BRATTLEBORO — While global attention over the past year has been focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing humanitarian crisis it has created, a group of activists took time on March 1 to remind people of another ongoing humanitarian caused by war.
About 20 people took part in a vigil in front of the Post Office to call for an end to U.S. participation in Saudi Arabia's war on Yemen.
The Brattleboro vigil, one of 13 that took place in Burlington and other cities around the nation, was designed to encourage Vermont's two U.S. Senators, Bernie Sanders and Peter Welch, to introduce a new Yemen War Powers Resolution. This would force a floor vote in Congress to end U.S. participation in the conflict.
An attempt to do this was made last year by Sanders and Welch.
Sanders sponsored a resolution in the Senate over the objections of the Biden administration, and Welch co-sponsored a similar measure while he was still a member of the House. Neither measure gained any traction, but both lawmakers are willing to try again.
Speakers at the Brattleboro vigil included Action Corps director Isaac Evans-Frantz, Rev. Scott Couper of Centre Congregational Church, Vermont Progressive Party vice-chair Marielle Blais, Ellen Schwartz of the Vermont Workers Center, and longtime Putney peace activist Daniel Sicken.
“We might be a relatively small group what you see here,” said Evans-Frantz, who ran for U.S. Senate in 2022. “But around the country today in over 10 cities in at least 10 states, people are demonstrating, people are saying, 'The war on Yemen must stop. Enough is enough. Not in our name. Not with our resources.'”
The Saudi-led invasion and blockade of Yemen has gone on for eight years and is in its third U.S. presidential administration. It started during the Obama administration and was meant to oppose and topple the Houthi regime that had seized power.
Organizers of the vigil said that U.S support has helped the Saudis subject the Yemeni people to more than 25,000 air raids. As a result of the war and blockade on Yemen, famine and malnutrition are a daily presence, with millions of children malnourished and 80% of the country in need of humanitarian aid.
According to the vigil organizers, the war “degenerated into a bloody civil conflict. Despite remarks by the Biden administration to end 'offensive' weapon sales to Saudi Arabia, the U.S. continues to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and provide logistical support to the Saudi air force, which enforces the blockade of Yemen.”
“Congress never authorized this war,” Evans-Frantz said. “It's been waged now by three administrations: first the Obama administration, then the Trump administration, and now the Biden administration.”
Schwartz said the U.S. doesn't call out the Saudis for its activity in Yemen because of “the grasp that Saudi Arabia has on our foreign policy.”
Sicken said that another reason for the relative silence of Congress, the Biden administration, and public opinion regarding Yemen is the U.S. economy's dependence on military spending.
“Even Brattleboro, we have two companies who are making products for the military,” he asserted.
“This is the silent war if we don't talk about it,” Blais said. “Individuals can make a difference.”
Evans-Frantz agreed, saying that global activism has had an effect on the war in Yemen. For more than 10 months, he said, Saudi Arabia has not dropped a single bomb on Yemen, “but that can change any moment.”
According to activists, the most effective way to end the Saudi war and blockade on Yemen is for Congress to vote on a War Powers Resolution. Couper said that Vermonters should support the resolution “in all dimensions you work.”
The March 1 protests nationwide were endorsed by a coalition of 19 organizations. For more information, visit every75seconds.org.