On Thursday, September 6, the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity will arrive in New York City on its voyage across the United States calling for an end to the failed drug war that has left more than 60,000 dead in Mexico in the last five years.
Poet and movement leader Javier Sicilia and other people from Mexico who have lost loved ones in the drug war have joined with Americans impacted by the drug war to travel more than 6,000 miles together through more than 25 cities -- including Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Houston, Atlanta, and Chicago -- before arriving in Washington, D.C., on September 10.
Several New York-based organizations, including the Drug Policy Alliance, YoSoy132NY, New Sanctuary Movement-NY, CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies, Make the Road New York, Occupy Wall Street, Women on the Rise Telling Her Story, VOCAL-NY and others will welcome the caravan when it arrives on Thursday by holding a candlelight vigil to commemorate drug war victims in both countries.
On Friday, these organizations will join the caravan for a press conference on the steps of City Hall to draw attention to the devastating effects of the drug war on both sides of the border. Immediately following the press conference, the caravan will demonstrate in front HSBC Bank, which has laundered drug money for violent criminal organizations responsible for thousands of murders in Mexico.
During its visit, the caravan and its local partners will condemn racially disparate drug law enforcement and the role of major financial institutions in laundering drug money. The caravan will highlight the pain and suffering caused by the drug war on both sides of the border -- which in New York includes 50,000 marijuana possession arrests just last year. The caravan will also highlight the tens of thousands of people that die every year from preventable drug overdose, which is now the number one cause of accidental death in New York and in the United States for people between the ages of 35-54.
"The drug war is destroying families on both sides of the border. The heads of major financial institutions on Wall Street have been complicit in laundering billions of dollars for drug traffickers that have murdered thousands of innocent people in Mexico. Yet the heads of these banks continue to walk freely while thousands of young black and Latino New Yorkers are arrested and incarcerated every year for nothing more than possessing a small amount of marijuana," said Javier Sicilia, the poet-turned-activist and caravan leader who galvanized the movement to end the drug war in Mexico after his son, Juan Francisco, was killed last year. "The caravan is not only calling for accountability for banks that launder drug money, but also for alternatives to prohibition that would eliminate illicit drug money at its source," Sicilia continued.
Schedule of Events:
Thursday, Sept 6
• 7 p.m.: Vigil & March for Victims of the War on Drugs, Riverside Church -- The vigil will start at Riverside Church (490 Riverside Drive, Manhattan), where victims from both the Mexican and American drug war will share their stories, followed by a march to St. Cecelia Church.
Friday, September 7
•10:45 a.m.: Press Conference, Steps of City Hall, 260 Broadway, New York, NY
• Noon: Demonstration at HSBC Bank (265 Broadway) immediately following press conference. After the HSBC action, the caravan will march to Zuccotti Park.
• 6:30 p.m.: Film Screening & Discussion: The House I Live In, The Graduate Center, CUNY, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY
"The prohibitionist strategies mandated by the U.S. government for the past 40 years have wreaked havoc in Mexico, Colombia, Central America and the Caribbean, while utterly failing to reduce drug use or supply," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Meanwhile, New York has suffered some of the worst excesses of the domestic drug war, especially the hundreds of thousands of people -- overwhelming black and Latino young men -- who have been unlawfully arrested for nothing more than marijuana possession despite its decriminalization more than 30 years ago. The long term alternative for both our countries ultimately lies in embracing different forms of legal regulation and decriminalization of drugs."
"This Caravan represents a struggle against any form of violence and in favor of the victims of the drug war on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border, where international migrants and communities of color are among the people most vulnerable and impacted," said the YoSoy132NY local assembly in a statement. "We emphasize that this violence affects us all. We welcome the Caravan to New York City and invite everyone interested in a peaceful and democratic Mexico to participate in a serious dialogue to seek alternatives to prohibition in order to end the trafficking of drugs and weapons."
"We support the Caravan for Peace which strives to raise awareness of the tragic consequences of the 'war on drugs,'" said Ravi Ragbir of the New Sanctuary Coalition. "These efforts will help the U.S. recognize the role that economic disparity and racism plays in these disastrous policies that have destroyed so many lives in both countries, and move us a step closer towards justice."
Bringing together people affected by the drug war from both countries, the Caravan for Peace is traveling across the United States to expose the root causes of the extreme violence in Mexico. The caravan also seeks to raise awareness about the effects of the drug war on communities in the U.S. -- principally black, Latino and immigrant communities -- and to inspire U.S. civil society to demand new policies that will foster peace, justice and human dignity on both sides of the border.
More specifically, the caravan calls for:
•The exploration of alternatives to drug prohibition, including diverse forms of drug regulation and decriminalization;
• A halt to the illegal smuggling of weapons across the border to Mexico, which can be achieved without infringing on U.S. constitutional rights;
• Concrete steps to combat money laundering, including holding financial institutions accountable;
• The immediate suspension of U.S. assistance to Mexico's armed forces, and a reorientation of U.S. aid to Mexico to focus on human security and human rights; and
• An end to the militarization of the border and the criminalization of immigrants, and the adoption of policies that protect the dignity of every human being.
At each stop on its route, the caravan has been embraced by local communities. The caravan will officially conclude on September 12 by calling for an International Day of Action for Peace in Mexico.