Hundreds of protesters assembled on Saturday at the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, to express solidarity with anti-Mubarak demonstrators in Egypt. Many protestors were Egyptian-Americans, recent immigrants as well as long-time US residents. They were joined by immigrants from Iran and ordinary Americans.
Besides calling on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down, protesters waived signs demanding the US stop providing aid to the government led by him.
Many people expressed their feelings as mixed, proud of the courageous demonstrators in Egypt, optimistic for change, yet all the while concerned for the safety of the Egyptian people. Also, in the midst of the protest, a group of Muslims prayed in front of the federal building.
Watch raw video from the rally:
Listen to what some of the protesters had to say:
Sana Ezzat came to the protest from Las Vegas. She was born and raised in Cairo, but has lived in the U.S. for more than 40 years. She admires her former countrymen for finally speaking out.
“This is injustice, no one can accept that. I feel for the people that have the courage to speak their mind finally, it’s way overdue, I’m so glad that they had the courage to come out and say how they feel, and it’s about time for the president to understand their feeling, and depart peacefully before there is more bloodshed in this process.”
Thirty-year-old Karim El Defrawy was also was born in Egypt, but moved to the U.S. five years ago to study.
“Some of my friends [in Egypt] got injured and they had to carry dead people on their shoulders. And all their demands are legitimate demands, they didn’t ask for anything extra or something that they don’t deserve… I grew up in Egypt and unfortunately there isn’t a lot of free speech. And the media is used as a tool for propaganda and to scare the people and it’s sad. On the other hand, the people finally have broken the barrier of fear, the fear barrier and their voice has been heard, and at this point it’s up to them, I guess.”
Twenty-nine-year-old Wale El Haddad came to the U.S. from Egypt two and a half years ago.
”All over Egypt, in Cairo, in Tahrir Square, in Alexandria and Suez, we are sending a message for them that we stand behind them. And we are sending the message also to the US authorities that they have to stop their aid to the Egyptian government. They send every year more than a billion dollars in aid for security of the Egyptian government. They have to stop that. They have to take the side of the Egyptian people; they have to force this regime to step down.”
Simone Larson, a 20-year-old American, studied in Cairo for four months, and just came back to the U.S. two and half weeks ago.
”Now seeing all the people just revolting, just coming up and rising against the government, you know, it’s very empowering even for me all the way over here in America. I support the Egyptian people and I want to be there for them, I want to help spread the word, I want to help them achieve democracy and achieve a free election.”
Dr. Osama Haikal, a physician living and working in Las Vegas, was among the organizers of the Los Angeles rally.
“If our [American] interest in Egypt and the world in general needs a ruthless, blood-sucking dictator to be served, than there is something morally wrong with our interest. It’s time for us here in the U.S. to examine our morality, our interest in the Middle East. If our interest needs a dictator, than we are wrong, we are dead wrong…. If we don’t stand at the right side of history today with the Egyptian people, you are going to get what you’re afraid of, period. History never lies. It repeats itself over and over and over; it’s for us to learn the lesson.”
The protesters were joined also by members of the local Iranian community.
Neseer Emamy believes that the events in Egypt will inspire others in the region.
”As an Iranian in support of freedom and of governments for and by the people for our country and for all countries in the world, with great interest I’m watching this movement and I’m convinced that this is the beginning of a renaissance for the region and it will have a positive impact, particularly for our sweet homeland Iran.”
Another Iranian, who gave his name as Paymaun, shared Neseer’s view.
”As an Iranian with a dream for democracy in Iran, when I see this uprising in Tunisia, in Egypt and the continuation of the Green movement in Iran, I become hopeful that there will be a future of democracy in the Middle East.”
The protest was mainly organized by the Los Angeles chapter of the anti-war coalition, ANSWER. About 100 men and women made the trip from Las Vegas, feeling they could get more exposure by protesting in Los Angeles.