On April 10, three US left-wing groups occupied the Embassy of Venezuela in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. at the invitation of the Maduro government. Calling themselves the Embassy Protection Collective (EPC), CodePink, ANSWER, and Popular Resistance are living at the embassy 24/7 to keep representatives of opposition leader Juan Guaidó from taking over. Maduro’s government closed the embassy and all staff left after the US recognized National Assembly president Juan Guaidó as the interim president of the country.
Inside the embassy, a large portrait of Simón Bolívar greets embassy guests.
The EPC mostly occupied the second floor, which was the Ambassador’s floor. They slept on couches and used the kitchen but not the Ambassador’s office.
They used the Ambassador’s conference room to teach classes and make signs.
Initially a few Guaidó supporters hung around and occasionally harassed the EPC demonstrators. This led the EPC to guard the back door and only let in those they recognized or who had been vouched for.
Guaidó supporter sits in front of EPC sign. In back of him is the Embassy’s front entrance.
The front doors were locked and barred.
Elliott Abrams, the State Department’s Special Representative for Venezuela, said the Embassy occupiers were in violation of the law and would have to leave. Embassies are the sovereign territory of each country. Law enforcement of the host country can only enter with permission from the embassy’s government. In the case of Venezuela, the question is which government is the legitimate government. Abrams didn’t say whose law the EPC was violating.
Ariel Gold of CodePink disrupts a speech by Elliott Abrams on Venezuela on April 25 and is removed by security.
Confrontations escalated on May 2 and continued for several days. Roughly two dozen pro-Guido protestors disrupted an EPC press conference with loud sirens and the banging of pots and pans. They then blocked both back and front entrances.
Asked to identify what organization they were with, the pro-Guaidó protestors would only say that they were Venezuelans. They quite literally wrapped themselves in the Venezuelan flag, and wore clothing with the colors of the flag.
Over the next few days the Venezuelans brought in tents and set up camp at the front and back entrances to the embassy. The front entrance remained locked and barred.
Their guards kept anyone from entering.
Over time they took up more and more space in front of the embassy, pushing the CPE protestors out of the way.
They decorated the outside walls of the embassy with their own posters and slogans.
On one wall they posted crosses to commemorate the people killed by the Maduro regime.
The pro-Guaidó protestors squeezed the EPC off the sidewalk and into the street.
The police erected barricades to create a path for pedestrians who could no longer walk down the sidewalk in front of the Embassy.
The Venezuelans took over the entrance to that path and wouldn’t let anyone pass.
Across the street the EPC continued its protest.
Jo Freeman has published eleven books and hundreds of articles. She is currently finishing a history and memoir of working for SCLC in 1965-66.
Public Seminar is a journal of ideas, politics and culture published by the Public Seminar Publishing Initiative at The New School. We are a non-profit organization, wholly supported by The New School, and by the generosity of our sponsors and readers.
Michael E. Gellert
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to receive selections from each week’s issue of Public Seminar and to dig deeply into the pressing issues of our time.