MN Cuba caravan says “End the blockade on Cuba” and “Stop FBI repression”
St. Paul, MN – On September 24, cars participated in the Women Against Military Madness’ Solidarity Committee of the Americas (SCOTA) and the MN Cuba Committee’s monthly car caravans to show solidarity with Cuba, demand an end to the 60-year blockade against Cuba and that Cuba be taken off the U.S.’ state sponsor of terrorism list.
This month, this caravan’s focus was on FBI repression which is ramping up against Cuba solidarity activists.
People gathered in a parking lot located at Griggs-Midway building on University Avenue, a main street which is home to Saint Paul’s working-class residents and lined with predominantly Asian and Black-owned businesses and homes.
They decorated their eight cars with signs, “Cuba si, bloqueo no,” “U.S. Hands off Cuba” and “End the blockade on Cuba,” and Cuban flags and piled into the vehicles.
As the caravan left the parking lot, they stayed in contact through Zoom, chanting out the windows and honking. The people on the streets saw cars with the Cuban flags flying from the windows and heard chants of “Cuba si, bloqueo no,” “Let Cuba Live,” “2-4-6-8, Cuba is not a terrorist state” and “End the blockade on Cuba.”
The route included a stop at the Minnesota State Capitol; the protesters stepped out of their cars with the capitol building in the background to hear speeches that focused on this month’s theme, FBI repression.
Sarah Martin of SCOTA gave context to the theme, “We are holding this caravan today, September 24 – this is the 13th anniversary of the FBI raids on the homes of anti-war and international solidarity activists in Minnesota, Michigan and Chicago. In the following weeks, the witch hunt continued and, in the end 23 activists had been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury for ‘material support to terrorists’. All refused to cooperate with the ridiculous witch hunt or testify before the grand jury about the people they had met with in Colombia or Palestine. They stayed silent and, in the end, no one went to prison.”
Meredith Aby-Keirstead, a member of the Anti-war Committee whose house was raided that day, spoke, “Federal harassment of international solidarity activists continues. On May 7, several members of the National Network on Cuba were detained and harassed at the Miami airport by border and customs officials. Then on June 22 members of the National Network, Pastors for Peace and Code Pink were arrested at Senator Bob Menendez’ office for merely wanting to speak with him. Talking to a U.S. official is not a crime. That is what they’re paid for.” She went on to say, “Being quiet is never the answer. We must speak out in defense of Cuba as well as our movement because we need the movement to win.”
Aby-Keirstead ended her speech with a rousing chant, “When Cuba is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”
Before the next speaker, Martin led with a chant, “When people of conscience are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”
Joe Callahan, member of the MN Cuba Committee and SCOTA, also spoke of the escalation of harassment of people and groups traveling to Cuba. “Last year the Puerto Rican Committee and Solidarity with Cuba Committee, after returning from a trip to the island, were harassed by the FBI who visited them in their homes and called them on the phones. Last year, members of the May Day brigade were detained at the airport and had their phones confiscated for a short time.”
In July, Callahan went with Pastors for Peace to Cuba on their 33rd Friendship Caravan and upon his return, he was detained and questioned but he only gave them one answer of why he went to Cuba, “With license of supporting the Cuban people.”
Callahan concluded by saying, “In a new escalation, members of the Venceremos Brigade, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Mancado, regarded as the beginning of the Cuban Revolution, were questioned on their way down to Cuba. This is not the Trump administration. This is Biden and company. We must pay attention to these attacks, resist and continue to visit Cuba.”
As the caravan made its way back, discussion was underway over the airwaves of the upcoming United Nations annual vote to end the U.S. blockade on Cuba in the beginning of November. There will be many actions across the country and world to put pressure on the United States and Israel to finally stand with the world saying “Let Cuba live!” and end the blockade.