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Protesters march in support of Egyptian revolt

"Hey, Mubarak, you will see, Egypt, Egypt will be free," protesters chanted Saturday afternoon at Burnside Park to show solidarity with the people of Egypt. The protest was organized by the Rhode Island Mobilization Committee to Stop War and Occupation.

"We were very happy when these demonstrations started happening," said RIMC member Shaun Joseph '05. "What's going on in Egypt now is going to change not just U.S. policy, but world history from here on in."

Protestors marched from Burnside Park through Kennedy Plaza to the Providence Place Mall, which RIMC member Jared Paul called the "symbol of capitalism and globalism." Alternately chanting and listening to impassioned speeches, they culminated the protest in a huddle with one last chant for the Egyptians.

Protestors shared admiration for the way the Egyptian people have come together to protect each other and expressed disgust for Mubarak's "thugs." During the speech of an Egyptian citizen, they mourned those who perished in the protests with a moment of silence.

The situation in Egypt could be "resolved very quickly without all the violence and bloodshed that we're seeing on the streets of Cairo today," Joseph said.

Ed Benson AM'68 PhD'71, one of the protestors, added that he would like the CIA "to butt the hell out."

Representatives from supportive groups — the International Socialist Organization, Brown Students for Justice in Palestine and the Rhode Island Unemployed Council — spoke at the rally, expanding the agenda beyond freedom for the Egyptian people.

ISO and BSJP representative Lindsay Goss GS, who is studying the contemporary theater of the Middle East, described the revolutionary activity in Egypt as "one of the most exciting and inspiring things to happen in my life" in her speech.

Goss said participants in the rally should "take on our government's total complicity with what's going on right now."

The youngest protester present was 2-year-old Mireille Chidester, in the arms of her father, Brian. "We're trying to teach her to say ‘solidarity,'" he said.

"What the revolution in Egypt opens up is a possibility of a transformed society from one of profound inequality and exploitation to a different society based on democracy and meeting people's needs," Brian said.

The RIMC was originally created to oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a part of the United Anti-War Committee but has since expanded its focus to support the Palestinian cause and an end to both U.S. aid to Israel and aggression toward Iran. The committee aims to "think about the tally of U.S. policy and try to advocate for more democratic and just policy globally and locally," Joseph said. "All the issues of U.S. foreign policy are connected."

Many of these protesters joined a second protest in front of the State House Sunday afternoon, this one sponsored by the Rhode Island Council for Muslim Advancement.

RICMA "supports the right of Egyptian people to decide their future through peaceful protests" and expressed its outrage at the police's violence in response to protestors, according to a press release distributed at the protest. "We are optimistic that this time the U.S. government will be on the right side of history to refute oppression and corruption in Egypt and the Middle East as a whole," according to the press release.

Mohamed Abdelrahman, former RICMA president, left Egypt 30 years ago. "I went outside to have a dignity and a living situation that was more appropriate to an engineer and his wife and his child," he said. "I hope to go back to a better situation."

Abdelrahman noted that many Egyptians live under the poverty line on less than $2 a day. He said he would like to see an end to Mubarak's entire regime, a modification to the current constitution and an end to the current emergency law, which he said keeps the Egyptian people living in fear of joining the thousands that have already been sent to detention camps for dissent against the government.

The theme of universal freedom was prevalent in the words of many of the protestors.

"In the religion of Islam, we have brothers from all over the world, and we stand by our brothers," said protester Waleed Muhammed. "In this country we have freedom and justice for all — that should apply all over the world."

And even if Egyptian protestors don't initially succeed, "I don't think people are going to forget what they did," Joseph said. "There's no going back from it."


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