On Monday, July 11, activists from the United States and Colombia organized an emergency demonstration against the pending Colombia Free Trade Agreement across from the White House.
The protest called on President Obama to follow through on his campaign promise not to move forward with the Colombia FTA, because in his own words, “the violence against unions in Colombia would make a mockery of the very labor protections that we have insisted be included in these kinds of agreements.”
The Obama Administration says it will shortly submit the Colombia FTA to the Congress, now that the Colombian government has begun to carry out a Labor Rights Action Plan that is intended to strengthen labor rights and curb violence against trade unionists. But as the trade unionists from Colombia and protestors said at the rally, violence against trade unionists continues in Colombia. At least 17 trade unionists have been killed this year as of June. In 2010, more trade unionists were killed in Colombia than in the rest of the world combined.
As a symbol of this tragedy, demonstrators carried 51 coffins to represent the 51 unionists killed in Colombia in 2010 and laid them on the ground in front of the White House.
Five demonstrators were arrested by Park Police in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience as a sign of solidarity with the Colombians who have already been devastated by anti-union violence and the many Colombian small farmers whose livelihoods will be harmed should this agreement pass.
All photos courtesy of Andrew Carpenter