LONDON — Dozens of people joined “Hands off Cuba” protests here and in Manchester Nov. 7, demanding a halt to Washington’s economic war against Cuba aimed at advancing its decadeslong effort to overturn the Cuban Revolution. In an attack on freedom of assembly, police prevented protesters in Manchester from continuing their action after one hour.
“We are here today because the U.S. government has been stepping up its attacks against Cuba,” said Jonathan Silberman, a Communist League leader, who helped organize the protest in London’s Seven Sisters neighborhood.
These attacks include restrictions that have led to the closure of Western Union offices in Cuba, making it more difficult for Cubans living in the U.S. to send money to their families back home along with other measures making daily life increasingly difficult for Cubans.
“One thing that is less known,” Silberman said, is that “the U.K. rulers and government are just as hostile” as their U.S. counterparts “to the fact that workers and farmers in Cuba took power, showing a course of struggle workers need here and around the world.”
The protests were initiated by the Communist League and backed by a range of sponsors. In London these included the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union, Papua Militant International, Colectivo Ají, Congreso de los Pueblos, Agenda Internacional de Paz — Londres, Nuevos Horizontes en el Reino Unido, and the Colectivo de teatro Macondo.
In Manchester they included Salford and Wigan Trades Councils; Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!; Paul Kelly of the National Union of Mineworkers; Brian Oreggio and Hugo Wils, members of Community Union at Pilgrim’s Pride U.K. meat works; and Sue Piper, a prominent local Cuba solidarity activist. Flyers promoting the actions were circulated by branches of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign in the two cities.
Serogo Tabuni from the Papua Militant International spoke at the London action. “West Papua is still a colony under the Indonesian regime,” he said. “Over half a million have been slaughtered by the colonial powers. We extend our solidarity to the brothers and sisters in Cuba who bring solidarity to peoples and the working class around the world.”
“The U.S. government is engaged in a slander campaign,” Silberman pointed out, “against Cuban medical volunteers fighting coronavirus in over 40 countries, calling them slaves and accusing the Cuban government of people trafficking.”
Dozens of passersby stopped to pick up leaflets and talk with the demonstrators. Among them, Angel Fernández, a cleaner originally from Santa Clara, Cuba, asked to speak to thank protesters for their solidarity.
A few other cleaners also joined the protest, including Alberto Durango of the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union. He spoke, offering solidarity with the Cuban people’s refusal to submit to Washington’s demands and reporting that his union had recently picketed the offices of Facebook in London, forcing bosses to retract job cuts they had implemented.
Part of an interview about the protest that Silberman gave to Colombian journalist Dawits Buitrago was run on TV in Ecuador.
Colectivo de teatro Macondo performed a short sketch at the event.
“In an affront to Venezuela’s sovereignty, the Bank of England refuses to hand over $1 billion worth of gold owned by the Venezuelan government,” Pete Clifford, organizer of the protest in Manchester, told participants. “This is aimed, among other things, at Venezuela’s relations with revolutionary Cuba, including its supply of oil to Cuba.” Clifford is a leader of the Communist League, a rail worker and member of the RMT union.
Bob Shepherd spoke for Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! He pointed to the class difference in the response of the governments of the U.K. and Cuba to the pandemic. He told participants, “Cuba has suffered 127 COVID-19 deaths.” On that basis, he said, “proportionately, the U.K. should have had fewer than 800 deaths, but it has had 45,000.”
After cops forced protesters to end their action early, Clifford sent letters to the Greater Manchester Police and the city’s mayor, Andrew Burnham, urging them to condemn the cops’ attack on freedom of assembly and “assure others of their right to organize such actions” in the future.
“This was blatant political policing,” said Paul Kelly, a former miner, member of the National Union of Mineworkers and another sponsor of the protest.