By NICK BAKER
Three Venezuelan Embassy Protectors toured the Bay Area earlier this month in an eight-event, seven-city tour. Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers, and David Paul were three of the last four Embassy Protectors remaining in the Venezuelan Embassy when police broke down the embassy doors and arrested them. They stayed in the embassy for 37 days to prevent it from being taken over by the fake government of U.S.-backed coup plotter Juan Guaidó.
The Embassy Protectors spoke to large, enthusiastic audiences throughout Northern California during the whirlwind five-day tour, organized to rally support for the demand to Drop All Charges and raise money for their legal defense. They talked about the occupation, the U.S. government’s trumped up case against them on the ludicrous charge of “interfering with the protective functions the state,” and the importance of opposing U.S. imperialism’s attacks on Venezuela with the demands U.S. Out Now! and Self-Determination for Venezuela!
Initiated by Socialist Action, the tour was sponsored by the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee and co-sponsored by 25 other national and Bay Area organizations, including the United National Antiwar Coalition, BAYAN-USA, Task Force on the Americas, Veterans For Peace, Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, and others. The events were held in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Berkeley, Santa Rosa, and Sacramento.
The four Embassy Protectors are being threatened with one year in jail and fines of $100,000 each. Shortly after the tour, the U.S. government also arrested journalist Max Blumenthal and Ben Rubinstein on made up charges meant to persecute and intimidate those who oppose the U.S. coup effort in Venezuela.
On April 10, after would-be coup leader Juan Guaidó and his “ambassador” Carlos Vecchio had taken over the Venezuelan United Nations consulate and the Military Attaché office, the Embassy Protection Collective began staying at the Venezuelan Embassy. They did so with the permission of the Venezuelan government and stayed alongside the remaining Venezuelan diplomats, until all diplomatic staff were forced to leave the country by the U.S. State Department on April 24.
The Embassy Protection Collective hung 30 posters in the embassy’s windows telling the story of the U.S.-orchestrated coup effort, hosted forums inside the embassy on the history of U.S. imperialism, and held anti-coup rallies in front of the embassy.
A reporter from Socialist Action visited the embassy at the time and interviewed two embassy protectors for an article published in the June issue of this newspaper.
Supporters of the failed coup gathered outside of the embassy, shouting racist, sexist, and homophobic slurs at the Embassy Protectors. Kevin Zeese described how the coup supporters attacked activists who arrived to bring food to the besieged embassy, including even 77-year-old Jesse Jackson, while D.C. police and Secret Service looked on. Cops shut off power and water and joined with pro-coup groups to block the embassy entrances so that food and water couldn’t be delivered. People who tried to throw food to the Embassy Protectors were arrested and charged with “throwing missiles,” including Veterans For Peace president Gerry Condon, who was brutally attacked and bloodied when Secret Service jumped him and slammed his face into the pavement.
The Embassy Protectors held out for 37 days until May 16, when the cops broke down the doors and arrested the last four remaining Embassy Protectors (Zeese, Flowers, Paul, and Adrienne Pine) in order to turn the embassy over to Juan Guaidó and the coup plotters. Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Ron denounced the arrests and evictions as violations of international law and affirmed that the Embassy Protectors “were there with our permission.”
Drop all charges against the Venezuelan Embassy Protectors! Drop all charges against Max Blumenthal and Ben Rubinstein! U.S. Hands Off Venezuela!
To support the Embassy Protectors legal defense, go to DefendEmbassyProtectors.org