Cairo to Amherst, protesters take to the streets

By Michelle Williams

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From Cairo to Boston, emotions towards the protesters in Egypt have ranged from fear to joy, anger to support. Over the weekend, hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the Boston Common and Harvard Square, peacefully protesting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and demanding major reforms in government.

The protesters waved Egyptian flags, while marching through the streets chanting “Egypt, Egypt will be free. From the Nile to the Sea.”

“The people of Egypt all over the globe are protesting against the Egyptian regime that has been forcefully in power for 30 years. Today, Egypt is on the brink of falling apart,” said protest organizer Marihan Hashesh on the event’s Facebook page. “In response to the protests in all [of] Egypt, the Egyptian government cut the water supply, electricity [and] cell phone networks … Egypt is in deep need of your help!”

On the same day as the protest in Boston, Mubarak fired all of the members of his cabinet and named a vice president for the first time since he came to power, nearly 30 years ago.

Much like the protests in Egypt, the protest in Boston was organized with the help of Facebook. According to the Facebook event, 720 people attended.

The crowd gathered in Cambridge, where they began to march down Massachusetts Avenue in a calm, peaceful manner, towards the Government Center. The mass of protesters was escorted by six Boston police vehicles and Cambridge police officers on foot.

One member of the crowd was University of Massachusetts student, Tyler Mitchell. He said he traveled east to attend the event because, “I hoped to make some noise celebrating the unfolding accomplishments of the Arab world rallying and marching together with hundreds of people in Boston. Anytime a group of repressed people stand up and work for their self-emancipation, we need to be right there cheering them on.”

Mitchell said he learned about the event through the Facebook page, and decided to go to not miss out on a historic event. “We are experiencing history in the making. Attending the rally in Boston was one of the best ways I knew how to stand in solidarity with the Egyptian people.

“Living in the United States, I think we have a very important role in expressing dissent towards our own government as it has funded the Mubarak regime for many years,” said Mitchell, expanding further about why he supports the Egyptian protesters.

Similar demonstrations took place in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. On Saturday, Feb. 5, the movement will set afoot in Amherst.

The march in Amherst, according to its Facebook page, will be called, “The March in Solidarity with the Egyptian People.”

Saturday has been declared the international day of solidarity with the Egyptian and Tunisian people by many groups in support of the protesters.

The event was organized by 13 Western Massachusetts groups, including the Western Mass. Coalition for Palestine, and The American Friends Service Committee.

Michael Fiorentino, a founding member of the Western Mass. Coalition for Palestine explained why the group decided to organize the march.

“First off, the mass democratic movement in Egypt is inspiring in its own right, and deserves the support of all who value democracy and human rights… and we wanted to put Western Ma[ssachusetts] on the map as an area that sides with social justice in the Middle East.”

Fiorentino said he is expecting several hundred to turn out, from a variety of student and community groups. As of Thursday night, 357 people have said they would attend, on the event’s Facebook page.

Mitchell said he plans to attend the local event in hopes of change on a global and local scale, “A better world is possible. If the people of Egypt and Tunisia can completely reshape their society for the better, what’s to say that we can’t as well?” He added that the rally will provide an opportunity for people with like ideologies to meet.

The march will begin at 1 p.m. at the UMass Haigis Mall, and is anticipated to end at 5 p.m. after rally-goers march to the Amherst College Library.

Michelle Williams can be reached at [email protected]