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  denounced the “imperialist” war policies on behalf of transnational corporations and denounced both the Democratic and Republican parties as “war parties”.

Lisa Davis, 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 send off rally near the Path Station in Newark at 10:30 am on February 23 for those going in to the NYC protest as well as those who will rally with them before they hop on the train,  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 Matt Klapper 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.

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.


Please help by retweeting to Cory Booker:

You can tweet lobby the entire NJ delegation in about 2 minutes at this link:

You can also send an e-mail to your congress members at this link.

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