As the United States denies rights to diplomats coming to the United National General Assembly meeting, civil society protests and gives a hearing to diplomats from US Sanctioned Countries.
During the week of September 20 – 27, the United Nations General Assembly met in New York City. Heads of State and other government officials met inside the United Nations building as did climate change activists such as Greta Thunberg. But, outside of the building, the people of the world were addressed in a more meaningful way as activists and diplomats from countries under attack by the United States spoke directly to the people - the ultimate force that will make the changes necessary for our survival.
UNAC and UNAC member organizations joined with others to form the People’s Mobe, an ad hoc group that organized a rally on the streets of New York City to “Stop the Wars and Save the Planet.” We also organized an important meeting at the Community Church, just blocks from the UN where the movement and diplomats from countries under attack by the U.S. came together to speak directly to the people of the U.S. UNAC and the People’s Mobe also supported and joined the Schools Climate Strike on Friday, September 20, and the Puerto Rican independence rally on September 21. We were also part of the organizing committee that organized a meeting for Venezuelan leaders to speak out and counter the fake narrative of the U.S. State Department and U.S. corporate media about their country.
On September 20, tens of thousands took to the streets of New York City as part of a world-wide Climate Strike. In New York, the crowd was estimated at around 250,000 people, mostly young high school students with creative signs and banners. Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish activist who initiated the student climate strikes that have taken hold around the world, also spoke at the New York City protest.
On Saturday, September 21, hundreds gathered for a Puerto Rican independence rally. Freed Puerto Rican political prisoner, Oscar Lopez Rivera addressed the crowd and urged Puerto Ricans to fight back against U.S. imperialism in Puerto Rico as well as in other countries under attack by the U.S. such as Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua.
The People’s Mobe rally that UNAC played a major role in organizing, took place at Herald Sq. in New York and then marched to the United Nations building. A featured speaker was Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. Margaret Kimberley, a member of the UNAC Administrative Committee, the Black Alliance for Peace, and senior columnist for Black Agenda Report spoke for UNAC. Other speakers included Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese from Popular Resistance and the Embassy Protection Collective, Joe Jamison from the US Peace Council, Asantewaa Nkrunah-Ture of the Black Alliance for Peace, Chairman Omali Yeshitela from the Black is Back Coalition, Teiko Yonaha Tursi of the Okinawa Peace Appeal, Max Blumenthal of the Grayzone Project as well as representatives of the People’s Organization for Progress, the December 12th Movement, International Action Center, a member of Extinction Rebellion and others. Music was provided by Ben Grosscup of the People’s Music Network and Rebel Diaz. After the rally, a spirited march went to the United Nations building where the General Assembly would start their meeting on the following day.
Figure 1 Roger Waters of Pink Floyd speaks at rally
Figure 2 Rally to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet
On Monday night, the first day of the General Assembly meeting, an important program was organized where the antiwar movement provided a platform for representatives of several countries who have been sanctioned by the United States. At this meeting they were able to speak directly to the people of the U.S. However, in the days prior to the meeting, the U.S. expelled 2 members of the Cuban UN delegation, claiming that they were trying to “conduct influence operations.” Then they disallowed ten members of the Russian delegation to the General Assembly from entering the county. The U.S. also restricted the UN diplomats from Cuba and Iran to a small area of Manhattan. As a result, some of the diplomats who were asked to attend the Monday night meeting were unable to come. Two Cuban diplomats did come and were introduced to the audience but felt they could not speak at the meeting. The Syrians did send a member of their diplomatic staff who spoke, and Jorge Arreaza, the Foreign Minister from Venezuela also spoke. Arreaza had previously been sanctioned by the U.S. after representing the Non-Aligned Movement at the UN in April where he denounced the U.S.’ attempts to remove representatives of the elected government of Venezuela from representing them at the UN.
Figure 3 Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza Speaks
Figure 4 Ajamu Baraka
These moves are attempts by the U.S. government to determine who can speak for any nation at the UN and must be seen as a grave threat by all nations of the world.
Besides the diplomats who came to the Monday night meeting, there were several speakers from our movement including Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report, Ajamu Baraka of Black Alliance for Peace, Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese of Popular Resistance and the Embassy Protection Collective, Taryn Fivek for the International Action Center, Bahman Azad of the US Peace Council, Anya Parampil of the Grayzone Project, Joe Lombardo of UNAC and others. Additionally, Ajamu Baraka, who is the founder and organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace and also on the administrative committee of UNAC and the executive board of the US Peace Council, received an award for his peace and justice activity from the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation (see the article here from the UNAC Blog).
UNAC was also part of the organizing committee that organized a meeting for high level officials of the Venezuelan government at the Holyrood Church/Iglesia Santa Cruz church in a Latinx community in upper Manhattan. Originally, it was hoped that Venezuelan President Maduro would speak but President Maduro instead made an important trip to meet with Russian leaders in Moscow. However, in his place Foreign Minister Arreaza spoke to the packed church, in Spanish, with a simultaneous English translation. During his talk, Arreaza mentioned that if the U.S. interferes with the ability of countries to attend and speak at the United Nations, perhaps the UN should be moved to some other country. He suggested it be one in Latin America. This meeting was built by word of mouth and not publicly announced due to security concerns but the 600 seat church was packed and the Venezuelan government was able to speak directly to the Latinx community and others in New York and counter the false narrative of the US government and its news media about the situation in Venezuela.
One other important action that took place during the UN General Assembly meeting was on Friday, September 27, when right-wing Indian Prime Minister Modi came to speak. The Indian military have occupied Kashmir and arrested thousands, closed down communications with the outside world, imposed a curfew and created fear of another massacre of Muslim similar to a previous massacre that Modi has been implicated in. As Modi spoke thousands of Muslims and their supporters took to the streets in a massive protest. UNAC and other antiwar organizations joined them.
Both meetings that Venezuela and others spoke at in New York were ignored by the corporate media. The media today plays the role of an unapologetic propaganda arm of the U.S. State Department and will not inform the people of this country about the US wars, climate change or anything that goes against the foreign policy narrative of the U.S. government. Therefore, it is more important than ever that we build our movement and continue to tell the truth