US Cuba solidarity activists arrested after trying to meet with Senator Bob Menendez, Sanctioner-in-Chief

Menendez spearheads policies that bring death and destruction to the people of Cuba and Venezuela. Activists were arrested for peacefully demanding he lift these policies

June 22, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Cuba solidarity activists are arrested inside Senator Bob Menendez's office (Photo: Bill Hackwell)

Several activists with the National Network on Cuba, CODEPINK, and IFCO/Pastors for Peace were arrested on June 22 after trying to have a meeting with New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez in his office in Washington, DC. Activists were attempting to meet with Menendez to urge him to lift the US blockade against Cuba and take Cuba off the US’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list.

Menendez is a hardliner against socialist countries such as Cuba and Venezuela, and spearheads some of the most brutal sanctions efforts against these countries. He has come down hard on lawmakers from his own party for attempting to lift some sanctions. “Removing U.S. sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela will only betray our democratic values and further empower criminal dictators,” he stated in May in response to progressives urging Biden to ease the devastating measures that harm the people of these countries, resulting in mass migration.

Calla Walsh, co-chair of the NNOC, said as she was forced out of Menendez’s office in handcuffs, “[Menendez’s staff] didn’t want to have a conversation with us about how Menendez’s policy is killing the Cuban people. We need to end the blockade, take Cuba off the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, end US terrorism against Cuba!”

“I think it’s funny that we are always told Cuba’s a repressive dictatorship, a police state, when we are getting arrested just for trying to have a conversation,” Walsh said as she was being escorted by police officers onto an elevator.

Gail Walker, longtime Cuba solidarity activist and executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, was also arrested. According to Walker, once activists arrived at Menendez’s office, he was out but they were told by a staffer that he would be coming back. They were later told by the chief of staff that they needed to leave and that they would be arrested. “We wanted to talk to [Menendez] about [his] policy toward Cuba, his policy of keeping Cuba unjustly on the State Sponsors of Terrorism [list],” she said as she was hustled through hallways and into the elevator beside Menendez’s office.

The NNOC, IFCO, and CODEPINK are mobilizing a march, alongside other solidarity and anti-war organizations, in Washington DC this Sunday June 25 to take Cuba off of the US State Sponsors of Terrorism list, an extreme designation which Menendez supports.