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.