Gaza Freedom March
(Dec. 29, 2009) -- In a phone conversation with Josh Brollier (Voices for Creative Nonviolence) and Michael Hearington (Veterans for Peace), we learned that about 500 people, including several hundred Gaza Freedom Marchers and scores of Egyptian citizens, are holding a rally outside the offices of an Egyptian Union of Journalists. Josh said that Egyptian speakers are urging support for the Gaza Freedom March.
“In contrast to the Egyptian government’s behavior,” Josh wrote, yesterday, “the people of Egypt have been extremely welcoming and very supportive of the Gaza Freedom March. This support has largely had to remain underground, due to the government's ruling that a gathering of 6 or more people is illegal. Despite this fact, it has been rumored that some 200 Egyptian citizens attempted to join the Gaza Freedom March of their own accord and were arrested on their way to El Arish. The authorities have refused to comment or substantiate this. If it is true, the whereabouts of the Egyptian citizens remained uncertain.”
Earlier today, US citizens and others were detained and harassed while attempting to visit the American Embassy in Cairo. Josh’s update follows:
"At about 9:30am today, a group of US citizens attempted to visit their Embassy in Cairo and were forcefully detained by Egyptian police. The group was seeking the US ambassador’s support for the Gaza Freedom March to enter into Gaza from Egypt.
Approximately fifty people were detained outside the U.S. Embassy in small groups. Some were being dragged off the street for simply approaching the U.S. Embassy. Authorities were not allowing cameras and were forcefully dragging anyone in the area with a camera into the facility. Franciscan priest, Rev. Louis Vitale, on hunger strike, is among those detained.
Rae Abileah, a Gaza Freedom March coordinator who was part of the detained group, urged everyone to contact U.S. representatives at the embassy about support for the Gaza Freedom March. She also emphasized that we should focus on the plight of Palestinians enduring a state of siege in Gaza.
Medea Benjamin and Ali Abunimah were among a group of Gaza Freedom March representatives who met with U.S. Embassy officials. They were unsuccessful in seeking Embassy support for the Gaza Freedom March to enter Gaza."
Despite the determination of Egyptian authorities to break the Gaza Freedom March's momentum, Josh believes that the international presence in Cairo is generating an important conversation, worldwide, over Israel's Operation Cast Lead assaults, last year, and the ongoing siege imposed on Gaza.
"Global activists have embraced the cause," notes fellow activist Phil Weiss. "The privileged European and American left have accepted the issue and are proud at last to be melding with Muslims and Arabs."
Joshua Brollier in Cairo
Rae Abileah in Cairo
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