Remember the Hunger Strikers: Continue the Fight for FreedomSan Diego 14 Aug 2006 08:39 GMT
My first night in Belfast, I attended a one man play, Ar An Pluid (Hunger Strike Play), held at the Hilton Hotel. Ar An Pluid is based on the story of Ciaran Nugent, the first Irish Political Prisoner in 1976 to go "on the blanket". The Blanket Protest as it was known at the time, was an act of resistance against British policy in occupied Ireland that criminalized Irish Republican Prisoners of War. These prisoners refused to wear the British prisoner uniforms after being denied Special Category Status (Prisoners of War), wearing only the blanket given to them for sleeping purposes, hence the term "on the blanket". The one-night showing of Ar An Pluid was on the 25th Anniversary of the death of Irish Political Prisoner Kevin Lynch. Kevin's family was in attendance for the play and his brother accepted a beautiful painting of Kevin, thanking the community for keeping the memory of his brother alive and for all of the support over the years.
Remnants of Fear was another play that premiered during the first week of August at the Dubblejoint Theatre in the Whiterock area of West Belfast. The writer, Gary Mitchell grew up in North Belfast, a Protestant area of the city. His play centers around the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), a loyalist paramilitary organization in Northern Ireland, and the tactics it uses to keep a stronghold on the Protestant working-class community. Because of his play, Mr. Mitchell and his family live in exile from their home in North Belfast due to a UDA attack last winter. The premiere went off without a hitch and was well received by the predominantly Republican audience.
One event that I am disappointed I missed was Palestine Today-Internal Upheaval 'When is a Mandate not a Mandate', featuring Dr. Mohammed E. Almadhoun, head of the office of newly elected Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Support for the people of Palestine and Lebanon was visible in the pubs, on the streets and in the music halls. Fliers calling for the BOYCOTT ISRAEL GOODS!, mural tags demanding FREE PALESTINE!, and countless community discussions and forums at the West Belfast Festival kept me busy trying to keep up with everything!
I could go on and on and on about every event I attended, but I wouldn't be successful in conveying the message of honor, respect and support within Belfast's communities and with people around the world. Recognizing and acting on the struggles of occupied and oppressed people around the world is something the Irish do without effort. I even attended a Gay Pride parade in the City Centre, not quite as big as San Diego's Pride, but just as energetic.
As my visit came to an end, there was a goal, an act or a mission to begin or complete when I returned home. My traveling companion, Jean Day, and I discussed this issue over and over again, motivated by the Irish honor of their Warriors, the ones that gave their lives for freedom. Ms. Day and I knew in our hearts, and in the spirit of our sisters and brothers that have gone on before us, of what that goal would be. On the 12th of September, the birthday celebration of Leonard Peltier we will unveil that goal!
Tiocfaidh ár lá
Peace & Freedom Party Gubernatorial Candidate-November 2006