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Occupy Protesters Join Lumumba Commemorations

Emira Woods was one of the pro-Lumumba protesters outside the White House, Jan 17, 2012
Emira Woods was one of the pro-Lumumba protesters outside the White House, Jan 17, 2012

Activists around the world have celebrated the legacy of the assassinated former Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, on the day of his killing 51 years ago.

In Washington, members of the so-called Occupy movement joined pan-Africa militants in honoring a former leader who they say also tried to take a stand against big corporations.
Protesters gathered around a "Free Congo, Patrice Lumumba" sign outside the White House Tuesday, chanting the rallying cry that has come to characterize the U.S. Occupy movement: "We are the 99 percent."

The movement says it represents people fighting against elites of the U.S economic and political structure, those they call the "1 percent."

Tuesday's demonstration was called "Fulfilling the Legacy of Patrice Lumumba," in honor of the leader of Congo's anti-colonial struggle. The former postal clerk and independence activist in the Belgian Congo rose to become the country's first elected prime minister in 1960, before being deposed in an army-led coup, imprisoned and executed by firing squad.

Speakers at the protest accused multi-national corporations of colluding with elites in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. They said corporations and Congolese leaders have for decades plundered natural resources without benefiting local populations, something they say Lumumba tried to stop.
One of the speakers, from the Friends of the Congo organization, Maurice Carney, said there also is growing interest for Lumumba's legacy among opposition activists in Africa, who believe elections are being rigged in favor of candidates who do not question existing economic and security arrangements.

"There is just a new global sense of activism and within that environment people search for figures that can best exemplify that so, Lumumba is one such figure, particularly among people who are looking at the question of independence on the African continent or activism on the African continent," said Carney. "Lumumba is the quintessential example in that he gave his life in such a brutal fashion to fulfill that pursuit."

Another speaker, Netfa Freeman, from the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, said he sees similarities between Lumumba and the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., whose U.S. holiday was celebrated Monday.

"One I think was being able to speak to the masses of the people and also having the courage to stand up to the powers that be and not only say what is comfortable for them to hear or to accommodate the powers that be but just be honest and say what needs to be said no matter what setting," said Freeman.

U.S. events to celebrate Patrice Lumumba also took place in the southern city of Atlanta and culminated in New York City, with a late-night concert.