By José de la Isla
(Editor’s Note: Journalist José de la Isla is traveling with the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity as they conclude a 27-city journey to the United States in Washington, D.C. after starting out from Mexico to persuade U.S. Drug War policy change. This is the second installment in a series of posts about the Caravan.)
NEW YORK — The most dramatic actions to date took place in downtown Manhattan yesterday in the month-long Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity headed by writer Javier Sicilia. The group is on a 27-city journey through the United States, coming from Mexico, to call attention to U.S. responsibilities for the War on Drugs. It is reported that over 200 organizations around the country now support the Caravan for Peace.
Yet, though Sicilia’s intentions are drawing widespread praise, his presence makes some city officials uncomfortable. At a mid-morning press conference, Scilia reported that Mayor Michael Bloomberg was not rejecting an interview with him, just not having it now. It was not yes, not no, as Sicilia said to the dozens of reporters and cameras.
Then, the delegation turned into a march, going across the street to HSBC Bank at 265 Broadway.
Overflowing the entrance to the bank and covering most of the sidewalk, the demonstrators were approached by a tall security man in a dark suit who told Sicilia and his aides they could not enter further into the lobby. But Sicilia pressed the security guard to see a bank official, explaining he wanted them to launder some money. He then pulled out some red-stained play money.
Sicilia claimed the bank was allegedly responsible for laundering $7 billion in drug money, according to recent government allegations of HSBC complicity in such acts.
Rebuffed, Sicilia threw the play money into the air. He smiled wryly and said they wouldn’t take it but they would accept the other.
The sidewalk, full of Caravan members and onlookers, was then escorted by stoic policemen and women. The caravan’s bugler blew the horn and the demonstrators, carrying signs either with declarations like “End the Drug War” or showcasing pictures of missing family and loved ones, dead or disappeared due to the sinister actions of the Mexican military, police or organized crime since the beginning of the drug war, turned and marched to their next target — Wall Street.
Lunch crowds from the buildings in the Financial District spilled into the street. Arturo Malivo Conway, 51, from Mexico City was near the front of the line when the bugle sounded. He wore a tree costume to symbolize a family is like a tree with branches and extensions.
“Violence is like an axe to a tree,” he said, referring to his slain brother, Rafael. Malivo confessed to having had “hate in my heart” and pleaded, “‘Lord let me be free.’” He now was seeking simple justice and dignity by participating in the Caravan.
When the march arrived at 26 Wall Street, site of an iconic statue of George Washington, Caravan members assembled by the statue’s pedestal. Financial district workers crowded the sidewalks, spilling into the street, to see the demonstration.
A uniformed security man waved his arms wildly, yelling “You can’t do that,” and disappeared inside the building. When he returned, he wore his Smokie hat, which he had evidently left behind in his hurry to coax the demonstrators away from the statue.
Sicilia told the crowd of Wall Street onlookers that ending the drug war is also about saving democracy.
A yell goes up: “Si Washington viviera, con nosotros estuviera!” (If Washington was alive, he would stand with us.)
After a few minutes, the marchers continued down Wall Street towards their next destination — Zuccotti Park, the place that gave birth to the Occupy Movement.
Next: The Caravana goes to Baltimore from New York City.
Jose de la Isla is a journalist, book author and weekly opinion writer for Hispanic Link News Service.