Los Angeles Shows Support for Egypt with Rally at Federal Building
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By: Liana Aghajanian
As protests calling for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak violently escalated on the streets of Egypt in what is now the fifth day of anti-government unrest, at least a thousand demonstrators in Los Angeles organized in front the Federal Building chanting for an end to the 30-year regime and carrying homemade signs in Arabic and English to stand in solidarity with their Egyptian counterparts thousands of miles away.
Demanding that Mubarak and his regime be replaced with freedom and democracy in the North African country, demonstrators, many who had family and relatives on the front lines of the protest in Egypt, grew exponentially over the course of a few hours and flooded Wilshire Boulevard waving Egyptian and American flags amid honks of support from traffic.
The passionate chants that made waves across a crowd full of varied backgrounds, including members of the Sudanese, Libyan, Iranian, Latino, Tunisian and Palestinian diasporas, were led by organizers like Amr Elshennawy, who stressed the event was not only to show support for Egypt, but to inspire Americans to pressure the U.S government, who has given 2 billion in economic and military aid to Egypt since 1979 according to the Congressional Research Service , to stop supporting the current regime.
"These are very basic human rights that people are just asking for," he said. "Americans fought for freedom a long time go, so it's a basic right of Egyptians to have the same fight."
Inspired by the protests that overthrew the government in Tunisia, Egyptians organized and took to the streets earlier this week to speak out against rising poverty, corruption and unemployment, which they say is a result of Mubarak's rule. Elshennawy's brother was one of them, and is currently at the demonstration in Tahrir Square, Cairo's bustling city center that's now become the iconic hub for protests.
"He's saying that right now the situation is a disaster and everybody knows that," he said. "I'm ashamed I'm not there, but I'm doing my best."
While signs like "Down with Mubarak, Up with the People" bopped between clenched fists and community leaders stepped up to have their say with speaker phones, hope and optimism of an impending regime change swept over demonstrators.
Magda Faraq, who immigrated to the U.S. from Egypt twenty years ago said Mubarak's resignation was imminent.
"People don't want him," she said. "This is the first time people are screaming for their rights, to have the freedom to choose their own president and their own destiny."
Faraq said she didn't have anyone in mind to take over because Mubarak didn't leave anyone a chance to be in the picture except him.