Los Angeles, CA – On December 10th, around 200 people marched and chanted down Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles in commemoration of International Human Rights Day to highlight the struggles of migrants, refugees, indigenous people, and displaced communities impacted by state violence and war.  At least 29 organizations across Los Angeles County gathered to hold a rally and march with several speakers and stops in front of numerous Consulate offices, including El Salvador, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Honduras, and Bolivia, to condemn U.S. military intervention and wars abroad.

The US currently spends roughly $716 billion on military defense and operates at least 800 military bases abroad, while only spending $60 billion on public education and announcing deeper cuts to the food stamp program impacting at least 700,000 people in the U.S.  “Los Angeles has become the destination for thousands of migrants and refugees impacted by US militarization and wars in their home countries. We’re concerned about the growing displacement of families who face the wrath of a Trump administration that only dehumanizes and scapegoats them for a crisis the US has a hand in. While the Trump administration pours billions into its destructive wars, families in the U.S. suffer crushing unemployment and divestment from their schools and neighborhoods.  We can’t afford to continue with an economy built on war when we need an economy that meets people’s needs.” said Nikole Cababa, National Secretary General of BAYAN USA, a national alliance of 29 progressive Filipino organizations. 

The rally and march began in front of the Consulate of El Salvador and the Consulate of Ethiopia.  Walter Ruiz “Graywolf”, Director of the American Indian Movement of Southern CA opened up the march with a land acknowledgement honoring the land of the Kizh people, leading a prayer for the indigenous people displaced and massacred by US economic interests.  He spoke about the state violence committed in ICE detention centers, including the recent death of Carlos Vasquez, a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant. “I don’t want to change the person in charge, I want to change the system that allows these people to be in charge. We live in economic slavery. We want to honor this poor young man that has died in an ICE concentration camp.”

Following the prayer, Jasmin Tobar of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) condemned the newly elected Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele who is criminalizing water defenders, union leaders, and increasing militarization in the region.  Tobar explained, “The United States helped fund a civil war in El Salvador and helped train military soldiers that killed. These are the most heinous massacres in Latin America of 1,100 people. Our trauma is very real.”

Tadios Belay of International Migrants Alliance (IMA)-US Chapter calling for the end of funding of the notorious US Department of Homeland Security.

Speaking in front of the Consulate of Ethiopia, Tadios Belay of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) explained the massive displacement of African migrants.  “The US government is spending billions of dollars in Africa funding civil wars. There are thousands of African migrants at the US-Mexico border and the root cause for that is the US-led foreign policy and US-led wars in Africa with millions leaving their home countries. The US has over 50 military bases in Africa currently. We must end US militarism at home and abroad!”

Vanessa Acosta and Menchie Caliboso, leaders of Philippine US-Solidarity Organization (PUSO) perform (left). Ariana Rodriguez of Gabriela Los Angeles joins the march in solidarity with indigenous human rights defenders.

Vanessa Acosta and Menchie Caliboso of the Philippine-US Solidarity Organization (PUSO) led the second stop in front of the Consulate of the Philippines opening with an original song, “Carry on the Fight”, dedicated to women human rights defenders martyred by the Duterte regime.  “Currently, $500 million of our U.S. tax dollars have gone to the Philippine government and military since Duterte took office in 2016. Throughout this year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines have dropped bombs on indigenous communities in the Philippines and deployed ScanEagle drones in Mindanao and the West Philippine Sea that were manufactured by Boeing, which operates here in our own backyard.” said Caliboso, Chairperson of PUSO.

Cathy Mirabelles-Arceo, Filipina caregiver and leader of Migrant Los Angeles speaking about the conditons of Filipinos forced into poverty and victims of labor trafficking.

Cathy Mirabelles-Arceo, a member of Migrante Los Angeles, a grassroots Filipino migrants organization, shared, “We can only enjoy and appreciate the meaning of International Human Rights Day when we don’t have to go out of the country in whatever means, like back-door exit, crossing the borders, jumping-ship or worse being a victim of illegal recruiters – a victim of human trafficking just to give our family a decent life. Particular in the Philippines, we can only enjoy and celebrate International Human Rights Day if we will have genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization, and the Filipino people will have jobs in the Philippines and won’t be forced to migrate.”

Jose Luis Hernandez , a member of the Association of Returned Migrants with Disabilities (AMIREDIS), shares his story of trauma and mutilation as a Honduran migrant.

The next stop was the Consulate of Honduras. Jose Luis  Hernandez, a leader with the Association of Returned Migrants with Disabilities (AMIREDIS), a group of Honduran migrants disabled by the infamous network of Mexican freight trains known as “La Bestia”, shared his story. Hernandez reminded the crowd that Honduras is under the control of a corrupt and violent government which, “lamentably have 100% backing by the U.S. government.” This has made Honduras one of the top countries in expelling its people. Hernandez was one of them. “After 20 days of travel, boarding numerous trains, facing exhaustion and persecution by Mexican officials, I fainted and fell off a train and mutilated my leg, arm, and part of my hand,” Hernandez shared.

Hernandez said that when he arrived into a U.S. migrant detention center, officials did not take his condition into account and mistreated him. “The migrants you find in detention centers are treated like criminals. They are not treated like parents, pastors of their communities, good people who are searching for better opportunities in this country…human rights are not respected in this country, unfortunately,” he told the crowd.

The last stop of the march was in front of the Consulate of Bolivia. Juan Baldelomar, a Bolivian activist from Cochabamba shared his personal experience of living in Bolivia before the recent military coup of President Evo Morales. “He is a socialist, and he was able to get millions out of poverty.  We were able to reduce poverty from a horrible 38% to 16%. He built hundreds of schools, hospitals, sports areas, and miles of road to help families like mine in Bolivia.”  

Ian Matthews of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) highlighted the devastating impacts of US-led sanctions and foreign policies that destabilize whole economies in regions throughout the Middle East and Latin America. “When US politicians talk about human rights issues they look only outward rather than inward.  Countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Iraq, Syria, and more are all suffering the consequences of US imperialism disguised as aid through military intervention sanctions or staging coups to destabilize countries.”

Roberto of Maya Angelou High School

Roberto, a leading member of MEChA of Maya Angelou High School shared about the struggle of migrant youth and the impacts of US intervention in his home country of Bolivia.  “Berta Caceras stood up for the protection of the rivers and people of indgenous people. She spoke up for them and got murdered by private companies trying to build a dam in the river of indigenous people.  We have to continue to fight for our rights and our right to education.”

Ron Gochez, a teacher in South Central Los Angeles and a member of Union del Barrio said, “We stand here in Los Angeles to denounce the US government and its imperialist policies here and abroad.  We understand clearly that most of us came precisely because of US imperialism. Our families didn’t come here for the damn Lakers, the Hollywood Stars, we came here because imperialism imposed poverty and created misery in our countries and that caused the conditions that led to the mass migration of people all over the planet to come here to the land of indigenous people.” 

Many of the attendees included high school and college students vulnerable to military recruiters and military defense contractors on their campuses.  Long time organizer John Parker of Socialist Unity Party raised concerns and a call to action to the youth. “They tell you you’re going to get skills in the military, but when you come out there are no jobs because capitalism is in decay.  The only way they can make a profit is by stealing from you, your parent, your benefits, social security, education, and healthcare. They can’t make a dime of value without working people, so we need to get together and build our movement.”

“On International Human Rights Day we stand in solidarity with people from around the world who are defending workers rights, indigenous rights, immigrants and refugees rights, LGBTQI rights, and the environment. We must uplift the human right to live a dignified life in a just and lasting peace,” said Steven Osuna from the Human Rights Alliance for Child Refugees and Families, an organization who uplifts and defends the human rights of migrants and refugees that face forced migration as a result of U.S. foreign policy.

The evening ended with Dominico Vega of Anakbayan USA, a Filipino youth and student organization, “This march is the first step in showing that we are united in the struggle against US imperialism, but our struggle must continue in our communities where we must arouse, organize, and mobilize the masses to struggle with us. The working class will lead us to true democracy all over the world.”

CO-SPONSORS:  AIM SoCal – American Indian Movement SoCal, BAYAN USA, BORDER ANGELS, CISPES- Los Angeles Chapter – Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, Guatemaya LA Mujeres Resistiendo, Human Rights Alliance for Child Refugees & Families, International Migrants Alliance – IMA in Southern CA, Me Too Survivors’ March International, Occupy Ice L.A., PUSO SoCal – Philippine US Solidarity Organization, Struggle – La Lucha for Socialism, Unión del Barrio Los Angeles, We Are All America

ENDORSED BY:  Central American United Student Association at CSUN, Chinatown Community for Economic Development (CCED), CODEPINK: Women For Peace (Los Angeles), Colectivo Guatemalteco, Homies Unidos, IDEPSCA, LB Area Peace Network, Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, Migrante USA-Los Angeles, National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles, Progressive Asian Network for Action, School of Americas Watch-LA, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) – UCLA, Student Labor Advocacy Project of UCLA, Tribuno del Pueblo, Unión Centroamericana – UNICA de UCLA

The Resist US-Led War Movement is a broad global network that unites around the manifesto “For a Just Peace, Resist US-Led War.”  The network aims to contribute towards strengthening a global mass movement against US-led imperialist war and militarism by encouraging coordination and cooperation amongst anti-war and peace groups across the globe.  For more info:  resistusledwarmovement.com

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