September 2, 2008
Reference: Berna Ellorin, Secretary General, BAYAN USA, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
BAYAN USA Puts Philippines on the Main Stage on Day One of Historic RNC
ST. PAUL, MN-- On day one of the historic protests surrounding the 2008
Republican National Convention (RNC) in St. Paul, Minnesota,
Filipino-American leader Kuusela Hilo stood on the rally main stage
amongst over 30,000 protesters to denounce US government intervention in
the Philippines and pressure the next elected US president to withdraw all
forms of support to the US-backed regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Hilo
is the current deputy secretary general of the US Chapter of Bagong
Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN USA, an alliance of 12 Filipino
organizations in the United States. The alliance sent Hilo and fellow
BAYAN USA member Apollo Victoria to speak on its behalf at the massive
rally and march.
Met with fervent applause from the crowd, Hilo also called for an end to
violent US-backed counter-insurgency in the Philippines, particularly in
the southern region of Mindanao, where US troops are believed to be
engaged in unlawful armed combat with armed groups. She also paid tribute
to the hardworking Filipinos in the United States, the 2nd largest
immigrant group, and challenged the US government to pass a humane, just,
and comprehensive immigration reform bill.
After rallying for hours in front of the Minnesota State Capitol building
in St. Paul, protesters marched to the Xcel Center, the site of the RNC.
BAYAN USA representative Hilo marched the front line side-by-side with
representatives of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), the Troops Out Now
Coalition (TONC), Latinos Against the War (LAW), Iraq Veterans Against the
War (IVAW), and the American Indian Movement (AIM). Also present were the
ANSWER Coalition and various unions and labor groups. Demands printed on
banners included US Out of Iraq Now; Money for Human Needs, not for War;
and Peace, Justice and Equality for all.
With news of the approaching wrath of Hurricane Gustav on New Orleans'
Gulf Coast scaling down even George W. Bush's attendance to the RNC,
protesters marched in the tens of thousands undeterred, despite the
violent brutality they met from the RNC's security forces and local
police. Jess Sundin, representing the broad-based Coalition to March on
the RNC and Stop the War, stated, "We are here today, in the tens of
thousands, because we refuse to be scared away [by police repression].
Because what we are marching for is too important to be silenced. Because
this is the only way we can answer the Republican agenda, and demand and
end to policies that wage war, deepen poverty, and fuel racism."
Amongst the hundreds of marchers arrested on the opening salvo of the RNC
protests was acclaimed and award- winning journalist Amy Goodman, who was
thrown to the ground along with two of her Democracy Now producers after
snagging a street interview with Hilo on the Philippine situation.
"Despite the fascism of the police, it was still a successful rally and
march," Hilo stated. "The two year battle to protest the RNC was well
worth it. It was not just the hurricane deterring Bush from attending his
own party's convention. It was the political storm generated by the
thousands of people descending on St. Paul from across the state, the
country, and the world."
The Philippines is the 4th largest recipient of US military aid in the
world. A 2007 US Senate hearing in Capitol Hill examined how US tax
dollars have contributed to the intensified pattern of extra-judicial
killings and abductions across the country, as well as the character of
the joint military training conducted by both US and Philippine troops.
BAYAN USA members were part of the broad 2007 campaign to pressure
legislators for the hearing.
Protests will continue in St. Paul this week until the conclusion of the