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South Florida anti-war group protests drones and repression

By Cassia Laham |
July 17, 2013
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Florida rally in support of Whistleblowers.
Florida rally in support of Whistleblowers. (Fight Back! News/Staff)
July 13  vigil in solidarity with victims of U.S. drone strikes.
July 13 vigil in solidarity with victims of U.S. drone strikes.

Fort Lauderdale, FL - Despite a flood advisory and severe weather warnings, over 15 people gathered outside the U.S. Federal Building in downtown on July 13 for a vigil in solidarity with those who have fallen victim to U.S. drone strikes abroad. The vigil served as the conclusion to an Anti-Drone Week of Action organized by the anti-war group People's Opposition to War, Imperialism, and Racism (POWIR).

Dressed in ponchos, activists stood with umbrellas in one hand and signs in the other, as different members of the South Florida anti-war community spoke out against U.S. drone policies. Alex Rosales, an organizer with South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice, spoke in opposition to the placement of drones on the border to be used against immigrants.

"Not only are drones tearing people and families apart in countries throughout the world, drones are also being flown at our borders to target immigrants," Rosales said. "We must come together to tell Obama that we will not stand for military expansionism abroad or the militarization of our borders."

After various speeches against drone policies, names of drone victims from Pakistan and Yemen were read off followed by a moment of silence. Activists stood in silence with lit candles that flickered under the constant drizzle.

The vigil came one day after POWIR's Rally in Solidarity with Whistleblowers. On July 12, about 25 people gathered in downtown Fort Lauderdale to show support for Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and other whistleblowers who have come forward to reveal sinister U.S. policies. Snowden is being targeted by the U.S. government for coming forward and exposing the government's electronic monitoring of all Americans.

Pamela Maldonado, a lead organizer for POWIR, spoke to the group, explaining the importance of standing up for those being criminalized by the U.S. government.

"Today, we stand for all those being repressed by Obama and the government, including anti-war activists and community organizers," Maldonado said. "There is a reason why whistleblowers and activists are being targeted. And that is because we dare to speak the truth to the public and we dare to challenge their system."

The crowd shouted chants against the surveillance state and against government repression. They held signs that read: "Support whistleblowers," "Snowden is a hero," and "Hey NSA, can you hear me now?" Cars driving along the busy streets honked loudly in support and pedestrians joined the crowd.

The rally ended when Sandy Davies, of Progressive Democrats of America, read Snowden's statement from Moscow to the crowd. "Snowden risked his life and freedom to expose the truth to the American public, so now it's our turn to show our support for him by speaking out," she said.

POWIR's week of action was co-sponsored by various anti-war groups, including Veterans for Peace, the Green Party, Occupy Miami and Progressive Democrats of America. The week was meant to act as a catalyst to help revive the anti-war movement in Florida.

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