WASHINGTON — Since April 30, the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington has been under siege by pro-coup activists who have repeatedly stated their intention to prevent the access of food to the people inside, who are living there at the invitation of the elected government of Venezuela. The U.S. Secret Service is outsourcing its desires to remove the Embassy Protection Collective to the violent and bigoted protesters.
The Secret Service has said that it will not prevent those in the building from accessing food or supplies, but on Monday morning that proved to be a lie. Instead of merely abetting the opposition’s war of attrition, the Secret Service now serves as a second line of defense against the delivery of food, having now denied its entry themselves. Embassy protectors say it is a violation of their human rights.
The Embassy Protection Collective is holding down the embassy in order to prevent the United States from violating international law, as it seeks to hand over the Maduro government’s diplomatic location to the illegitimate shadow government of Juan Guaidó, which is unable to provide to Venezuelans in the U.S. diplomatic services such as the issuance of visas or passports because it holds no tangible power in the country.
All was going according to plan: the Embassy Protection Collective had been there since April 10 and planned to stay in the building as lawful tenants until the U.S. authorities raided it or another country stepped in as a protectorate. That was until April 30 when oppositionists descended on the building en masse, erecting tents to form a 24-hour-a-day occupation. Since then, the opposition has done all it can to prevent food from entering the building with the intent of starving out the collective.
U.S. law enforcement chooses sides
One may be inclined to think that besieging lawful tenants of a building could be construed as a violation of some U.S. criminal code, but the police have allowed for the siege to go on. Their stated policy is to not prevent the access of food or medicine, but also to not prevent the opposition from preventing it.
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a constitutional lawyer with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, told MintPress News:
Federal law enforcement, including the Secret Service and State Dept law enforcement personnel are working in joint action with the right-wing mob blockading the building. Because the peace activists inside are lawfully present, the Trump administration is attempting to starve them out. Otherwise, they would be undertaking proper legal process to remove them. If they illegally seize the building, they risk a global cascade effect, giving the green light to diplomatic mission seizures and upending international law and its protections that the U.S. relies on.
They are desperate to say that the peace activists left of their own accord. But it is clear to everyone that they are facilitating an illegal mob siege and actively blocking the provision of food and access to public space by peaceful protesters while allowing the mob to engage in assaults, and unlawful incommoding and blockage of passage to keep food from those inside.”
Secret Service falsely telling callers that they are not blocking food. Facts: officers physically block persons w/food from approaching bldg, removed peace activists fr adjacent public space & gave mob exclusive access to public space & allow them to illegally incommode passage. https://t.co/YnfYLPn8hj
— Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (@ThePCJF) May 6, 2019
After a mail delivery was sent to members of the collective, the U.S. postal worker was initially blocked by the opposition, which forms human walls to prevent entries, and then by the Secret Service, which wrongly claimed that the recipient was not inside the building.
Determined to prevent food from accessing the embassy, the opposition continues to jump into a blockade formation every time anyone walks by – embassy protector or pedestrian pic.twitter.com/Ybxj8Cax3D
— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) May 5, 2019
Anya Parampil — a reporter for The Grayzone and one of two on-site journalists, including MintPress’ Alex Rubinstein — is embedded with the collective and caught the encounter on camera. Afterward, Parampil filmed Kevin Zeese, co-director of Popular Resistance and member of the Embassy Protection Collective, calling the Secret Service to inquire about the blockage.
“Are people allowed to come into the Venezuelan Embassy and are deliveries allowed to be made to the Georgetown embassy for Venezuela?” Zeese can be heard asking before authorities read a prepared statement:
Thank you for contacting Secret Service. Under authority granted under title 18 [inaudible], Secret Service uniformed division patrols the diplomatic locations throughout Washington, D.C. During the ongoing demonstrations at the Venezuelan Embassy, we have been working with our shipments departments and diplomatic security service and Metropolitan Police Department to ensure public safety. At no time have law enforcement authorities prevented individuals, food, or medicine or any other [inaudible] from entering the embassy.”
Zeese told MintPress News from inside the embassy:
As we are in the Venezuela Embassy, we are being subjected to what amounts to sanctions and threat of attack, a microcosm of what the people of Venezuela are experiencing. Food is being blocked by the police and the violent opposition they have allowed to encircle the embassy. We had to negotiate for medicine and got some, but if people have illness for which they have no prescription, we cannot get medicine in. The violent opposition is constantly threatening to invade the embassy while threatening us with attacks, even with murder and rape.
It is a strange irony that the same tactics being used against Venezuela are being used against the Embassy Protection Collective.”
State Department calling the shots?
On Monday morning, Ariel Gold, national co-director of the women’s antiwar group CODEPINK, attempted to bring food into the embassy through the garage. “We walked down to the garage with food and we said ‘we’re here to deliver some food,’” Gold told MintPress News.
Secret Service lied: embassy protectors called to report a lot of activity and a running car engine outside the garage. Police told protectors they had a squad car down there & were aware of the entry attempt.
Turns out there’s no police presence, just oppositionists pic.twitter.com/1pZaleVBmr
— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) May 3, 2019
Gold said that she reminded the Secret Service of the statement it had been making for days about not preventing the access of food, supplies, or people. But the Secret Service personnel told her they were not aware of that statement, so Gold responded:
I said ‘oh, no problem, I’ll just call now and put it on speakerphone.’ We got the statement and [the officer] said ‘oh geez, we’ll call our supervisor.’
We were there for a long time while they were talking to headquarters trying to straighten it out. Then they removed us to the sidewalk where they were mixed in with the opposition and that’s when they started taping the area off.”
After an embassy protector attempted to leave the building, Gold says the Secret Service told her they could give her the food.
“That’s when the opposition dogpiled all of us,” Gold told MintPress News. “Then the Secret Service wouldn’t allow us to get food in.” Gold said that she witnessed a Secret Service officer being assaulted by an oppositionist during the scuffle, which police later denied ever happened.
After the clash, Gold said that the Secret Service completely closed off the area around the garage entrance because the door was broken, yet another example of police exploiting the opposition’s tactics to further State Department aims and allowing their illegal tactics to go on unpunished. MintPress has documented opposition attempts to disable the garage door.
Gold was recently arrested and charged with “throwing missiles” and a minor assault charge after she attempted to throw food up to an area where embassy protectors could retrieve it.
Yes this is true. Peace activist @ArielElyseGold was arrested at DC Venezuela embassy for tossing food to the hungry people under siege inside. Her charge: TOSSING MISSILES!!! pic.twitter.com/ZQMvJCMKB9
— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) May 3, 2019
In addition to allowing the opposition to besiege the embassy and vandalize it, the Secret Service has done nothing to stop them from assaulting embassy protectors with expensive spotlights used by scuba divers that can cause eye damage, or from menacing them by blasting horns and megaphones in their ears. Activists have attempted to ask the Secret Service about these assaults but were ignored. On Monday, authorities cut down two trees sitting across the street from the embassy where supporters of the collective have been allowed to congregate, rendering them unable to hang banners.
Feature photo | U.S. Secret Service officers stand guard outside the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C. where activists in support of Juan Guaido have besieged a collective living inside at the invitation of Venezuela’s government. Alexander Rubinstein | MintPress News
Alexander Rubinstein is a staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He reports on police, prisons and protests in the United States and the United States’ policing of the world. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News.