Peace activists were arrested at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C. Thursday while trying to deliver food and medicine to members of the Embassy Protection Collective who are blockaded inside.
The collective is made up of peace activists from groups including CodePink, Popular Resistance, and others. They have lived at the embassy for weeks, at the invitation of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who remains in power despite a U.S.-backed coup attempt led by opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
.@ArielElyseGold of CODEPINK and the Embassy Protection Collective being loaded into a police van for simply trying to get food and medicine into the Embassy as the opposition mob blocked the entrance. #HandsOffVenezuela pic.twitter.com/dxSJnu5fPz
— CODEPINK (@codepink) May 2, 2019
The activists the embassy hope to prevent Secret Service and D.C. police from helping the opposition, including Guaidó-appointed ambassador Carlos Vecchio, from taking over the property, which is legally under Maduro's authority.
Everyday we are able to stay in the embassy is a victory. Despite pro-coup protestors and heavy state presence, we were able to stop Guaido’s ambassador from taking the embassy. @codepink @PopResistance #HandsOffVenezuela pic.twitter.com/EmNEVLBsOi
— ANSWER Coalition (@answercoalition) May 2, 2019
This week, as tensions ramped up in Venezuela and members of the Trump administration doubled down on threats of U.S. military intervention to force out Maduro, "opposition supporters began to gather outside the embassy, shouting racial and sexist slurs and attempting to violently charge at members of the collective protecting the front and back entrances," according to CodePink.
At the Venezuelan embassy you can witness a #MAGA rally en Espanol. A squalid mob of racist, homophobic, & sexist upper middle class goons lashing out violently against anyone who opposes them. These fascistic characters define Guaido’s Popular Will Party. https://t.co/sCuk0TMGEJ
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) May 2, 2019
By blocking access to the embassy, Guaidó supporters prevented food and medicine from reaching those inside. On Thursday, as CodePink co-director Ariel Gold "was throwing the food onto the balcony, she was tackled to the ground by an opposition member and both were arrested by the police," the group said in a statement. "Another CodePink activist began throwing more food up and was then arrested."
Journalist Alex Rubinstein has reported from the embassy in recent days as opposition supporters have tried to break in to the building. He wrote Wednesday for MintPress News that "the violence and bigotry of the opposition has made the embassy protectors even more resolute in their cause," and shared videos from the scene on Thursday:
.@ArielElyseGold tries to give a statement as she is arrested for trying to deliver food to "DC citizens who are under siege."
"DC police are abetting the denial of food, medicine and tampons!" pic.twitter.com/nAs48NNGD4
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— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) May 2, 2019
Following the arrests, CodePink tweeted that police allowed food and medicine into the embassy.
Update at the Venezuelan Embassy: the police has just allowed food and medicine to be transported into the building. So then why was @ArielElyseGold and another member of the Collective arrested while trying to do just that?
— CODEPINK (@codepink) May 2, 2019
"There is no reason why the police presence should be allowing the opposition's attempts to starve us out of the building," Paki Wieland of CodePink said in a statement Thursday.
"I believe in peace and the rule of law, and we are the legal tenants of this embassy with permission from the Venezuelan government," Wieland added. "It is totally ILLEGAL and dangerous for the U.S. to hand over the keys of the embassy to an unelected opposition."
As Medea Benjamin of CodePink and Kevin Zeese of Popular Resistance explained in an op-ed for Common Dreams last month:
According to Article 22 of the 1961 Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations, diplomatic premises are "inviolable." Moreover, the receiving state must protect the premises against any "intrusion, disturbance of the peace or impairment of its dignity." A takeover by an unelected government would certainly violate these principles. Like it or not, the Maduro government is actually the government in power in Venezuela and is recognized by the United Nations. This Trump-orchestrated plan of creating a parallel government and then simply taking over diplomatic premises is totally illegal.
In an interview with We Act Radio on Thursday, Benjamin offered an update from outside the embassy:
Police State stand off btw #HandsOffVenezuela + right wing #Trump supporters w/ police protection arresting people to prevent food or water from entering the DC #VenezuelanEmbassy @venanalysis DC UPDATE from @codepink: Women for Peace #dosomething #VenezuelaCoup pic.twitter.com/Y4qEXiuiwq
— We Act Radio (@WeActRadio) May 2, 2019
Meanwhile, members of the collective continue to raise concerns that Secret Service and local police may attempt to remove them from the embassy—in spite of international law.