Over 200 join Vigil for Miami 5 in London

Campaign News | Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Warm messages defy torrential rain

Over 200 people defied pouring London rain to rally for the Miami Five outside the US embassy on the evening of Tuesday 17 September at a vigil organised by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) in Britain.

Ben Davis, the International Secretary of the United Steel Workers union in the US and Canada, was visiting Britain and spoke at the Vigil pledging the continued support of his union for justice for the Five.

He thanked British trade unionists and members of CSC for visiting his union’s women’s conference where they leafleted and spoke to delegates about the Five, receiving a warm response as people heard the truth that is blanketed out by the US media.

He was one of 25 speakers including Yudith Camps Alejo and Yamil Eduardo Martinez, who are from ICAP and the SNTAP union in Havana and are half way through a two-week visit to Britain on a solidarity tour organised by the CSC. They spoke to a rousing reception from a sea of candles and yellow ribbons, which have become the symbol for the campaign.

Other speakers included union leaders Tony Woodley (Unite), Dave Prentis (Unison), Bob Crow (RMT), Mick Whelan (Aslef), Paul Novak (Assistant General Secretary of the TUC), Manuel Cortes (TSSA) and many more [a fuller report will appear in the next issue of the CubaSí magazine].

Jeremy Corbyn MP, Baroness Angela Smith, Tessa Murphy from Amnesty International, actor Andy de la Tour, writer Victoria Brittain and other cultural figures demonstrated the breadth of support across British society for the campaign.

Unite’s Tony Woodley, a leading campaigner in Britain for the Five, said, “Fifteen years is enough! My union, the largest in Britain, remains absolutely committed to the Miami Five campaign and we are working with colleagues in the US to raise the issue there. I am optimistic - the campaign to free the five is growing.”

Referring to the path-breaking Amnesty International report into this miscarriage of justice, Tessa Murphy promised that the international human rights campaign would continue its backing for justice in this case.

Jeremy Corbyn MP contrasted the social policies of Cuba with those of the US and said, “We are here to demand freedom for all the Five now, for the end of the illegal blockade and respect for Cuba as an independent country with the right to determine its own future.”

Max Hyde, vice-president of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), pledged her union’s strong, ongoing support. Referring to the welcome release and return to Cuba earlier this year of Rene Gonzalez - one of the Five - she said:

“I’m a teacher and I have a message for President Obama. One out of five is not good enough. Two out of five is a poor target. What we want, and what you can achieve now, is five out of five. Freedom for all the Five!”

Cuban residents in Britain were present at the vigil. Their representative, Miriam Pallacios, made an emotional appeal emphasising the plight of the Five’s wives and families, and assuring them of the support of Cubans living in the UK.

CSC director Rob Miller compered the event and says: “The US embassy was confronted with a sea of people with yellow ribbons demanding justice for the Miami 5.

“The campaign is growing and next year - on 7 and 8 March - we will be hosting a major International Commission on the Miami 5 at the prestigious Law Society in London, with high profile guests from Cuba and representatives of the struggle to free the Five from across the globe.

”We invite every supporter of the Five to attend.”

Dave Prentis, general secretary of public sector union Unison, also underlined the significance of the Commission, which his union is sponsoring.

Rene Gonzalez, who intends to be at the Commission, sent a special message to the Vigil:

“It was a surprise to see just how fast and how massive the support from England came to us right from the beginning, and from then onwards all we have received from you is lots of love and lots of support.

“We continue to count on you and we express to you our gratitude. We are looking forward to visiting you one day personally. Above all, I hope that one day, we will make that visit together with all the five of us.”

The Vigil ended with musicians Rebecca Thorn and Ronnie Paris leading the crowd in a rendition of “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” - a song which now has a new meaning and will from hereon be associated with the international campaign to free the Five.

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