On June 4th, Massachusetts Peace Action and Raytheon Anti-War Campaign gathered in Harvard Square for an open-air “Read-a-thon” to focus public attention on the urgent crisis, the threat to the lives of 400,000 Yemeni children, according to the UN’s World Food Program. Volunteers read poems, articles, and reports before the public. Over the course of 90 minutes over 15 speakers from Mass. Peace Action, Veterans for Peace, United Against War and Militarism, the Cambridge Friends Meeting and more held the space and broadcasted the urgency of the crisis in Yemen.
Yemen can’t wait for complex negotiations to take place. The Saudi air and sea blockade of the country must be lifted now. Despite President Biden’s promise to treat Saudi Arabia as a “pariah state,” the U.S.-Saudi Alliance remains in place. Starting in 2015 our two countries have devastated Yemen and destroyed much of its infrastructure with bombs and blockade. The U.N. reports that by the end of last year 233,000 Yemenis have died from the war: 100,000 from military action and 133,000 from starvation, disease and lack of basic infrastructure due to bombing and shelling.
Spearheaded by activist Thea Paneth, the Yemen Read-a-thon provided a spectacle for the passersby in Harvard Square. People’s curiosity led them to stop for a moment, listen to a speaker, and take literature from activists handing out flyers. The read-a-thon provides a new template for future demonstrations, a way to add a new element that keeps these actions fresh.