Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Solidarity with Egypt's struggle for democracy - Wellington protest report

On February 5th Wellingtonians gathered to show their support of the people of Egypt in their struggle for democracy. Over 60 people gathered in Midland Park on a typical grey Wellington summer day with signs and banners in solidarity with Egyptians as they continue their peaceful demonstrations in a call for Hosni Mubarak to step down immediately.

One of the Green MP Keith Locke's staffers spoke, reminding us that both Labour and National have not called for Mubarak to go. Omar Kamoun from the Wellington Palestine Group spoke, as did Islam, the self-proclaimed "only Egyptian in Wellington."

We formed a procession down Lambton Quay in the view of hundreds of people who were in town for the Rugby Sevens Tournament and visitors from the two cruise ships docked in the harbour. They received us well, and it was heartening to see that although Egypt is far away and it's people are foreign to most of us, many Kiwis were aware of the struggles in Egypt and empathised with them. We stopped at the steps of Parliament and were greeted by Parliamentary security who attempted to move us from the steps but unfortunately for him he was unable to move us. As one protester said "there's one of you and many of us so what are you going to do?" Needless to say more security arrived but we stood our ground and our banner for democracy flew proudly. More great speeches were made, including by Omar Hamed of Socialist Aotearoa and Nadia Rhiannon, a young Palestinian woman.

The police were in attendance but kept their distance and followed us to the American Embassy our last point of call on our journey. I should add a shout-out to the Sevens fans who we met on the way and chanted "Egypt! Egypt! Egypt!" as we made our way past them and probably for a good while afterwards also.

Back to the embassy the security weren't expecting us but the police were. Although they didn't bother getting out of their car- probably listening to Nickelback on their ipod or something.

At the embassy we discussed and learned about the many years of funding that America has provided to Mubaraks regime, including providing them with the arms that the military and police have used to murder and maim their own people. Ken, a longtime Wellington peace activist spoke about the collapse of the US empire and a young Algerian student also spoke about the struggle for democracy in the Middle East. The American Embassy security staff seemed to take a liking to us at that point as they made sure they got individual photos of all of us on the march. They weren't so keen on us having photos of them however.

Overall it was a great experience and it was heartening to see a real diverse group of people turn out. Young and old and every colour under the sun. We commend the bravery of the Egyptian people, and will be watching as history is written.

-Shanna Olsen Reeder, SA Wellington

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