Updates & Announcements


Updates and Announcements: a service of The Virginia Defender newspaper. Editorial Board: Ana Edwards and Phil Wilayto - Editor: Phil Wilayto.

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FEBRUARY 28, 2022

Left: Symbol of the Azov Battalion, a neo-Nazi paramilitary organization incorporated into the Ukrainian Army after the 2014 coup. Middle: Symbol of the Nazi 2nd SS Panzer Division.
Right: Young men, one of whom is wearing an Azov Battalion t-shirt, come to jeer at the 2nd annual memorial for the victims of the Odessa Massacre in Odessa, Ukraine. Photo by Phil Wilayto.

A different take on the crisis in Ukraine

The Virginia Defenders are best known for our work around Shockoe Bottom and in support of Virginia prisoners, but we’ve also always been active on antiwar issues. Two areas we know most about are Iran, which we visited in 2007 and 2010, and Ukraine, which we visited in 2016.

We’re very familiar with the events and processes that led up to the present crisis in Ukraine and have a different take than most of the public. We ask you to look behind the headlines, investigate the background and maintain a healthy skepticism about what you’re being told by the politicians and media.

Please check out the statement released by the Virginia Defenders; the Odessa Solidarity Campaign, a project we started after returning from Ukraine; and the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice, an organization in Vancouver, Canada, that we have worked closely with. You can read that statement here.

Read the background piece that appeared in the Winter 2022 edition of The Virginia Defender: Russia, Ukraine & the U.S. – The background they’re not telling you.

If you haven’t already seen it, check out Oliver Stone’s “Ukraine on Fire,” an examination of Ukraine’s 2014 right-wing coup, the seminal event that, along with NATO’s steady eastward expansion toward Russia, led to the present crisis.

We invite you to read our own account of the Odessa Massacre of May 2, 2014, in which at least 42 anti-coup activists were brutally murdered in the House of Trade Unions by a fascist -led mob.

And watch this documentary on the Odessa Massacre by the German documentary filmmakers Ulrich Heyden & Marco Benson.

We now know we were lied to about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We were lied to about the “Gulf of Tonkin incident” in Vietnam. We were lied to about why the U.S. government really went to war every time since World War. II.

Let’s make sure we don’t get fooled again.


Tues., March 1“Controversy/History: Richmond’s African-American Cemeteries” – A virtual program that will explore the history and status of Richmond’s Black cemeteries. Panelists: Ana Edwards, public historian and chair of the Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project; Dr. Ryan K. Smith, VCU history professor; Sonja Ingram from Preservation Virginia; Deborah Morton, deputy director at the Richmond Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities in Richmond. Presented by Zoom by the Valentine Museum. 5:30 – 7 pm. Register for the “Controversy/History” event here. For more information, see link at beginning of event description.

Tues., March 1 – “No War in Ukraine! US/NATO Hands Off!” “Join us at the corner of Terminal and Hampton Blvds. (in Norfolk) to protest US/NATO war against Russia over Ukraine. Dress for cold weather and bring a placard. We call for “US/NATO Hands Off Ukraine! End NATO Expansion!” Parking off Hampton Blvd. near the intersection. 4-5:30 pm. Sponsored by the Hampton Roads Coalition for Peace & Planet. The Facebook event page is HERE.

Tues., March 1 – City Worker Rally for REAL Raises and Rights! – An event by Virginia Beach City Workers Union, UE Local 111. “The City of Virginia Beach is currently undergoing a Market Study of the salaries of comparable cities. We must make sure the OUR VOICE is heard in this process to make sure that WE ARE NOT LEFT BEHIND AGAIN! Join City workers, faith, community and other labor allies as we rally before the City Council meeting. We will also be going inside to speak to council directly. This is part of our continued fight for a resolution for Collective Bargaining. However, in the meantime, we want to make sure city workers’ voices are heard in this budget process. 5:30 pm, 2401 Courthouse Drive, Virginia Beach.” More information is HERE.

NEW! Defenders Radio Hour – Thanks to Patricia Stansbury of Sunny Gardener Productions (on WRIR 97.3 FM community radio) for inviting the Defenders to host an hour-long show once a month to provide news and analysis on the events of the day. The first show, which aired Feb. 24, was hosted by Ana Edwards and Joseph Rogers and featured an interview with Defender Charles Brown, an organizer with the United Electrical Workers union, who recently visited Cuba with a delegation of union activists. The hosts also interviewed Phil Wilayto, editor of The Virginia Defender, on the crisis in Ukraine. The show was co-produced by Stansbury and Defender Taimir Gore. The first episode of the Defenders Radio Hour can be heard here.

Fri., March 11 – Antiwar Webinar with the Virginia Defenders – The Antiwar Committee of the Virginia Defenders will host an online webinar on antiwar issues, co-chaired by Taimir Gore and Kat McNeal. Presenters will be Ana Edwards, speaking on the negative role of French troops in West Africa; Charles Brown, speaking on his recent visit to Cuba; Sanaz Ghodsi, speaking on developments in the Middle East; and Phil Wilayto, speaking on the crisis in Ukraine. Online connection information will be posted soon on the Defenders Facebook page.

Sun., March 13 – Celebration with Abbie / Celebración con Abbie – 4-6 pm. “On Feb. 25, 2021, Abbie left Sanctuary and returned home with her family. One year later, please join Abbie to celebrate ‘in person,’ outside and socially distanced, to celebrate this anniversary! All are invited. Location: courtyard of First Unitarian Universalist Church – 1000 Blanton Ave, Richmond, VA.” — “El 25 de febrero del 2021, Abbie salió de Santuario y regresó a casa con su familia. Un año después, le invitamos a unirse con Abbie, ‘en persona,’ al aire libre y con distancia social, ¡para celebrar este aniversario! Todos están invitados. Ubicación: el patio de la Iglesia First Unitarian Universalist – 1000 Blanton Ave, Richmond.” More information on the Celebration with Abbie is HERE.

Sun., March 19 – An antiwar webinar hosted by Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ – This historic Black church in Washington, D.C., known for its peace activism, will host a panel discussion as part of its “Why the Church Should Avoid War” series. Panelists will include Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, speaking on war spending and the bi-partisan legislation for arming Ukraine, as opposed to passing Build Back Better, voting rights, the George Floyd Act and more; noted muralist Rafiki Morris on why Black people and the U.S. working class, in particular, should care about Ukraine and NATO; and Virginia Defender editor Phil Wilayto on the reality of fascist terrorists that the U.S. backed in the 2014 Ukraine coup, the Odessa Massacre and why that matters to what is going on today in Ukraine. Connection information will be posted soon on the Defenders Facebook page.

Sun., April 3 – Richmond Liberation Day – This will be the 157th anniversary of the day Union troops, led by Black soldiers, marched into the capital of the Confederacy and ended slavery here forever. The Defenders are planning an action that will complement other events happening in the city that day. Stay tuned for details!

Mon., May 2 – 8th Anniversary of the Odessa Massacre in Ukraine – The Odessa Solidarity Campaign, a project of the Virginia Defenders, will hold an event to remember those murdered by a fascist-led mob, support the demand by the people of Odessa for an international investigation and call for an end to NATO aggression in Europe and around the world. Details will be posted at the Odessa Solidarity Campaign website and on its Facebook page.

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