Nicaragua at the Niebyl Proctor Marxist Library

Two reports from Berkeley on April 5, 3018:
1) the protest at the library,
and, 2) the protest downtown against a rightwing rally

Sunday Morning Protest at the Marxist Library

Last Sunday, August 5, 2018, our Sunday Morning program at the Marxist Library attracted an exceptionally large crowd, with about 75 people inside to hear Camilo Mejía (an Iraq War combat veteran who spent a year in prison after refusing a second tour of duty and whose family is from Nicaragua) speak in support of the Ortega government while about 50 anti-Ortega Nicaraguans protested outside.

Our program was the East Bay portion of a Bay Area speaking tour organized by Veterans For Peace and the Task Force on the Americas. Two programs were planned, the first, at 7:30pm Friday night, August 3, 2018 in San Francisco at the Veterans Memorial Building and the second in Oakland at the Institute for the Critical Study of Society at the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library as part of its week Sunday Morning at the Marxist Library series.

Unfortunately, the SF program on Friday night was interrupted by a large number of anti-Ortega counter demonstrators, both Nicaraguans and U.S. Solidarity activists. Although Mejía was able to complete talk and organizers allowed Amy Bank, a North American who had formerly supported the Sandinistas, time to present the other side, orderly debate soon became impossible. The scene was described by one attendee as “very ugly … due to a lot of interruptions, yelling, and screaming. And while there was no physical violence the counter-demonstrators were definitely very intimidating.” For a full report on Friday night, see “
Peace Leader Speaks Against US-backed Regime Change in Nicaragua, Confronted by Anti-Ortega Former Sandinistas and Contras."

Tensions were therefore high for the Sunday Morning program.

The Marxist Library is certainly no stranger to controversy and the Institute prides itself on encouraging differing views within the general framework of Marxism and working class struggle. Controversies tend to focus on how to interpret such matters as the Marxian labor theory of value and the Hegelian dialectic, but always conducted in a comradely, respectful manner.

After the experience on Friday, however, the organizers were prepared and denied entry to those who had disrupted the Friday night program. The relatively small Marxist Library was packed full, with about 75 people inside while the sidewalk outside the Library was also packed with about 50 anti-Ortega counter-demonstrators with colorful banners and dancers.

The discussion inside was productive, with many good, penetrating questions from the audience. Presumably, not everybody who opposes the Ortega government would be comfortable working together with Washington's regime changers, Marco Rubio and the like. The current upheaval is a complex matter, many shades of gray, and there was more than what could be covered in a single two-hour session.

Many, in this audience had visited Nicaragua in the 1980s, and were looking to update their information on that country and learn what became of the revolution which they supported 30 years ago. One person observed that “we need more updates, more presentations.”

In that spirit, the Institute is planning another presentation from another perspective sometime in September. To receive our weekly calendar, email the Institute at, or visit the ICSS website at

You can view Mejía talk and the Q&A on YouTube, as follows:





This report was prepared by two members of Veterans For Peace who attended the Sunday forum, Daniel Borgström and Eugene Ruyle, with final editing by Gene. It does not represent any kind of consensus opinion of either Veterans For Peace or the Institute for the Critical Study of Society.

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Meanwhile, in Downtown Berkeley

by Daniel Borgström

Leaving the library at about 12:30 p.m., I hurried off to downtown Berkeley to see what was happening. Reportedly, a right-wing group was coming to town to hold a rally. So a counter demonstration which included Antifa was going to un-welcome them, and many out-of-town police would also be there.

Getting there wasn't easy. Foot traffic as well as vehicles were blocked at many intersections by the police. That wasn't just in the business district; I saw two entire blocks of normally quiet residential streets locked down. Central Berkeley had been turned into a labyrinth.

"Am I in Managua!" The thought flashed through my mind; I recalled descriptions of "tranques" (blockades) in many of the cities and towns of Nicaragua.

Walking up one street, down another, I finally worked my way through the maze and arrived at the Civic Center Plaza where I saw a gathering at the east end of the park. Having gotten this far, I then encountered two rows of those 3-foot-high orange traffic blockers which had been placed on the grass across the middle of the plaza. The police seemed to be busy elsewhere; nobody looking, so I just climbed over them, joined the crowd and asked what was going on.

"There are 30 fascists," someone told me. I couldn't see them myself, as they were surrounded by counter demonstrators and police.

I walked around to see what could be seen, I saw several hundred protesters and nearly as many police. There were riot police from numerous departments and agencies. Large numbers of them. I read later that as many as twenty people were arrested. And as typically happens when riot cops disrupt demonstrations, windows were broken, the usual.

People don't want right-wingers to hold rallies around here, especially after what happened last year in Charlottesville. So they gather together in large counter-demonstrations to un-welcome them, telling them to go home. And to counter the counter demonstration the police call in riot cops from all over and shut the city down.


Also by Daniel
Visiting Nicaragua in 1984