Valentine’s Day, typically a day synonymous with love, peace and harmony, meant more for some of Minnesota’s Tibetan population on Saturday as they prepared for a rally at the Mall of America in recognition of the upcoming 50th anniversary of China’s invasion of Tibet.
About 200 Tibet supporters overtook the rotunda area at the mall, much to the astonishment of mall personnel.
At noon, the group, dressed in white tops and bearing Tibet banners and flags, froze in unison for five minutes before the peaceful demonstration was broken up by mall security.
Security declined to comment and a mall spokesperson was not available.
Sangay Taythi , a board member of the Tibetan Youth Congress , which helped organize the protest, said China is making “Tibetans minorities in their own land.”
“Tibetans have a right to exist,” he said.
President of the University’s chapter of Students for a Free Tibet and political science junior Ngawang Dolker participated in the event, along with her fellow board members. Minnesota has one of the nation’s highest populations of Tibetans, she said.
Ten years after China’s 1949 invasion of Tibet, tens of thousands of Tibetans directed an uprising against the Chinese . To this day, the struggle continues. March 10 will mark the 50th anniversary of the uprising.
The Chinese government says that Tibet is a part of China, and that Tibetans are just a small portion of the nation’s huge population.
Henry Caine, 41, was in the midst of shopping for Valentine’s Day gifts when the demonstration took place and said he was caught off guard by the event.
“I really didn’t understand everything that was going on at first,” Caine said. “Even after the thing was stopped, I was still a little confused about it.”
Taythi said, although he thought Saturday’s event was a “success,” there will be more actions to come.
On Saturday evening, the Tibetan Youth Congress hosted a benefit party entitled “No Love for China.” Proceeds will be allocated to Tibet-related campaigns, including the upcoming National Tibetan Uprising, slated for the anniversary date.
Photographer Jessica Janoski contributed to this report.