BY LAURA GARZA AND GREG ROSENBERG
NEW YORK CITY - "Some leaders of other countries know the truth, but are scared to tell it in front of the United Nations. But Fidel Castro will tell the truth," said a gleeful Oscar Millian, a Cuban-American resident of New York City. Millian joined several hundred people on a picket line at 37th Street and Lexington Avenue, one block from the Cuban mission to the United Nations, October 22.
The picket was set up to welcome Cuban president Fidel Castro to New York and to counter the presence of opponents of the Cuban workers and farmers government, who were assembling at Dag Hammerskjold Plaza. The opponents of the revolution, nearly 2,000 strong, staged a march down Lexington Avenue later that afternoon. Defenders of the Cuban revolution also countered with continued pickets on October 23 and 24.
"Fidel has as much a right as any other leader to speak to the United Nations, and to denounce the blockade," said Manhattan lawyer Victoria Cruz, a native of Columbia who joined the pro-Cuba picket lines. "People should support the right to hear other ideas."
Banners emblazoned one side of an entire block of Lexington Avenue, exclaiming "Hands Off Cuba!" "En defensa de la patria, la revolución, y el socialismo (In defense of the homeland, the revolution, and socialism) - Casa de Las Americas" and "End the U.S. economic blockade - defend Cuba's socialist revolution: Young Socialists."
"It feels great to be out here," said 25-year-old Tisha Carter, a University of Minnesota student who drove out to join the weekend's activities in defense of Cuba. "Fidel hasn't been here for some time. I wouldn't miss the opportunity to speak out against the embargo."
For 40-year-old Roberto Bravo, a New York construction worker born in Ecuador, the picket was a chance to show support for "the Cuban revolution at this decisive moment in history."
The anti-Cuba forces, enraged by Castro's visit and his ability to communicate directly with a wide audience in the United States and before world opinion, made several attempts to provoke the anti-embargo picket line.
At one point on Sunday, October 22, three goons sporting the rifle-emblazoned paraphernalia of the "Cuban-American Veterans Association" walked up to the pro-Cuba picket and attempted to provoke those in solidarity with Cuba, screaming anti-communist epithets. The crowd chanted back, but did not budge.
Andrés Gómez, a leader of the Antonio Maceo Brigade, took a bullhorn to explain to the crowd that the rightists would continue to try and provoke them. "For no reason will we be provoked," Gómez emphasized in both English and Spanish.
The right-wingers marching against the revolution held signs with slogans such as "Indict Castro," "No Castro, no problem," "We support Helms-Burton," and "We support the internal resistance in Cuba."
On October 24, the police stood by as a right-winger attacked those on the anti-embargo picket. The area was fenced in by barriers and as the pickets tried to fend off the assault, a cordon of cops converged and began pulling at the attacker and others on the line. Using the commotion as an excuse, the cops sprayed pepper gas at the picketers. Several were hit in the eyes and face.
Garment worker Amy Husk, one of those hit, said she saw Lieutenant Berkowitz as he calmly aimed the spray directly at the line of picketers. Later, in an attempt at escalating the provocation further, the police insisted one participant who had been badly hit by the spray be taken out of the line. He was forcibly pulled out by the cops and charged with disorderly conduct. Gómez reported to the picketers that a fight will be organized to protest the charges and that one of those hit with the spray, a member of the Cuban-American group Casa de Las Americas, would pursue a complaint against the cops who had sprayed the legally assembled gathering.
In bringing the last picket to an end, Gómez noted that the October 21 march by opponents of U.S. policy and the pickets at the Cuban Mission to the UN outdid the showing of the right wing. Between October 22 and 24 those on the pickets defending Cuba's sovereignty and chanting against the embargo were more than double the number of those down the block who were supporting Washington's policy. "This shows we are gaining strength," Gómez concluded.
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home