Held Feb. 15 at the Central Hall, the meeting included a panel of speakers and — for the first time in the United Kingdom — an exhibition of “I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived.” Through a series of 15 watercolors, Antonio Guerrero depicts the experiences he and his four comrades shared during their first 17 months of incarceration, a time spent in the “hole” at the Federal Detention Center in Miami.
Panel speaker Father Geoff Bottoms, a leader of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, talked about visiting three of the five revolutionaries in U.S. prisons, pointing to their resilience, dignity and strength of purpose. He asked Ramón Labaniño what he thought about during the many hours of solitary confinement imposed on the Five.
“I think about the history of my people,” came the answer “and that keeps me going. The history of resistance.” Pointing to a picture of a million-strong march to celebrate May Day in Havana, he said, “That is my people and they are why I’m here.”
“I see the Commission of Inquiry as a springboard for greater international activity,” said Bottoms, “the ball may bounce in London but it must land in Washington.”
“This is part of a war against the Cuban people orchestrated by the most powerful nation in the world,” said Paul Foley, northwest regional officer of the Unison trade union.
“This is about Cuba, not the law,” said John Nicholson, former deputy leader of Manchester City Council and a barrister, who spoke about facets of the U.S. government frame-up. “This was never just a legal case, it’s a political one. That is why to win we need to speak to the jury of the millions.”
Nicholson urged participants to spend some time looking at Guerrero’s paintings, and recommended “two very good books I’ve acquired — Voices From Prison: The Cuban Five and I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived.”
Both he and Foley promoted the Commission of Inquiry.
Participants bought eight copies of Voices From Prison and 13 of I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived. The latter includes reproductions of the 15 paintings with descriptions by Guerrero and other comments by Gerardo Hernández and Labañino. Both are new books published by Pathfinder Press.
“The Cuban Revolution was from the start built on solidarity,” said Irelia López, first secretary at the Cuban Embassy in London, in her presentation. “People from all backgrounds actively participated in building a better world. These five men are heroes for our people, for their integrity, their dignity, they are people prepared to do anything to protect us from attack. I am here today to request solidarity, in spreading the word about the case of the Cuban Five.”
“At the commission,” said López, “international figures will show the interest of the world in these five heroes to my country.”
The two-day Commission of Inquiry will feature testimony and presentations by prominent jurists from around the world; representatives of Amnesty International; victims of attacks by the rightist paramilitary groups, such as those the Five were monitoring; family of the Five; legislators; academics; author Alice Walker; Cuban officials; René González, the one member of the Five out of prison; and others.
“I like the one with the envelope and the string,” participant Omar Mohamed, told the Militant about Guerrero’s exhibit. “Even when it was very difficult they managed to communicate with each other.”
“I’m absolutely impressed,” said Amanda McCracken. “They haven’t lost their humor. How are they so resilient after such a long time fighting for their rights?” McCracken, who helped staff a table for the Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association (JENGbA) campaign, said her son Gerard Childs was imprisoned last December and “I know how down he gets sometimes.”
Childs was convicted of murder under England’s 300-year-old “joint enterprise” law, under which people are found guilty and sentenced for violent crimes if they supposedly “encouraged” another to carry it out.
“It’s like the conspiracy charges the Five faced, you don’t have to commit an act, just be associated with others who allegedly do,” said Janet Cunliffe, whose partially blind son is serving 12 years for a joint enterprise conviction.
The Justice4Grainger campaign, which is fighting to prosecute the cops who shot dead unarmed 36-year-old Anthony Grainger in 2012, brought their banners and literature to the event.
“It is about unity,” said Wesley Ahmed, Grainger’s cousin and leader of Justice4Grainger, when asked about his impression of the event. “We are crying out for unity; the Five are crying out for unity — to be able to fight.”
In addition to JENGbA and Justice4Grainger, several other groups had tables, reflecting the breadth of support for the event, including the Cuba Solidarity Campaign; the Communist League; the Morning Star, a daily whose editorial line follows the program of the Communist Party; and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
“I know what prison cells are like,” said Brian Oreggio, a meat factory worker who has been helping organizing a showing of Guerrero’s paintings at the Moston Miners Community Arts and Music Centre. “I’ve been incarcerated, but not under the conditions they faced. I empathize with them, they’re strong people.”
UK meeting launches art exhibit for Cuban 5, builds London event
‘René opened my eyes to what really exists in world’
Miami Militant Labor Forum: ‘Free Cuban Five!’
International Commission of Inquiry into the Case of the Cuban Five
Who are the Cuban Five?
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