Activists from south of the border tour America in a quest to end the Drug War.
With a trek totaling 10,000 miles to 25 major US cities in a period of just over a single month, there is little doubt that members of the Mexico-based Caravan for Peace are passionate in their pleas to end the Drug War.
In the first week of August, over 100 enlisted Mexican activists loaded up their picket signs and basic necessities, crossed into the United States in rented RV’s, first heading north to San Diego and Los Angeles, then east to New York City. With Washington, D.C. as their final destination, each stop heralded the Caravan’s message: “Legalize it and end the War on Drugs.”
Led by poet and noted activist Javier Sicilia, the Caravan for Peace was created last year following the murder of Sicilia’s 24-year-old son by a local drug cartel, in Morelos, Mexico. Quickly organizing family members, fellow activists, and law enforcement officials who have witnessed their own share of drug-related violence, Sicilia was able to spark pro-legalization/anti-drug war protests in over 40 major Mexican cities. Over 70,000 protested. But Sicilia sought to mount a campaign on a more global scale. And so the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity moved north this past summer.
According to the Caravan’s organizers, more than 60,000 people have been killed and at least 20,000 others have disappeared since Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006, indicative of a harsher military regime and escalating violence on the part of cartels. Caravan activists seek an end to militarized policies and the drug violence itself, but they also would like to see the US crack down on the trafficking of arms to Mexico.
Their solution? Legalize and regulate drugs in order to eliminate the black market.
Hoping to bring this message to the US, Sicilia found sponsorship with advocacy groups such as the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), NORML, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), the American Jewish World Service, Catholic Relief Services, and the National Alliance for Latin American and Caribbean Communities. All have played instrumental roles in securing the Caravan’s safe arrival and in organizing protest events and press conferences for the Caravan’s US tour.
Caravan leader Javier Sicilia met with local leaders in each state visited and made numerous media appearances, including a visit to the tomb of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Atlanta, GA on August 20. That stop followed an impassioned speech on the steps of New York’s City Hall – a public showing of solidarity with the remaining occupiers of Wall Street. The tour culminated with a final call for legalization outside the White House.
“I think that a lot of people are aware that there is violence going on, but they are not really aware of the US role in it, their drug policies in particular,” says Daniel Robelo, DPA Research Coordinator and organizer for the Caravan’s U.S. journey. “Our goal is to raise that awareness.”