News / Middle East

Protesters Gather Outside Libyan Embassy in Washington

A small group of anti-Moammar Gadhafi protesters take part in a demonstration at the Libyan Embassy in Washington, March 1, 2011
A small group of anti-Moammar Gadhafi protesters take part in a demonstration at the Libyan Embassy in Washington, March 1, 2011

Protesters were stopped as they tried to enter the huge office complex in Washington that houses the Libyan embassy. They said they came to raise a pre-Gadhafi-era flag that represents Libyan independence from Italy.

It was not clear who inside the embassy is now the official representative for Libyan interests in the U.S. Security guards told them the embassy was closed.

Related video report by Carolyn Presutti

The protesters did not leave. Instead, they gathered across the street, waving the flag.

Libyan Randa El Gouzary says the time for change is now.

"We need to feel like free. This is it, you know, this is the time to get Gadhafi over for us," said El Gouzary. "This is the time to get him out."

While the protesters talked to reporters, seven U.S. congressional members unexpectedly arrived to meet with Libyan officials at the embassy.

Representative Sheila Jackson Lee and several members of the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus said they came to express their solidarity with the Libyan people.

"Those of us who have struggled through the Civil Rights movement, know what it is to struggle for justice and truly believe that these individuals have emulated the fights we have had in this country,"  she said.

Jackson Lee and the other members of Congress met with Ali Aujali, the Libyan ambassador who denounced the Gadhafi government last week, but pledged his support to the Libyan people. Aujali purportedly was fired by the Libyan government on Monday.

The State Department says it is reviewing the legitimacy of a fax received Monday from the Libyan government, appointing the embassy charges d'affaires as the new Libyan ambassador.  But a State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. will recognize Ambassador Aujali until the review process is complete.

Jackson Lee said she wanted to meet with the representative of the Libyan people.

"We have come to stand in solidarity with the Libyan people," she said. "We call upon the ceasing of the massacre, murderous acts and the river blood in the streets, and we look forward to working with our government to recognize Ambassador Aujali to be the representative here on behalf of the people of Libya."

Activist Ashraf Tulty, who organized the protest, said he hopes whoever takes charge of Libyan interests in the U.S. will realize the Libyan people no longer trust Mr. Gadhafi.

"We hope whoever is representing the regime now should understand the reality and wake up because the regime lost its legitimacy, the regime no longer represents the people, the regime acted in a very violent and bloody manner," he said.

Tulty and the others vowed to continue their protests until Libyans are free of Gadhafi rule.


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