Meredith Aby

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Meredith Aby


Meredith Aby-Keirstead was, in 2001, a member , Anti-War Committee and Women Against Military Madness.[1]

Partner of Anne Keirstead.

CAN Founding conference

Around one hundred people gathered in Chicago April 7 and 8, 2001, for a historic meeting of Colombia solidarity activists from across the U.S. The Colombia Action Network (C.A.N.) is the first national network to bring together a true diversity of people to oppose U.S. intervention in Colombia and to support the self-determination of Colombian people struggling for peace with social and economic justice.

Colombians and people from the U.S., young and old, men and women, revolutionaries and pacifists, union members and students, all united around a common goal of building what one Chicago-based activist called "a tent that's big enough for all those who oppose U.S. intervention in Colombia."

People came to Chicago from as far away as Portland, Oregon, and Burlington, Vermont. A van-full of activists drove from Morristown, New Jersey. Other activists came from Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Duluth, Minneapolis, all over Illinois, and from the small town of Steven's Point, Wisconsin.

Some participants shared frustrations over having been excluded from past coalition efforts. "I support all Colombians fighting for progressive change, including the guerrillas. That's not a popular point of view in the U.S., and many human rights groups spend half their time adding to State Department propaganda against the F.A.R.C. and other guerrilla groups'" said Meredith Aby. "I think it's time for U.S. activists to focus on opposing the role of the U.S. government in Colombia, and let Colombians decide the future of their own country."

The conference opened with Heather Truskowski, of Chicago's Colombia Solidarity Committee, denouncing U.S. aid to Colombia's brutal military and paramilitary forces. She said, "We need to come together and build a movement that can stop U.S.-sponsored attacks on the Colombian people." C.A.N. participants and Chicago-area activists led workshops on topics such as Organizing 101; Human Rights and the Social Movement in Colombia; and Eyewitness Colombia - A Report from the Demilitarized Zone.[2]

2004 delegation to Colombia

Meredith Aby-Keirstead writing August 9, 2004 on her trip to Colombia. For two weeks in July, a solidarity delegation of the Colombia Action Network (CAN) traveled in Colombia, meeting with leading trade unionists, peasant leaders and other participants in that country’s powerful movement for justice and liberation.

The CAN delegation was made up of anti-war and student activists from Illinois, Minnesota and Connecticut. The delegation investigated the impact of U.S. military aid through Plan Colombia and extended solidarity to the struggle of the Colombian people against U.S. imperialism.

The U.S. has sent the Colombian government nearly $3 billion in military aid, which funds both the military and paramilitary war on trade unionists, human rights workers, student leaders and campesinos (peasants). This aid includes military advisors, weapons, helicopters and fumigation chemicals.

The CAN delegation met with representatives from the unions leading the labor movement in Colombia, including the CUT, Colombia's largest labor federation; USO, the oil workers’ union; the Bogotá teachers' union and SINALTRAINAL, the beverage workers’ union which has been fighting at Coca-Cola plants.

Another union fighting for the right to organize is SINALTRAINAL, the beverage workers union. Since 2002, the Colombia Action Network has been organizing in solidarity with this union. Last summer the CAN joined the international campaign for a boycott of all Coca-Cola products for their union-busting tactics, including Coca-Cola’s support of right-wing paramilitary death squads. Vice-president William Mendoza informed the delegation that the movement in the U.S. has helped. He said, "We’ve felt international solidarity and the pressure has decreased the threats to us. The company has had to give some means of security to us because of the international pressure. It’s because of this that we can continue our struggle."

Matt Muchowski, a student activist from DePaul University who is organizing the effort to kick Coke off his campus, explained, "The paramilitaries are open in their support of the multi-national corporations and there’s been even a magazine article which described a meeting between the paramilitaries and Coca-Cola. I take this to be further proof that corporations such as Coca-Cola work against democracy and human rights. I will take this information and the contacts I’ve made here with SINALTRAINAL back to Chicago to continue to fight for workplace and student democracy."

While traveling in the northern Colombian states of Antioquia and Arauca, members of the delegation talked with campesinos about how the fumigation chemicals that are purchased with U.S. military aid kill legal crops in along with coca.

Thistle Parker-Hartog from the Anti-War Committee in Minneapolis, Minnesota explained, "It’s important for people in the U.S. to understand the conditions Colombian campesinos face every day. Most of these farmers have no connection to the armed struggle and are merely trying to work enough to support their families and create a stronger community. The U.S.-funded Colombian military and paramilitary bring terror and intimidation into their streets and into their very homes. I hope that North Americans will be moved by the poignant stories from our delegation to take political action to stop the Plan Colombia policies which are impacting these campesinos."[3]

Venezuela Solidarity Network

Venezuela Solidarity Network was founded in Washington DC, March 4-6 2006, when over 500 students, trade unionists and solidarity activists gathered , for the National Venezuela Solidarity Conference. They founded the Venezuela Solidarity Network and united the forces struggling against U.S. intervention in Venezuela. The conference was a huge success. Attendees gathered in support of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, lead by President Hugo Chavez.

Conference speakers included Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez Herrera and Venezuelan lawyer Jose Perierra, involved in the extradition case of the anti-Cuban terrorist Posada. Evening performances of poetry and music from Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia were popular.

The conference workshops were diverse: “What are the Bolivarian Circles and how to form one in your area,” with Jorge Marin, Coordinator of Bolivarian Circle of Boston; “Plan Colombia and its effects on Venezuela and the region,” with Meredith Aby and Tom Burke of the Colombia Action Network, Gerardo Cajamarca of the SINALTRAINAL union in Colombia and Berta Ceci of International Action Center.

There was also a workshop on “Solidarity actions in high schools and colleges,” with Kati Ketz and Eric Gardener of the Socialist Unity League, a student group at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and Sonja Swanson of the Bolivarian Youth in Miami. Others workshops were held on Haiti, the Venezuelan cooperative movement, and the Venezuelan constitution.

Pieter Wessels from Socialist Unity League in Asheville, North Carolina commented, “It’s great to see so many people from so many different groups come here and put aside their ideological differences, however important those differences may be, in order to stand here this weekend, right here in D.C., the political heart of imperialism, to say that we are with Venezuela. We are with Chavez. We are against U.S. intervention in Venezuela on the part of capitalists’ interests. That hurts all of us, both here and in Venezuela. We uphold Venezuela’s right to self-determination and we won’t stand for any further interference in Venezuela’s affairs. This is what solidarity means. This is what it is all about.”[4]

Invading Klobuchar

January 2009, a group of about 40 protesters on Tuesday afternoon took over Senator Amy Klobuchar’s Minneapolis office, demanding that the Senator take a stand against the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza. After two hours, they got a meeting with Senator Klobuchar.

“We are not terrorists! And we are not extremists!” Randy Hammad, a Palestinian American said in a telephone interview with the Daily Planet. Hammad, a resident of Minnesota, was one of the protesters who waited for two hours in the office.

In their meeting, the protesters demanded that Senator Klobuchar and others “condemn Israel’s actions, support immediate ceasefire, stop U.S. financial/military support to Israel, end the blockade and allow humanitarian aid.”

Jordan Kushner, a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer and a longtime political activist was critical of the actions of the Israeli government and the complacency of American legislators, saying, “I don’t think people expected anything from Klobuchar. She is as much in the Israel lobby’s pocket as anyone.”

Meredith Aby, a spokesperson for the Anti-War Committee, like the other protesters, was critical of Klobuchar, “She needs to take a stand for human rights, and not be quiet… her current stance has been to be silent… she has refused to speak out against Israel.”

Hammad argued that Hamas is a democratically elected government in Northern Palestine, and has the same rights to defend and protect its families and children. He added, “as a human rights activist, I am against the killing of civilians on both sides.” He expressed concern that Palestinians in Gaza do not have food, electricity and very limited access to relief organizations.

Because people like him will be sending money to Gaza, Hammad said that he is confident that the FBI will be harassing him and others for “sending money to terrorists.” He asserted, “we are not terrorists nor are we extremists….we just want to protect our defenseless people.”[5]

ILPS

Meredith Aby was in Eindhoven, Netherlands Nov. 10-14 for the Second International Conference of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS). Organized around the theme, “Advance the people’s solidarity and struggle for liberation and democracy against imperialist plunder and war,” the conference drew more than 200 delegates and supporters from 30 countries in Asia, Europe and North America. U.S.-based organizations represented included the Colombia Action Network.

Activists at the ILPS conference discussed the deepening crisis of imperialism and growing global resistance, reviewed their actions over the past three years and planned for continued coordinated struggles.

The conference opened with a keynote speech by Professor Jose Maria Sison, the ILPS General Consultant, who focused his attacks on the United States and the war on Iraq. Sison said, “The U.S. has used 911 as the pretext for stepping up military production, supposedly for reviving the sick U.S. economy and waging a permanent ‘war on terror,’” and, “Since 911 the U.S. has perpetrated colossal acts of terrorism far more than what it accuses the Al Qaida of committing. What is the killing of 2800 people at the twin towers in New York in comparison to the more than 100,000 Iraqi people that the U.S. has massacred in the course of its invasion and occupation of Iraq, and to the millions more of people being brutalized, impoverished and made vulnerable to death and disease by the continuing U.S. military offensives that destroy private homes, communities and the social infrastructure? Let us not forget that the current barbarities of the U.S. have come on top of twelve years of sanctions that have killed 1.5 million Iraqis, including 750,000 children.”

Sison also encouraged the world to fight back against the U.S.’s push for global domination, “More than ever, the proletariat and peoples of the world must unite against U.S. imperialism as the number one exploiter and terrorist in the world and against all imperialism and all reaction…Armed revolution for national and social liberation is being carried out on a wide scale, in Iraq, Palestine, Turkey, Afghanistan, Nepal, India, Philippines, Colombia and other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It is the most important form of struggle because it directly responds to the question of political power…The forces and people in the Iraqi broad united front against imperialism contribute in a big way to the overall development of the anti-imperialist movement on a global scale. As the U.S. is bogged down for a long while in Iraq, the anti-imperialist struggles of the people can grow in strength and advance in so many other countries by taking advantage of the overextension and actual weakness of U.S. imperialism.”[6]

“Minnesotans For Peace”

A group of at least 18 Minnesotans are expected to set off July 21, 2010, for the “National Peace Conference” in Albany NY

Many of the Minnesotans traveling to Albany were involved earlier this year in repeated efforts in both Minnesota and in Washington DC requesting Minnesota Senators Klobuchar and Franken to explain their positions as well as contacts with other Minnesota congresspersons requesting they vote against the supplemental war funding and to seek withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan and Iraq .

FBI raids

The material that the FBI copied and returned comes from the homes of Twin Cities activists Jess Sundin, Steff Yorek, Mick Kelly, Meredith Aby, Anh Pham and Tracy Molm and the office of the Anti-War Committee. All of them are among the 23 anti-war and international solidarity activists summoned to appear in front of a Chicago grand jury headed by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, investigating ‘material support for terrorism.’[8]

Aby said she went to Palestine in 2002 and Colombia in 2004 and 2006 to meet with activists.[9]

"Minneapolis: Celebrate May Day - International Workers Day 2015"

Sunday 26 April 2015, "Minneapolis: Celebrate May Day - International Workers Day 2015" organized by Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack!. Location TBA.

Those indicating attendance on Wherevent included Katherine Elizabeth, Jessica Schwartz, Steph Ross Taylor, Christina Field, Doug Jadzia Sembla, Mary Padilla Cristobal Aldana, Alisha Olson, Kim DeFranco, Jess Sundin, Cassandra Hendricks, Cherrene Horazuk, Julia Russ, Zandra Dee , Loretta VanPelt, Tracy Molm, Hannan Ayoub, Khin Oo, Tracey Plk, Kim Smith, Hoda Isak, Alexandra Vagac, Laura Hoffman, Meredith Aby-Keirstead, Jessie Gavilanes, Amy Selvius, Penelope Mace, Beatriz Hernandez, Marisol Marquez, Laye Kwamina-Barry, Cory Eggert, Lion Ras, Kuntal Chatterjee, Andy Carhart, Sean Orr, Rahul Choudhury Boro, Andrew McNally, Cleveland Savage, Jesus Estrada-Perez, Julio Alberto Martinez, Fern Figueroa, Ryan A. Smith, Joshua Cromarty, Brad Sigal, Tim Nolan, Edward Hahn, Cody Gilbert, Timmy McDonough, Mick Kelly, Jigme Ugen, Manuel Berduc.[10]

Anti-Trump

About 15,000 people marched through the streets of downtown here, Jan. 31, 207 to protest Trump’s Muslim ban. The protest was organized by the Twin Cities-based Anti-War Committee.

Meredith Aby-Keirstead, a spokesperson from the Anti-War Committee stated, “We will not be silent as Trump promotes anti-Muslim bigotry. It is criminal for the U.S. to bomb and attack other countries and then turn away refugees when the U.S. has destroyed their homelands. It is outrageous for Trump to consider doing this while at the same time planning to expand the war in Iraq and Syria!”[11]

Protests on 1-year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration

Several hundred protesters marched through the streets of Minneapolis chanting “Refugees are welcome here,” on Jan. 20th 2018, the one-year anniversary of Trump taking office. The protest was organized by the Minnesota Anti-War Committee.

Meredith Aby-Keirstead, a member of the Anti-War Committee, kicked off the rally stating, “It is important to not let the fact that these countries [north Korea and Venezuela] are not predominantly Muslim to confuse us. North Korea and Venezuela are on the ban as window dressing in order to attempt to make Trump’s policy appear as less racist than before. This is very much indeed a Muslim ban and these countries were targeted because they are in the cross hairs of the U.S. military like Syria, Somalia and Iran. Iran, north Korea and Venezuela are all on the travel ban list in an effort to punish them for resisting U.S. imperialism.”

Leilah Abdennabi, a member of the Palestinian Youth Movement, spoke next about the role Trump has had in increasing tension in Palestine, saying “One thing we can do here in the U.S. is show solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners, such as Ahed Tamimi.

Rhea Smykalski, also of the Anti-War Committee, spoke about U.S. war threats against Korea, stating, “In the last few months, Trump has been ramping up the attacks on Korea. very turn the U.S. has increased hostility and tension on the peninsula.”

William Martinez of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee spoke in Spanish and defended his home nation of El Salvador, which the president referred to as a “shithole” the week before.

With US Bank Stadium looming in the background, Sam Martinez, from the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar and the Super Bowl Anti-racist and Anti-corporate Coalition, was the last rally speaker. He encouraged everyone to turn out to protest racism and police brutality on Feb. 4 at the Super Bowl.[12]

References

  1. Movement for Peace in Colombia Gains Momentum by Meredith Aby, Anti-War Committee and WAMM
  2. Fightback news, Colombia Action Network Founding Conference a Huge Success by Jess Sundin | May 1, 2001
  3. [FightBack! Solidarity Activists Stand with Colombia by Meredith Aby-Keirstead | August 9, 2004]
  4. Fightback News Conference Founds Venezuela Solidarity Network by Josh Sykes | March 10, 2006
  5. [https://www.tcdailyplanet.net/protesters-occupy-klobuchars-office/Daily Planet Protesters occupy Klobuchar’s office By Nekessa (TC Daily Planet) | January 2, 2009]
  6. [Activists from Around Globe Meet, Say No to Imperialism by Meredith Aby-Keirstead | January 1, 2005]
  7. [http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php/http:/bcnews.go.com/duboard.php?az=printer_friendly&forum=160&topic_id=39686&mesg_id=39686 “Minnesotans For Peace” to travel to National Conference This Week for Peace Posted by annm4peace on Tue Jul-20-10 11:47 PM]
  8. [http://www.fightbacknews.org/2011/11/2/fbi-copies-50000-plus-pages-materials-seized-raids-minneapolis-peace-and-international-sol FBNews, FBI copies 50,000-plus pages of materials seized in raids on Minneapolis peace and international solidarity activists – now they give back the originals Serious FBI violation of civil rightsBy staff | November 2, 2011]
  9. [http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/09/24/fbi-searches-homes-anti-war-activists-minneapolis-chicago-terrorism-case/Fox News FBI serves warrants on Minn. anti-war activists, Chicago addresses, looking for terrorist ties Published September 24, 2010]
  10. Wherevent "Minneapolis: Celebrate May Day - International Workers Day 2015"
  11. [1]
  12. FB Minnesota protests on 1-year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration By staff | January 21, 2018