WATCH: Putting Pressure on the Philippines, Activists Call Out Drug War Human Rights Abuses at D.C. Embassy Demo
It was deadly serious street theater (see video below) outside the Philippine embassy in Washington Wednesday afternoon as protestors demanding an end to the country's murderous drug war waved signs, chanted slogans, and dressed as mask-wearing police and caricature-wearing Filipino political figures.
Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016, police and mysterious "vigilantes" have killed more than 16,000 alleged drug users and sellers in a massive wave of extrajudicial killings condemned by human rights organizations, the Catholic Church, and political figures around the globe. Duterte is now being investigated by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
Duterte, who rode to fame as the death squad mayor of Davao City, is targeting not just drug users and sellers, but also critics of his bloody crackdown. His most prominent critic, Senator Leila de Lima, has been jailed on far-fetched fabricated drug charges for more than a year. Her real offense was bringing a confessed former member of Duterte's Davao City death squads to testify before the Senate.
Along with calling for an end to the killings, Wednesday's protestors also rallied to demand freedom for Senator de Lima. During the demonstration, attendees symbolically freed a Leila de Lima figure from a mobile prison cell.
The demonstration was spearheaded by Stopthedrugwar.org's David Borden and was also supported by drug reform and human rights groups including Amnesty International USA, the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, local marijuana activists of DCMJ, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines, the Filipino-American Human Rights Alliance, the IPS Drug Policy Project, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
Not everyone was pleased with the demo. A virtual troll army of Duterte supporters descended on Stopthedrugwar.org's Facebook page, which carried live video of the event, to denounce it:
"Hang delima to death," counseled Facebook user Nida Adam Landoo.
"DELIMA IS A DRUG CUDDLER ,SHE IS NOT INNOCENT.HAPPY 1ST YR. ANNIVERSARY DELIMA IN JAIL,MORE YEARS TO COME," chimed in user Sheila Mae Williams.
"Is this sponsored by the druglords in the US?" user NoyZanx Beldia wanted to know.
No, but you knew that.
Here's the video from the demonstration: