Congress reconvenes; nation-wide protests rebuke Salvador aid

By Charley MacMartin
February 1990; page 7; Volume 1, No. 4

The 1990 session of the U.S. Congress began on Tuesday, January 23rd. Demonstrations calling for an immediate halt in U.S. aid to El Salvador confronted Representatives and Senators both on Capitol Hill and back in their home districts.

During the first four day of the new season, nearly five hundred demonstrators were arrested in actions which targeted Congressional offices, the Capitol building and Salvadoran consulates.

The week of militant opposition kicked off nation-wide Call to Conscience Campaign to end the U.S. war in El Salvador which will culminate March 24th this year in a commemoration of the assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980.

At the January 24th House Sub-Committee Hearings on El Salvador, activists converged from around the East Coast to challenge Bernard Aronson's testimony that the U.S. government should continue aid to El Salvador. Fifteen participants, including actor Martin Sheen, were arrested when refused entry to the sub-committee hearings.

In San Francisco, the Call to Conscience Coalition in the Bay Area held a demonstration at the Federal Building with over six hundred people attending. Nearly one hundred were arrested in the action which began at 6:45 a.m. with a religious service.

After the service, demonstrators marched to the Federal Building which they held for three hours. Part of the crowd spontaneously split off and held a simultaneous rally at the Salvadoran consulate.

Large cities were not the only sites of demonstrations against the U.S. war in El Salvador. In Bellingham, Washington, more than one hundred people demonstrated at the town's federal building and ten participants chained themselves to the doors, blocking entry.

In New Haven, Connecticut, at prestigious Yale University, the Yale CISPES chapter mailed 1,500 facsimiles of draft induction notices to students on campus. Included in the notice, for those wanting more information, was Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd's phone number. His office reported receiving a flurry and then a storm of phone calls throughout the day.

The same day in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, more than four hundred people descended upon the Federal Building, covering the entrance in five gallons of real blood and surrounding the building with candles. No arrests occurred in the action, sponsored by CISPES, Progressive Student Organization, Nicaragua Solidarity Committee and Women Against Militarism.

Militant demonstrations continued through the week. In Chicago, on Thursday, January 25th, seventeen people were arrested as part of a crowd which blocked the Congress Expressway. Chicago police that morning had blocked off the Federal building from protestors. Chicago's Loyola University took out a full page ad in the Chicago Tribune calling for a halt in U.S. aid to El Salvador.

In Santa Rosa, California, more than one hundred people attended a noon-time rally at that city's Federal Building. After the rally, at least half the crowd continued upstairs to California Representative Bosco's office, occupying the office until 5:30 pm. when twenty-six arrests were made.

In Texas, demonstrations targeted the Texas Congressional delegation and local corporations who profit from war in El Salvador. In Dallas and Austin, demonstrators visited both the offices of Senator Lloyd Bentsen and Congressman J.J. Pickle. (See accompanying article on the legislative battle.)

In Dallas, the local Pledge of Resistance blockaded the entrance to Bell Helicopters, resulting in three arrests. Bell sells helicopters to the government of El Salvador, used in strafing and bombing missions against the civilian population.

The demonstrations marked the beginning of a state-wide coalition in Texas that will work to continue put pressure on Bentsen and Pickle this spring and mobilize for the March 24th march here in Austin.

Demonstrations will continue February 5th with special attention on Senator Lloyd Bentsen.

For more information on this demonstration, contact Austin CISPES at [defunct phone number redacted].