Bay Area Pays Tribute to Judge Garzón

June 1, 2010

María Blanco (Photo Richard Bermack)

In a stirring Memorial Day afternoon of speakers, songs, and socializing, the San Francisco Bay Area friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade paid homage to the living history of the vets and honored the work of Spain’s Judge Baltasar Garzón who has aroused political passions by advocating the recovery of historical memory, specifically unearthing the crimes committed by the Franco regime.

This 74th annual celebration was held in a splashy venue, Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, famous for its musical programs and excellent sound system.

María Blanco

María Blanco (photo Jeannette Ferrary)

The keynote speech was made by María Blanco, the daughter of a Spanish Civil War refugee and currently executive director of the Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity & Diversity at the University of California, Berkeley Law School. In a carefully wrought address, she linked Judge Garzon’s use of universal legal principles against dictatorships in Chile and Argentina with his insistence that crimes against humanity committed by Spain’s dictatorship superseded amnesty laws that exempted such criminals from trials. Citing Spain’s recent law for the recovery of historical memory that personally granted her the right of Spanish citizenship, Blanco made the connection between seeking historical truth and the pursuit of social justice.

These comments came at a moment when Garzon’s legal position has been attacked by members of the Spanish judiciary. In a highly publicized case, the judge has been charged with exceeding his legal authority in his investigation of crimes against humanity and faces possible suspension of his work and even his tenure in the Spanish courts. Although Blanco acknowledged the possibility of Garzon’s judicial work coming to an abrupt, unfinished conclusion, she insisted that in the long run Spain will be forced to face its historical past. It is too late, she said, to pretend that these crimes were not committed.

Barbara Dane, Faith Petric and Will Scarlett (Photo Richard Bermack)

Barbara Dane, Faith Petric and Will Scarlett (Photo Richard Bermack)

These optimistic conclusions mirrored the remarks made by Lincoln vet Nate Thornton, the only participant in the Spanish Civil War in attendance. Explaining to the cheering audience that he had gone to Spain in 1937 to assist in the defeat of fascism and encourage the triumph of socialism, he said he remained certain that the social revolution would come eventually, though he admitted that might not happen in his lifetime. He passed the torch to the younger people in the crowd.

Peter Carroll read the names of the recently deceased vets: Mark Billings, Carl Geiser, Clarence Kailin, Hilda Roberts, and Saul Shapiro, as well as Hon Brown, widow of Archie Brown and longtime treasurer of the Bay Area Post of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

Nate Thornton (Photo Jeannette Ferrary)

The popular Barbara Dane and Bruce Barthol headlined the musical portion of the program, bringing the audience to its feet for The Internationale and the finale, La Quinze Brigada. Richard Bermack provided a dramatic slide show that illustrated the songs. Peter Carroll played the role of MC, announcing that the City of San Francisco had finally issued the final letter of acceptance of the monument to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. The audience responded with generous contributions to the monument maintenance fund.


2 Responses to “ Bay Area Pays Tribute to Judge Garzón ”

  1. Ethel Kirk on June 1, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Once the contributions went for social change. Now, our monies go to keep the monument in San Francisco and keep it clean. As a comedian once said every week on the radio, “What a revoltin’ development.”

  2. dripable service on November 10, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I could not agree with you more..