOVE 9 Black liberation activists. She explained how anti-war and anti-capitalist activists, as well as Black and Chicano liberation activists, have often been the main targets of the state.
Zeese and Flowers described their time at the embassy and the politics of their situation. They explained how the Embassy Protection Collective formed in April 2019, after the Organization of American States, which is largely dominated by the U.S., declared the U.S-puppet Juan Guaidó “president of Venezuela.” This was all part of an illegal scheme by the United States to oust the democratically elected socialist leader of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro. In order to keep the DC embassy from being illegally taken over by right-wing coup supporters, progressive activists went to the embassy and, with permission of the Venezuelan government, who handed them the keys, remained there.
For 37 days, the Venezuelan embassy in DC was under siege by local and federal police and right-wing Venezuelan mobs who surrounded the embassy, used strobe lights and blare horns throughout the nights, tried breaking down the door, violently attacked Embassy Protection Collective solidarity activists outside the embassy, and even blocked supporters from bringing food and water to the activists inside.
The pair explained how, on the last day, heavily armed police wearing military grade protective gear used a battering ram to break through the Venezuelan Embassy (which Flowers noted was only ‘locked’ with plastic zip-ties at that point, and which could have simply been cut with scissors), in total violation of international law and the Vienna Convention. They proceeded to arrest the last four remaining peace activists in the Embassy on the absurd charge of “interfering with certain protective functions” of the federal government.
The crowd also got to watch solidarity videos by journalist Max Blumenthal, activist and fellow Embassy Protector Medea Benjamin, and former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. The three, who have also been victims of political repression by the U.S, thanked those in attendance for their political and financial support of the Embassy Protection Collective and explained the importance of supporting these and all activists who come under attack by the federal government.
Following the overview of their time spent in the Embassy, Flowers and Zeese also took time to show how what the mainstream media and politicians continue to tell the American people about Venezuela is “the complete opposite of the truth.”
According to Zeese, who has spent plenty of time in Venezuela, including as an international observer of its elections, “Venezuela is not a dictatorship. It’s the opposite! It is a hyper-democracy, from the bottom up. The state makes it priority to register people to vote. Unlike here, where the state has laws barring people from voting. Their election process is much more transparent and much more secure than what we have in the United States. And the entire time we were in Venezuela, I didn’t see a single homeless person, yet on my way to this event tonight I saw several on the streets. It is a democratically elected government that cares about its poorest people, unlike our government here.”
The panel discussion was organized by the Hands Off Venezuela Coalition of South Florida. Overall, the event succeeded in raising over $2400, all of which was donated directly to the Embassy Protectors Defense fund.