International & Antiwar News

DEFEND THE EMBASSY PROTECTORS!

Originally published in the Summer 2019 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 59, printed August 23. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Summer 2019 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

One of the most effective protests against U.S. imperialism in many years took place this past May in Washington, D.C. It was at the height of the attempted U.S.-backed coup led by Juan Guaido. The staff at the Venezuelan embassy had been ordered out of the country and Guaido supporters were planning to take over the building. 

With the permission of the Venezuelan government, dozens of antiwar and solidarity activists began staying at the Venezuelan Embassy to protect it. Furious, National Security Advisor and noted war hawk John Bolton and Elliot Abram of Iran-Contra fame and now special envoy overseeing policy toward Venezuela, called for them to be arrested. 

But the activists were guests of the Venezuelan government and so were not committing any crime. If they were arrested and charged with trespassing, the issue in court would be whether the government of Nicolas Maduro was illegitimate, as the Trump administration is claiming. But the claim has no legal basis, so the administration didn’t want to go to court. 

Instead, the U.S. government allowed at times up to 150 right-wing Guaido supporters to mass outside the embassy, screaming, yelling, blowing horns, banging pots and pans and blocking any deliveries of food or water. 

The building’s electricity and water were both cut off. The noise outside was deafening and the physical threat very real, but the Embassy Protection Collective, as the activists called themselves, stood firm. 

Friends and allies, including members of the Defenders and Richmond Democratic Socialists of America, joined the supporters outside and spent days facing down the right-wingers. 

Finally, after 37 days, the federal police moved in and arrested the final four Protectors, who were charged with “interference with certain protective functions” – the height of irony, since it was the Protectors who were defending the building, not the police. 

Those arrested are Margaret Flowers, a medical doctor and co-director of the online activist group Popular Resistance; David Paul, an antiwar activist who has visited Venezuela three times; Adrienne Pine, Ph.D, a medical anthropologist; and Kevin Zeese, an attorney and Popular Resistance co-director. 

They are expected to go to trial sometime this spring. Each faces up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

 A defense committee has been formed to raise legal funds and educate the public about the case. You can help. To find out how, see the website of the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee here.

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