Saturday, February 16, 2019

Booker on Blast: Hands Off Venezuela

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact Bob Witanek 908-881-5275 Jay Arena (English and Spanish) 504-520-9521

Constituents of NJ Senator and now presidential candidate Cory Booker, quite literally, put him on blast on Friday, February 15.

Facebook Livestream from event

Frustrated by lack of opposition by Cory Booker to what they see as US threats of a coup and possible invasion of Venezuela, about 3 dozen anti-war and community activists joined forces to rain on Booker’s inaugural fundraising event for his 2020 Presidential campaign, Friday, February 15.

Using a powerful sound system, for about two hours from 5 - 7 pm, the protesters pumped loud chants and impassioned speeches, which were also loud, into PJ Ryans at the Rock where the Booker launch was hosting a $1000 per ticket fundraising event, first from across the narrow Edison Street, and later from the street, just feet away from the front of the restaurant.  The protesters were relentless in their attempts to get a message across against the moves toward a possible coup and invasion of Venezuela.  They also raised related issues of what they saw as Booker’s failures as mayor of Newark, reparations for descendants of the victims of the Transatlantic Enslavement Trade, school privatization, Newark’s water problems, ICE detention support provided by Essex County’s Democratic Party and the need to fund human needs instead of spreading US warfare.

Booker has been mostly silent since the coup moves by the United States and Speaker of the House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi has issued a statement strongly supportive of the Trump Administration and its moves against the nation and people of Venezuela.  Thus far, Tulsi Gabbard is the only Democratic Party announced candidate that has stated anything strongly critical of the Trump Administration’s attempt to foment a coup against the nation of Venezuela.  There are less than ten or so Democrats in congress and the US Senate who have stated any opposition, aside from vague tactical criticism, to the Trump Administration policy.

Several times during the event, one of the organizers of the event Bob Witanek of Hands Off Venezuela - NJ and NJ Anti War Agenda through the sound system invited Cory Booker to come out from the restaurant and bar establishment to declare opposition to the “coup plotting” that they state the US is pursuing toward Venezuela.  At the end of the rally, Witanek issued the “Cory Booker Challenge” - challenging Booker to within the next 3 days issue some sort of statement calling for a pause on US coup making toward Venezuela.

Among the speakers at the event:

Zulu Sharod of Black is Back Coalition denounced the “imperialist” war policies on behalf of transnational corporations and denounced both the Democratic and Republican parties as “war parties”.

Lisa Davis, also of Black is Back coalition made a passionate demand to fund Reparations for the victims of the transnational enslavement trade and not war and stated that no political leaders can come into the Black communities without addressing the issue of reparations.

Esteban Guevara, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation gave a historic background of the developments leading to the current situation, documenting a history of US attempts to thwart the direction of Venezuela in shifting the use of the national resources toward meeting the needs of the Venezuelan people - including the US imposed sanctions that have greatly contributed to the humanitarian crisis there according to Guevera and other protesters. 

Jay Arena, of Jobs and Equal Rights for All Campaign highlighted connections between US foreign policy and its repressive immigration policies including Essex County's contract with ICE to house detained  immigrants in horrendous conditions of the Essex County Jail facilty.

Munirah Bonami, a Newark resident active in the Newark Water Coalition and around decarceration and justice issues highlighted what the protesters consider the failures of Booker when he was Mayor of Newark,

Elizabeth Castanedas from Colombia talked about the struggle within Colombia to oppose that nation’s complicity in the US coup plots and a possible future invasion.

John Lisowski of American Party of Labor detailed the war criminal background of Elliott Abrams who over saw the US support for death squads in Central American in the 80s and was convicted for criminal contempt of US Congress and is now coordinating the US operations against Venezuela.

For the complete presentations by these and other speakers, readers can watch the Facebook livestream video at this Facebook Livestream from event .

At one point the protesters were told to leave the sidewalk which is technically owned by the Prudential company so they moved into the street that had been blocked off by the police for the Booker event.  Later they were asked to move again to the edge of the sidewalk.  The protesters complied with the requests - but throughout the event, they continued to pump their amplified around into the Booker venue.

The protesters held signs and an 8 foot banner festooned with the colors of the eight star Venezuelan Bolivarian flag that states: "New Jersey Says Hands off Venezuela! Rescind Guaido! Lift Sanctions! No US War in Latin America!", including the website and phone number 908-881-5275 for anyone wanting more information or to get involved.

Another banner states: Money for Water, Not War, Not A Wall!  Newark Says No War!  That banner is a reference to the failure of Newark’s water system the majority of which is contaminated with excessive levels of lead.

Among the chants pumped into the Booker event were:
“Corey Booker Hands Off Venezuela” and “Hey Booker, We Demand Peace! From Venezuela to the Middle East!”

Another chant put forward an ominous warning of future protests of Booker:“Wherever you go, whatever you do, we’re going to let you know, we are against the coup.”

A half a dozen livestreams were broadcast on Facebook from the event with over 1000 views totalled.

The Hands Off Venezuela - NJ Coalition is dedicated to continuing opposition to the coup plans with support for the March on Wall Street in NYC on February 23, a Camden rally that same day and another rally in Jersey City also that same day, a rally organized by Rutgers New Brunswick students on Tuesday, February 26,11:30 am on College Avenue in New Brunswick, a forum with Green Party Vice Presidential candidate and Black Alliance for Peace founder Ajamu Baraka on February 28, 7pm at Emanual Lutheran Church, on the corner of New and Kirkpatrick Streets in New Brunswick, NJ , organized by the Green Party of NJ and providing organized transportation to the National Hands \Off Venezuela March on the Whitehouse planned for March 16.

The group is also beginning plans for Spanish language panel discussions around New Jersey on the topic. 

At the beginning of their protest, Booker aid James Clapper cordially approached the protesters and promised to show Senator Booker pictures of the banner and to share copies of a newspaper called #NJAntiWarAgenda with Sen. Booker and staff members. He was asked by the protesters to communicate any intentions by Booker to take a position against US coup plotting on Venezuela.

This was not the first NJ action against US coup maneuvers on Venezuela.

This was not the first challenge to NJ officials over Venezuela policies.

On February 2, Madelyn Hoffman, who was the Green Party 2018 challenger to Bob Menendez, and is a representative of NJ Peace Council and Jay Arena challenged US Senator Menendez who has been a primary motivator of US intervention in Venezuela, over his role - the challenge which was captured in this live stream.

Then on February 7 in New Brunswick, a couple of dozen New Brunswick area activists, in a protest organized by the Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War rallied against US coup moves on Venezuela, livestream.

For more information about these efforts, readers are encouraged to call or text 908-881-5275.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Protest Friday 5pm Outside Booker Event Against VZ Coup Attempt

Cory Booker Handed Over Newark’s Public Schools to Wall Street…Now He Wants to Do the Same with Venezuela’s Oil

Hands Off Venezuela!

End the Sanctions and All Forms of US Intervention!

No to Coups, No to US, Brazilian or Colombian Military attacks on Venezuela!

February 13, 2019
For Immediate Release
Hands Off Venezuela/New Jersey
Jay Arena (English and Spanish) 504-520-9521

Friday, February 15
5 -6:30 PM
35 Edison Pl., PJ Ryan’s at the Rock
Newark, NJ

Hands Off Venezuela/New Jersey, a coalition of immigrant, labor, socialist, peace and civil rights groups from across New Jersey, will gather outside Senator Cory Booker’s $1,000 a plate Presidential Fundraiser to demand an end to the US sanctions and all attempts to overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuela. “We are part of a growing national and international movement to demand that Trump and his Democratic party collaborators, like Cory Booker, end the sanctions, which are really weapons of mass destruction, and other schemes to over throw the democratically elected Venezuelan government,” said Bob Witanek of Hands Off Venezuela/New Jersey.

Cory Booker’s slogan for his 2020 presidential campaign is “When we join together and work together — we will rise together.” But working together with the criminal Trump regime, and the long-time war monger, the senior Senator from New Jersey, Robert Menendez, will not result in the US and Venezuelan people “rising together”. And Booker, far from condemning the attacks of Trump and Menendez, is working with them to further the demonization of the Venezuelan government, paving the way for an invasion, as he smears the democratically elected government as “alarming on many levels. “What is alarming is that the US is now threatening another war, and carrying out murderous sanctions, that have wrought mass destruction and misery from Iraq and Afghanistan, to Nicaragua and Honduras,” said Newark activist Karl Schwartz.

The real concern of the Republicans and Democrats, and their corporate paymasters, is getting hold of Venezuela’s oil and other natural resources. “Cory Booker has a track record of working to hand over public resources, such as Newark’s Public Schools and the City’s water, to his hedge fund backers, and this is their agenda in Venezuela as well” pointed out long time Newark public school teacher and union activist, Avram Rips.

Hands Off Venezuela/New Jersey calls on Booker for an end to these attacks, and for a redirection of resources to rebuild our crumbling and disappearing public schools, housing, hospitals, mass transit, and fix our lead contaminated water-pipes, among other crises affecting working people in Newark and across the US and world.


Monday, January 14, 2019

Menendez Constituents Call for No S1 Vote (Press Release)

Menendez Constituents Call for No S1 Vote

Immediate Release:

Contact: Cynthia Flood 862-237-8856 (Voice or Text)

New Jersey voters who supported U.S. Senator Robert Menendez re-election campaign in 2018 are joining together to call him out for breaking ranks with the Democratic Party to vote for S1 and the “Combat BDS” legislation twice in the past week.

All but four of the Democratic Party US Senators voted “NO” on moving the package of laws to the floor on procedural grounds reasoning that any law to be considered immediately by the US Senate should address the issue of reopening the US Government.  However in two consecutive votes, Menendez voted “YAY,” against the majority of his own party.

Cynthia Flood, a community organizer from Newark who voted for Menendez’s re-election in 2018 initiated a petition condemning Menendez’s YAY votes and calling upon Menendez, U.S. Senator Cory Booker and the U.S. House Delegation from New Jersey to vote against S1 and any related “Combat - BDS” legislation.

BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Today, it represents the main strategy of those who are in solidarity with Palestinians.  The goal is to apply economic pressure on Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Applying economic pressure is one tool left to end what many Palestinians consider humanitarian abuses of the Palestinian population by isolating Israel economically through boycotting of Israeli products made on the West Bank and Gaza  and applying other forms of economic isolation.

The US Senate and Congress, once the government is reopened, will likely be voting on a measure that actually provides penalties for participating in this campaign.  Opponents of this proposed law consider it a violation of their First Amendment free speech rights and a way of discouraging a tried and tested form of nonviolent protest.  It is feared that “Combat BDS” can be used as a pretext to undermine and attack dissent across the board as struggles for justice, human needs and against war in the US involve organizers and activists that also are involved in Palestine solidarity.

According to Cynthia Flood. “I started this petition to let Senator Menendez know that even though I voted for him, I am not going to be quiet as he leads the efforts to take away my rights and many other peoples’ rights.  As one who has recently been active in struggles around mass incarceration and against police brutality, efforts with overlapping support from Palestine solidarity activists - I can see the government using this “combat BDS” law to attack our whole movement.  I grew up in the days of the Black Panther Party.  I remember COINTELPRO and how it was used to attack and kill our members.  I am not going to sit back and watch it happen again - not on my watch.”

The petition is being coordinated by a “Defeat S1 Petition Committee of 5” including Cynthia Flood, Evelyn Delgado, Grace Agnew, Whit Strub and Joan Brennan all of whom voted for Menendez but now are urging him to change his position and vote down S1.

Menendez is considered one of the top supporters of Israel in the US Senate and he is the number one recipient of Israel PAC funds.  Opponents of S1 say they recognize this reality but nonetheless are pressuring for him to “do the right thing and oppose S1.” Even though not a single Democratic Party Senator supports BDS, that’s not the issue with this legislation. Instead, one’s position on BDS is irrelevant -- the principle here is the protection of free speech, even when it may be controversial or unpopular.

According to Ms. Flood, “We realize what we are up against but this issue is too important for silence.  If this law passes, it could literally shut down any opportunity for dissent in the USA, around Palestine, anti-war, Black Lives Matter, workers rights, all issues that have overlapping constituencies.  This could be an opening shot across the bow of a government that wants to criminalize our rights.  We can not be silent.”

Petitioners intend to organize an event to present the petition at an event where Menendez is present or at his office in the very near future.  The petition has already garnered 200 signers in its first day of circulation.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Opposing US War in NJ Public Schools

It was an honor to be invited to provide a workshop on behalf of NJ Anti War Agenda at the MAPSO Freedom School December 8 Educator Conference entitled Family Separation, Then, Now and Future Resistance.  Our workshop was entitled “US Military Recruitment: Endless Wars and Family Separation and featured Lisa Davis, an antiwar and justice activist and member of Peoples Organization for Progress and Black is Black Coalition, Tahir Flournoy, Director of Street Opera and Bob Witanek (me), founder of NJ Antiwar Agenda.  The event took place at Colombia High School in Maplewood, NJ.


Lisa provided an overview of the cultural mechanisms being used to drive military recruitment of youth including the film industry which partners with the Defense Department, allowing script and plot review, in exchange for access to military scenes and equipment for settings purposes.

Tahir provided an account of how he organized Street Opera, which is a music and arts troupe, started at Arts High School in Newark, as a way to organize youth artistic support for and engagement in antiwar and other struggles.  Street Opera will present a showcase of the music and other 
performances being prepared in late January or possibly February 2019.  From the flier distributed on the topic at the event:

Street Opera Youth Performance Troupe Plans January Showcase
We have been rehearsing Wednesdays immediately after dismissal, but the ensemble is open to more members and we will arrange rehearsals during lunch.  You can also access the materials at this link and learn on your own or arrange for rehearsal times with members who have been attending the rehearsal sessions:

We hope to hold the showcase in a room at Arts High School.  We want to invite parents and friends to see our first showcase.  We also invite more students to participate in the pieces we have begun working on as well as to sign up to perform vocal, instrumental, dance, and spoken word acts – pieces of a topical nature that highlight the legacy of struggle and the need to carry forward to improve our condition.  Vocalists, a piano accompanist will be available.

Reception featuring pizza and soda will be available after the performances.  If you are interested, please text Tahir ASAP:  862-754-6691

In the second of the two sessions we presented, a sampling of a Street Opera rehearsal featuring piano performance and lead vocals by Robert Colby-Witanek was provided.

The most important component of the morning session was the participation of 5 students from Colombia High School, all of whom are students of T.J. Whitaker, a founder of MAPSO Freedom School and one of the key organizers of the event who teaches English and Writing at Colombia High School.

The students seemed genuinely interested in the issue and possibly starting up some activities there at Colombia around the issues of US war and recruitment.  There also was serious interest in possibly initiating Street Opera efforts at Colombia HIgh School.  We discussed with them what activism was already in place including what groups were there - and who might be a good faculty member to advise if a new group or effort were to be started.  One of the students was an elected school board member and we discussed finding out exactly that are Colombia High School policies regarding military recruitment.  We did confirm that the military is recruiting at Colombia and is meeting students for recruitment purposes on the high school premises - which is fairly typical for high schools.

In between the workshops, I was able to speak to several high school teachers and they all told a common story - the military is all over NJ high schools, recruiting and several reported ROTC programs at their schools.  I spoke with high school teachers and staff from Franklin Township, Perth Amboy, Jersey City, Paterson, East Orange and Roselle, to name a few.  There was interest from all of them in the concept of connecting with antiwar students and helping to oppose recruitment,

One school counselor raised a challenging question, to which there is no perfect answer.  The question: What is the alternative given financial challenges the student and their family is facing, when the military is promising virtual worry free existence,  Of course we can raise skepticism about that recruiters tell and point out that no promises made are binding and if the order is to deploy - you are on your way to the front lines.

But the dismal economic options, with the difficulty of receiving scholarship and loans, the ridiculously high cost of higher education - unless we can offer a solution to those issues, suggesting to a student to turn down the recruiters is a hard sell.  I think the best answer, especially for a counselor, is to offer to work with the student to do a self assessment, to get a clear understanding why they are interested in the military, to help them identify their skills and assets and to help put all of their alternative options before them so they can at least make an informed choice.

NJ Anti War Agenda is going to proceed with the strategy of organizing high school students and teachers to resist war recruitment and build an anti-war movement.

As part of that we are reaching out to high school teachers around NJ to help assess the level of military recruitment going on and the potential for anti-war organizing and opposition to the recruiting.

Please click and complete the survey as soon as possible and also please forward to your colleagues who might also be interested.

We have a student survey as well and we ask all students who are in high school or will be within the next year to complete this survey:

The following is the list of suggested steps that we offered for teachers and students to work on these issues on the flier that we distributed at the MAPSO Freedom School event:

Suggested Actions for Countering War and Militarism in Schools

  • Engage in discussions among teachers and with students on the impact of war and US foreign policy on the community.
  • Teachers, parents, students let it be known of willingness to provide an alternative narrative to that of the recruiters and make written resources available to the students to resist recruitment pressures.
  • Teachers, students and parents should be aware of what the military recruitment rules of your district and should actively raise questions about such policies and refine them toward being more restrictive of military (and ultimately opposing) while providing space for recruiter challenging narrative within schools.
  • Conduct a survey of NJ schools about the prevalence of recruiters, analyzing disparities between focus on impoverished vs. wealthier school districts.
  • Organize discussions, education and develop curriculum on the impact of US war - on the planet and other peoples, on the US families with members participating in warfare, on the scarcity of funding to address the pressing community needs, like potable water, clean air, housing, fully funded education, disaster preparation, relief and rebuilding, meaningful livable labor with full benefits, national health care and many other needs.
  • Local, regional. statewide committees can form of students, faculty and administrators opposing war and war recruitment.
  • Antiwar and other issue based struggle of students and teachers should be encouraged and organized by faculty and students - an example Street Opera. Teachers who can serve as advisor to such groups can help in navigating district rules for student participation and organizing.
  • Coach students and help them and participate with them in how to organize meetings, protests, rallies - near high school site, and how to navigate school rules to advocate antiwar in front of school, in cafeteria, etc.  Teach organizing skills like event organizing, how to draft, print and then distribute fliers, banner and sign making, role play how to talk other students out of enlistment.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Voting for Menendez is a Pro-War Act - Elect Hoffman / Moxley Instead!

As published in Pricneton Packet:

In an October 3rd letter, Rev. Moore urged voters who care about peace to vote for Senator Menendez. I disagree 

Senator Menendez is the largest recipient of campaign contributions from AIPAC and NORPAC, the nation’s two strongest pro-Israel PACs.

No coincidence, then, that Senator Menendez never criticizes the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Since March 2018 almost 200 Palestinians, including women, children, journalists and medics, have been killed by live sniper fire, simply for protesting the conditions of the occupation.

Senator Menendez refuses to advocate for blocking U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia to use in Yemen, saying he “needs more information,” about the brutal war, dubbed by many as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. This even after 40 Yemeni school children were killed by a bomb made by Lockheed Martin.

Menendez may have voted for a new nuclear arms control treaty in 2010, but he also accepted, without criticism, the plan supported by President Obama to spend $1.7 trillion over 30 years to create a nuclear arsenal bigger and more powerful than at the height of the Cold War.

Nor has the Senator advocated for the U.S. to sign and ratify the International Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons developed by 122 nations in July 2017.

Lastly, Senator Menendez supported the last two military budgets -standing at around $700 billion annually.

How can this be a profile of a Senator who cares about peace?

There are truly only two ways to vote for peace in NJ in 2018:

Voting for Green Party candidates Madelyn Hoffman who directed NJ Peace Action for decades (recently retired) for US Senate and Diane Moxley for the 7th Congressional District seat – both of whom play critical roles in New Jersey in organizing against US warfare.

Bob Witanek
Founder NJ Anti-War Agenda

Monday, July 16, 2018

We are all guilty of treason today

We are all guilty of treason today and need to hang our heads in shame - the Democrats, the Republicans, Trump, Clintons, Obama, Bushes, Carter . . . all the way back and me and you!
Big storm over the theatrics from Helsinki and meanwhile a huge US backed bombardment is being carried out in Gaza!
We are distracted and even those posting about the assault on Facebook - there are no emergency protests!
There have been in the past and will be in the future - there is lots of good work being done around the issue by millions throughout the planet yet we have committed treason to the cause of human rights, life itself, dignity.
The US supports a government that actually sends excrement shooters to shoot raw sewerage at people's houses and throughout the country laws are being introduced to bar protest of such heinous acts (and much worse) in Gaza.
We committed betrayal today focused on the silly debate over the Helsinki show while this much more significant event is occurring - confused and distracted we are while the crimes are being committed - people are being slaughtered and bodies are being collected.
We have significantly betrayed the struggle throughout our lives allowing the circumstances to get where they are on that front and every other front throughout the planet.
All of us equally guilty of such betrayal and our only remedy is to recommit to the struggle and to determine the way forward that brings true end to the atrocities and depredations on every corner of the planet.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Emergency Rally to Protest Trump's Decision to Withdraw from Iran Nuclear Agreement!

Media Contact: 

Madelyn Hoffman
Executive Director
New Jersey Peace Action
Phone: 973-259-1126 (office) and 973-876-1023 (cell)

Jeff Hoey
Program Coordinator
           New Jersey Peace Action
                                 Phone: 973-222-0368
                                 Email address:

Event on Facebook:

New Jersey Peace Action Organizes  Emergency Rally to Protest Trump's Decision to Withdraw from Iran Nuclear Agreement! 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 8, 2018

Who:  New Jersey Peace Action (NJPA) is an affiliate of Peace Action and is celebrating its 61st anniversary this year. NJPA began its opposition to the 2nd Gulf War in the summer of 2002 and continues to this day to call for that war to end.  NJPA;s primary mission includes the abolition of nuclear weapons, ending and preventing wars and shifting federal spending priorities from war to peace. 

What:  In response to President Trump's decision on Tuesday, May 8th, to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Agreement, New Jersey Peace Action, headquartered in Bloomfield, will have an Emergency Protest Rally calling for our leaders to reverse that decision. In lieu of reversal, we ask that our Senators and Representatives speak out strongly against the withdrawal and stand firmly against renewing any sanctions against Iran, which international inspectors confirm is in compliance with the terms of the agreement. 

Where: 5 Points Vigil corner in Montclair, NJ - corner of Church St., S. Fullerton Ave. and Bloomfield Ave.

When: Wednesday, May 9, 2018 at 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM.

Why:  The Iran deal is the only diplomatic agreement in place in the Middles East. It is it totally short-sighted to walk away from it. It could lead to another war. The United States, the region and the world cannot afford another US war of aggression.