BY RACHELE FRUIT
MIAMI - As protesters arrived for a May 7 picket at the downtown Federal Building here demanding freedom for Antonio Camacho, they unfurled a large banner in Spanish and English saying, "Free Camacho and all Puerto Rican Political Prisoners - Independence for Puerto Rico."
Antonio Camacho is a Puerto Rican independence activist who was in U.S. jails for more than 10 years because of his political ideas and activities. In February he was released on parole, then rearrested in Puerto Rico in April. He was then spirited off the island and jailed in this U.S. city.
Of the 35 people demonstrating in support of Camacho, about a dozen held the banner and several picket signs at the edge of the street where they faced the passing traffic. Most of the others marched with signs in a lively picket next to the Federal Building while another half dozen stood on the inside edge of the picket to provide security from rightists who had threatened to disrupt the protest.
Everyone who passed by peered over at the pickets as they waved their signs and shouted "Now!" each time Joaquín Pedroso from the Antonio Maceo Brigade led chants of "Free Antonio Camacho" and "Independence for Puerto Rico" in English and Spanish. They also chanted "U.S. hands off Puerto Rico" and "Free all Puerto Rican Prisoners of War." Some of the passersby honked their horns, took leaflets and waved. One yelled at the protesters in disapproval.
Among the groups participating in the picket line were the Orlando chapter of the National Committee to Free the Puerto Rican Prisoners of War and Political Prisoners, Antonio Maceo Brigade, Miami Coalition to End the US Embargo of Cuba, Alliance of Workers of the Cuban Community, and Socialist Workers Party.
Several members of the Orlando group traveled four hours to Miami to take part in the picket line.
Also present were several individuals who had heard about the picket at a May 2 meeting where longtime Puerto Rican independence fighter Rafael Cancel Miranda had spoken (see article on facing page).
In the three days leading up to the action Cuban-American rightists called for a counterprotest at the same site on talk shows on Spanish-language Radio Mambí. The day of the protest, the rightists canceled their action. Despite this, five right-wingers, one wearing a cap with an insignia of the terrorist group Alpha 66, walked up to the protest that called for Camacho's release.
After trying to provoke the pickets and being blocked by the activists acting as monitors, they were escorted away by the police. As they left the right-wingers screamed "traitors" at the pickets but were quickly drowned out by the escalating chants of "Free Camacho" and "Independence for Puerto Rico."
At the end of the picketing Angelo Negrón from the National Committee to Free the Puerto Rican Prisoners of War and Political Prisoners addressed the crowd. "Our purpose for being here," he said, "is to tell the world that Antonio Camacho is not a forgotten prisoner. His being released in February and then rearrested in April means that he was never really released. The struggle to liberate Antonio Camacho and the rest of the Puerto Rican political prisoners will continue."
Negrón invited everyone at the picket line to join the Orlando chapter of the committee in a national demonstration in Washington, D.C., on July 25, that will call for the release of all 15 Puerto Rican independentista prisoners and oppose U.S. colonial rule of the Caribbean nation.
Negrón then read a statement from Camacho's sister Marilyn, who declared: "Antonio Camacho's incarceration and extradition clearly illustrates the colonial status of Puerto Rico. It is a new assault on the independentista movement and on the political organizations fighting for self-determination of the boricua [Puerto Rican] nation....We will continue working with the media to spread our message - supporting Antonio Camacho and all the Puerto Rican freedom fighters.... Let's stop American domination now!"
Ernie Mailhot from the Socialist Workers Party pointed to the cancellation of the counterprotest as evidence of the political strength of those fighting for sovereignty of Puerto Rico and the weakening of the local rightist forces. Referring to the boycott of the demonstration by the local media, Mailhot stated: "That the U.S. rulers have told their press to hide the fact that Antonio Camacho is in jail here in Miami shows they are afraid of the support that can be generated for him and the other political prisoners."
Other speakers included Joaquín Pedroso from the Antonio Maceo Brigade, who pledged his group's ongoing support in the effort to free the Puerto Rican political prisoners.
Rachele Fruit is a member of International Association of
Machinists Local 1126.
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