Participants of the People’s Summit for Democracy protest the exclusion of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela from the Summit of the Americas. Photo: Kamikia Kisedje
The organizers of the People’s Summit for Democracy were determined to close out the summit with a lasting impression on the last day, June 10.
The People’s Summit was organized in opposition to the Summit of the Americas that was organized by the US-influenced Organization of American States (OAS) and hosted by the US in Los Angeles. The Summit of the Americas has historically been a place for the US to dictate a political agenda to the Latin American countries.
The Summit of the Americas has been plagued by difficulties since May 10, when Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) announced that he would boycott the Summit in protest against the exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua from the Summit. Following AMLO’s boycott, a host of Latin American leaders announced their own boycotts of the Summit.
On the morning of June 10, volunteers and organizers of the People’s Summit were determined to bring the spirit of the excluded countries right up to the doorstep of the Summit of the Americas.
Dozens of volunteers rose hours earlier than the People’s Summit start time of 11:30 am to gather in front of the Los Angeles Convention Center, where the US was hosting the Summit of the Americas.
Activists from the many convening organizations of the People’s Summit, such as Union de Vecinos, ANSWER Coalition, and People’s Forum, waved the flags of the three excluded countries directly outside the metal fences surrounding the Los Angeles Convention Center. The Summit of the Americas has been completely fenced off from the people of the US, effectively excluding the people from the discussions happening inside of the LA Convention Center.
“Working class and poor people in the United States have hundred times more in common with the people of Cuba and their government, a hundred times more in common with Venezuela and its government, than we do with the Wall Street bankers and capitalists who pretend to speak in our name,” said Brian Becker, executive director of the ANSWER Coalition, at the morning rally.
Volunteers went back to the People’s Summit shortly after, held at the Los Angeles Trade Technical College campus. They had set the stage for the mobilization of volunteers, guests, and participants of the People’s Summit that was scheduled for that day at 5 pm.
As the day came to a close, participants heard special messages at the last panel from the Presidents of Cuba and Venezuela, as well as former Bolivian President Evo Morales.
“The world is much bigger than the dominance and arrogance of Washington,” said President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, calling the People’s Summit “the true Summit of Los Angeles.”
After the last panel, People’s Summit organizers read their final statement, a culmination of the discussions and dialogue that occurred at the Summit between working and poor people across the Americas.
“Humanity has no other choice but to fight,” read an organizer from Union de Vecinos. “We will be in the streets, in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, constantly building and organizing. Carrying out the thousands of small tasks and big struggles that together bring us closer to victory. Our planet needs us. Our people need us. We will win!”
It is on this note that all those present at the People’s Summit began to mobilize for a march of hundreds to the Summit of the Americas. Marchers lined up in formation on the adjacent street, carrying representations of diverse people’s struggles from across the continent. Signs read “end white supremacy”, “end mass incarceration”, “workers make the world run”, and “housing for all”. Organizations across Los Angeles, the US, and the Americas marched with their banners, led by a truck carrying a group of speakers, chant leaders, and People’s Summit organizers.
Marchers heard from a host of speakers, including a young immigrant rights organizer from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), whose aunt went missing when she migrated across the Mexico-US border.
“[Migrants] are turned away from seeking asylum, and they’re forced across hostile terrain to reach American land. My aunt fell victim to that system.”
Speakers continued to expand upon the ideas of a new world that had been discussed and debated within the People’s Summit. Anti-imperialist activist Gloria la Riva addressed the crowd once marchers arrived at the LA Convention Center.
“This building should be housing everyone who lives in LA!” La Riva said, pointing to one of the tall glass buildings surrounding the Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles. Los Angeles has one of the largest per capita homeless populations in the world.
“We have a crisis here. The only way to solve everything that we’re facing…it requires revolution. It requires a system where everything we build is owned and shared by us, and where the planning is ecological.”