Minneapolis rallies to free Alex Saab and all political prisoners!
Minneapolis, MN – On May 7, a couple dozen activists gathered at the busy intersection of Minneapolis’ Chicago and Lake Streets for a rally as part of the international “Week for Alex Saab” called by the Committee to Free Alex Saab. Speakers from different movements gave messages of solidarity with Venezuela’s kidnapped diplomat and connected Alex Saab’s struggle to a broader history of U.S. imperialism and repression. Many cars honked in support of the “Hands off Venezuela” signs and passersby stayed to listen to the speeches.
Sarah Martin of the Women Against Military Madness Solidarity Committee of the Americas spoke first, stating, “We’re here today because we understand the fight to free Alex Saab, end sanctions on Venezuela, the blockade of Cuba and U.S. imperialism in Latin America are connected to and important to our struggles for a better life in the U.S.” Martin detailed her trips to Venezuela over the years, painting an optimistic portrait of the Bolivarian revolution’s accomplishments with regard to expanding food sovereignty, poverty alleviation, free and low-cost housing and medical care.
Next, Mike Madden of the Twin Cities Assange Defense Committee and Veterans for Peace Chapter 27 made connections with the fight to free imprisoned journalist Julian Assange, and also spoke to the hypocrisy of the White House’s 2021 declaration that “diplomacy is back” under the Biden administration, stating, “The United States is now undermining the fundamental underpinnings that make international diplomacy possible. With the kidnapping of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab, the United States is showing the world once again that it is above the law and that the protocols established by the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations do not apply to our exceptional nation.”
Bruce Nestor, member and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, spoke about the case of the Cuban Five, who were political prisoners held by the U.S. from 1998 until 2014 when the final men were released after years of sometimes small, sometimes large grassroots solidarity actions and a long legal fight.
Nestor also spoke about the U.S. weaponization of human rights in pursuit of its imperialist agenda, saying that the U.S. government claims, “’We're adopting sanctions and allowing Venezuelans to die en masse because we're concerned about human rights in Venezuela.’ It has nothing to do with human rights. It has everything to do with maintaining the U.S. economic control, through the International Monetary Fund, through the control of the dollar, which is the objective of the United States.”
Kelly Thomas of Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar expressed support for Alex Saab’s freedom and told the crowd that repression and abusing political prisoners is a matter of routine for the U.S. government. Thomas stated, “Internationally, the state uses its military power to suppress people. And domestically, the state uses militarized police forces, including the National Guard, to suppress its own citizens.” Thomas spoke about community control of the Minneapolis Police, as a way to fight back. TCC4J continues to gather signatures to move that struggle forward locally.
Sorcha Lona, an organizer from the University of Minnesota chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), connected Saab’s detention in the Miami detention center to the current political repression aimed at the students of Florida State University known as the Tampa 5.
Finally, the MN Anti-War Committee’s Andrew Josefchak stated, “The U.S. would like to be able to imprison any diplomat, any government official, any head of state, just because it wants to. So, while the U.S. claims to be spreading democracy around the world with sanctions and starvation and bombs and bullets, in reality, it has declared itself the sole dictator of which governments count and which ones don't, no matter what the people of those countries themselves have to say about it.” Josefchak ended his speech with spirited chants of “Hands off Venezuela!” and “Free Alex Saab!”
The rally was initiated by the Anti-War Committee and endorsed by Veterans for Peace Chapter 27, Twin Cities Assange Defense Committee, Women Against Military Madness, Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, and the UMN chapter of SDS.
The protest was organized as a part of the Committee to Free Alex Saab’s international week of action. Events took place across the country including Washington D.C., New York City, Dayton OH, Dallas TX, Milwaukee WI, Grand Rapids WI, Miami FL, and Vancouver BC Canada, among others.