Twin Cities Flotilla Activists Stopped from Bringing Aid to GAZA

Press Release, by Mary Beaudoin, WAMM

The Freedom Flotilla, a civilian peaceful initiative, was intent on bringing 5,500 tons of humanitarian aid to break the siege and stop the genocide on Gaza being perpetrated by Israel, with the support of the United States. Two U.S. citizens from the Twin Cities traveled to Istanbul and were there to join a coalition of international activists to sail to Gaza when they received the news that Guinea Bissau, whose flag the flotilla was to fly under, had pulled its flag, stopping the mission. The coalition firmly believes that this was done under pressure from Israel and the United States.

Coleen Rowley of Apple Valley, who is a former FBI whistleblower (9/11), and for years now, an avid peace activist and member of Women Against Military Madness, commented from Istanbul: “I have to say how disappointed we are – and actually horrified – that such powerful, corrupt government forces can connive to prevent food, medicine, and humanitarian aid from reaching disease and famine-stricken Gaza. It’s evil!”

Barry Riesch of St. Paul, a retired building inspector and member of Veterans for Peace, who has been on several international peace delegations to mitigate the harm done by U.S. militaristic foreign policies, said: “Stopping the boat shows that Israel is intimidated by us and that our own country cares more about supporting Israel’s illegal blockade and genocide than helping U.S. citizens deliver aid to Gaza. They can stop the flotilla today, but it will come back even stronger.”

UN Special Rapporteurs demanded safe passage for the Freedom Flotilla. The U.S. Congress, including Senators Klobuchar and Smith who voted in favor of an emergency supplemental appropriations package, which includes $26 Billion more to Israel, even as mass graves were again discovered in Gaza, and UNWRA was previously defunded.

From Barry Riesch: Update on Flotilla. Barry Riesch and Coleen Rowley have returned home but a small group chose to stay on with hopes to leave again soon. Included were several VFP members Mary Browne, Jason Mizula, Brian McGinnis and possibly Michael Jacobsen. Three are young and have young children at home who they are doing this work for.
Please send this around to your contact lists. Barry Riesch and Coleen Rowley will be sharing more about their experiences soon.

More information: 

Freedom Flotilla website:

Flotilla march in Instanbul: (Coleen Rowley made the “Stop Genocide” banner), speeches by members of U.S. contingent, after finding out flotilla flag pulled: Interview with U.S. leader on Gaza Freedom Flotilla:

Press Conference: Under Israeli Pressure, Guinea Bissau Moves to Withdraw Flotilla Flags

For immediate release, Saturday April 27

On Thursday afternoon, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition was contacted by the Guinea Bissau International Ships Registry (GBISR), requesting an inspection of our lead ship – Akdenez. This was a highly unusual request as our ship had already passed all required inspections; nevertheless, we agreed. The inspector arrived on Thursday evening. On Friday afternoon, before the inspection was completed, the GBISR, in a blatantly political move, informed the Freedom Flotilla Coalition that it had withdrawn the Guinea Bissau flag from two of the Freedom Flotilla’s ships, one of which is our cargo ship, already loaded with over 5000 tons of life-saving aid for the Palestinians of Gaza.

In its communication informing us of this cancellation, the GBISR made specific reference to our planned mission to Gaza. It also made several extraordinary requests for information, including confirmation of the ships’ destination, any potential additional port calls, and the discharge port for humanitarian aid and estimated arrival dates and times. It further demanded a formal letter explicitly approving the transportation of humanitarian aid and a complete manifest of the cargo.

Again, this is a highly unusual move from a flagging authority. Normally, national flagging authorities concern themselves only with safety and related standards on vessels bearing their flag, and are not concerned with the destination, route, cargo manifests or the nature of a specific voyage. Just like when you register your car, the authorities don’t require you to detail to them every place you are going to go with the car.

Sadly, Guinea-Bissau has allowed itself to become complicit in Israel’s deliberate starvation, illegal siege and genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. Israel is showing the world the extent to which it will go to deny Palestinians the aid they need to stay alive, in direct contravention of International Humanitarian Law, UN Security Council resolutions, and two orders of the International Court of Justice. Israel is only allowed to get away with this because we have an international order where law does not apply equally, where people are not valued the same, and where might equals right.

The US has hijacked international law and is violating its own laws to protect Israel at every turn. A recently-leaked USAID memo states that “famine in Gaza is inevitable,” and that “changes could reduce but not stop widespread civilian deaths.” It also states that the government of Israel does not currently demonstrate necessary compliance with U.S. law required to receive U.S. military aid.

Nevertheless, last week, the U.S. Congress passed and Biden signed a $26 billion aid package for Israel. It is this kind of naked impunity, over decades, that has brought us to this point where Israel can carry out a genocide, that includes a public declaration by Israel’s leaders that it is going to deliberately starve children, and not only face no consequences, but also involve a majority of world governments in its crimes. While our governments claim to care about Palestinian lives, they are complying, and indeed enforcing a situation where a state that has been found to be plausibly committing a genocide, is allowed to control what, if any life-saving aid gets to the people trying to stay alive.

Yesterday, the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Food, on the Right to Housing, and on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, issued a statement stating that civil society initiatives like the Freedom Flotilla are important precisely because governments are not complying with their obligations under international law and many of these governments are even complicit in Israel’s siege and genocide. The statement affirmed that ours was a legitimate challenge to Israel’s control over the delivery of aid to Gaza and it demanded safe passage for our flotilla.However, without a flag, we cannot sail. But, this is not the end. Israel cannot and will not crush our resolve to break its illegal siege and reach the people of Gaza. The people of Gaza and all of Palestine remain steadfast under the most horrific, unimaginable conditions. We take strength from their incredible, inexplicable ability to maintain their humanity, dignity and hope when the world has given them no reason to do so.

​By Medea Benjamin, Code Pink,  Peoples DispatchConsortium News April 24, 2024

Urgent Call to Action! 🚨

We need your help! The US is exerting immense pressure on Turkey to prevent us from sailing to Gaza with much-needed food and medicine. But we won’t be deterred.

Please help us by ☎️ calling the US State Department at +1 202-501-4444, the US Consulate in Istanbul at +90 212 335 9000 or the US Embassy in Ankara at +90 312 294 0000, during office hours.

Tell them: Let the Peace Flotilla sail to Gaza! with 5,500 tons of fodd and much needed supplies.

Barry Riesch (Veterans for Peace Chapter 27) and Coleen Rowley (Veterans for Peace Chapter 27 and Women Against Military Madness) from Minnesota are on the Flotilla.

If you are from Minnesota please call:
Sen. Tina Smith 202-224-5641
Sen. Amy Klobuchar 202-224-3244
Rep: Ilhan Omar 202-225-4755
As well as Angie Craig (202) 225-2271 who is Coleen’s representative  and Betty McCollum (202) 225-6631 who is Barry’s representative.
(If you are from Minnesota or from another state and receiving this message, please make the calls listed by Code Pink as well as your own senators and representatives and ask them to encourage in any way they can the delivery of these essential supplies into Gaza and to call for an immediate ceasefire of the inhuman genocide being perpetrated by Israel with the shameful support of the U.S. government. (If you are not in the U.S. you probably know who it is best to call in your country.)

Below: Instagram… Video of Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin calling for and echoing the call of so many others nationwide and worldwide.

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