Canadian Contingent of Pastor's for Peace Caravan to Cuba Stopped at Peace Arch
by C. L. Cook
Pacific Free Press
Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia participants in the annual caravan taking goods to Cuba via the United States and Mexico has been refused entry at the U.S. border crossing at Blaine, Washington.
Pastor's for Peace Cuba Caravan Supporters March to Peace Arch at White Rock-Blaine Wash., July 3, 2011
Photo: Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba
Reporting from the scene, journalist and publisher of the Victoria Street Newz, Janine Bandcroft, a past Caravanista herself, says one van full primarily of school supplies and other humanitarian aid was turned back at the border. Authorities claimed the aid comprised commercial goods, and therefore must pass through the commercial crossing.
There are seven Caravanistas crossing with the aid, six Canadians and one German national, identified only as 'Sabine.' The Canadian Caravanistas, along with approximately forty supporters, are at this hour demonstrating, and readying to move to the commercial portal for a second crossing attempt.
UPDATE: The Caravan attempt at the "truck crossing" in Langley has too been turned back. The border patrol informed the Caravanistas they would be required to post a bond for an undetermined amount before crossing would be allowed.
Driver, Rick Fellows informs previous bond funds posted at the border had not been returned to the Pastor's. Organizers say they will not post bond, until hearing from the New York Pastor's for Peace headquarters.
Street Newz publisher, Janine Bandcroft is at the border with the Caravan, and said the group would demonstrate as close to the border as possible, hoping authorities will reconsider barring passage. She says it has been several years since such tactics were seen, and the Caravanistas were unprepared.
UPDATE II: A stand-off at the Blaine crossing between border authorities and members of the Pastor's for Peace Caravan continues at this hour. Pastor's lawyers have contacted American authorities and requested they cite the laws allowing they demand bond payment for entrance. Meanwhile activists from both sides of the border have traveled to Blaine to show support. Janine Bandcroft reports from the scene, the van load of aid has been X-Rayed.
The latest message from authorities as reported by Tamara Hansen of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) is: The van will be processed, and the authorities assure the Pastor's for Peace Caravan to Cuba is NOT "blockaded" entry to the United States.
UPDATE III: Janine Bandcroft reports the van load of aid destined for Cuba was allowed passage after a three hour delay at 19:30 pdt, 7:30pm local time in Blaine, Washington.
Andrew Barry represents the Vancouver contingent of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba, (VCSC) one of the organizers of this the 22nd occasion of the annual event. Barry says the "commercial goods" declaration by border authorities is a tactic employed at an Ontario crossing attempt several years ago. They presume this is to shift the crossing to a less public area.
Rick Fellows, a driver who has participating since the beginning of the Caravanista movement expressed indignation, saying;
"This should be international news, that school supplies were prevented from crossing the Canada-U.S. border."
This year, VCSC invited New Yorker, Alicia Jrapko, Coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 to participate. The "Five" are long-time prisoners held in the United States on charges of espionage - charges contested by the Cuban government and many human rights organizations.
This is the first year the Cuba Caravan has commenced without founder, the Reverend Lucius Walker. Walker died last year.
Further info. will be made available as it breaks.
Participating Vancouver organizations:
Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) is an organization fighting in defense of Cuba. We work to build solidarity and support for Cuba within Canada. VCSC is a member of the cross-Canada Cuba group "the Canadian Network on Cuba". To do this, we organize frequent educational events, cultural events, mobilizations and actions in support of Cuba's sovereignty against Imperialist attack and in defence of the gains of the Cuban revolution. We also run 3 petition campaigns:
-1- Against the US Blockade on Cuba
-2- To Free the Cuban 5
-3- To Extradite Luis Posada Carrilles to Venezuela.
Through petitioning throughout the lower mainland and on campuses, we engage with thousands of people about Cuba and get support in defending Cuba against attacks. Through our work we bring Cuba to youth, students, women, marginalized communities and all working and oppressed people in Canada, as an example of a better world for us all. We welcome new members and encourage everyone to get involved with VCSC to build a larger, stronger Cuba solidarity movement in Canada!
For meeting times/locations and Upcoming Events please call 778 882 5223 or email firstname.lastname@example.org