Vancouver Liberation Cafe highlights global struggles for prisoner solidarity and liberation

On Sunday, 5 December, organizations and activists gathered in Vancouver, Canada, for a Liberation Cafe, organized by the International League of Peoples’ Struggle. The event marked the International Day of Solidarity for Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War, focusing on struggles for justice and liberation for the indigenous peoples of Turtle Island (North America), as well as in Palestine, Chile, India, the Philippines and elsewhere, and the imprisonment of political prisoners like Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab by the United States.

The event brought together groups including Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Palestinian Youth Movement, Canada Palestine Association, Canada Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights, Friends of the Filipino People in Struggle, BAYAN Canada, Anakbayan BC, East Indian Defence Committee and the Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front, all of which are member organizations of ILPS. Organizations set up tables with materials, information, buttons, T-shirts and other campaign promotions, while speakers and cultural performers drew attention to international liberation movements and collective struggles.

The event was chaired by Dalya al-Masri of the Palestinian Youth Movement and Natalie Knight of Friends of Filipino People in Struggle, who also showed a historical video of Kwame Ture emphasizing that the struggle against Zionism is part of the fight against imperialism.

Khaled Barakat, Palestinian writer, spoke about the recent conferences in Madrid, Sao Paulo and Beirut, where the Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement (Masar Badil) was officially founded. He discussed the creation of this popular movement on the 30th anniversary of the Madrid conference that marked the beginning of the so-called “peace process” in 1991, intended to liquidate the Palestinian national liberation movement. Instead, the movement is working to mobilize Palestinian, Arab and international forces to implement the return of Palestinian refugees to Palestine and the liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea. He highlighted the internationalist nature of the Palestinian cause, emphasizing that the struggle confronts not only Israel, but also the Zionist movement, Arab reactionary regimes, and imperialist powers like the United States and Canada. He further emphasized the importance of unified struggle to confront common enemies and defeat oppression, racism, exploitation and colonialism.

He spoke about Palestinian political prisoners and their role in leading the Palestinian resistance, not only at present, when over 4,650 Palestinians are jailed by the Israeli occupation, but throughout the history of the Palestinian struggle, and drew attention to the cases of prominent Palestinian prisoners like Ahmad Sa’adat, Walid Daqqa, Khitam Saafin and Marwan Barghouthi. He also saluted Georges Abdallah, jailed for 37 years in French prisons as a Lebanese Communist struggler for Palestine.

Lakhbir Khunkhun of the East Indian Defence Committee spoke about the victory of the farmers’ struggle in India, speaking about the lengthy movement that was able to extract concessions from the Modi regime through intense organizing and resistance. He praised the resistance taking place throughout India to defend peoples’ rights and the working class, and spoke about political prisoners like Varavara Rao and G.N. Saibaba continuing to struggle for justice and liberation.

Pan-Latin American band, Aymuray, performed songs of liberation, saluting the struggles of indigenous peoples from the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples to the Mapuche in Chile. The performances captivated and moved the attendees.

Following the cultural performance, Herb Varley spoke about Indigenous struggles on Turtle Island, highlighting the criminalization that has targeted Indigenous nations since colonization. He emphasized that the passing on of indigenous names, cultures and identities was itself a criminalized activity and an act of resistance practiced by generations of families, communities and nations, who refused to give up their identity, belief and land despite colonialism and genocide. He linked this ongoing history to the current practices of the Vancouver Police Department and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in targeting Indigenous communities and peoples for criminalization and incarceration.

Nino Pagliccia of the Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front spoke about the case of Alex Saab, a Venezuelan diplomat currently imprisoned in the United States in complete disregard of his diplomatic status after he was essentially kidnapped from Cape Verde. The imprisonment of Alex Saab is part and parcel of the attack on Venezuela and the Bolivarian project by the United States, including the use of dangerous and indeed, potentially deadly, economic coercive measures and sanctions, in which Canada is fully complicit. Participants in the event urged the immediate liberation of Alex Saab.

Finally, BAYAN Canada and Canada Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights presented on the situation of hundreds of political prisoners in the Philippines, including the severe escalation in the targeting and red-tagging of activists, land defenders, lawyers and organizers by the Duterte regime. Chris Sorio of BAYAN Canada spoke about his own experience of torture and political imprisonment under the Marcos regime, slamming the return of the Marcos family to the political scene in the Philippines.

The event concluded with a group photo where all present shared their common slogans of justice, liberation and freedom from Zionism, colonialism, imperialism and exploitation in all forms.