At three o’clock last Friday, about 50 protesters of Middle Eastern descent, ranging in age from twenty-somethings to people in their sixties, many of them from Libya, gathered in the 12 degree weather outside the Minnesota State Capitol to demand that the United States take “immediate, enforceable action” against the state repression and mass murder of pro-democracy activists in Libya.
“Free Free Libya!” they chanted in the cold sunshine, holding handmade signs. The mood was angry but hopeful as they chanted and sang in English and Arabic.
“We want to prevent the genocide of the Libyan people!” shouted a man on the group’s megaphone. “We want our freedom and we’re dying for it!”
The small size of the group allowed for dialogue and conversation, not just chants and shouting. People talked amongst themselves and passed the megaphone around when someone had a good idea. At times it was like an open mic. One topic they discussed was the role of social media and traditional media in allowing this historical moment to take place.
One man, when it was his turn, said “Thanks to Facebook, and to YouTube, and to Al Jazeera too.”
“Viva Viva Jazeera!” the crowd responded.
Ali, a fortyish man originally from Misurata, Libya, was one of the protest organizers. He said there was no particular organization responsible for the gathering-that, as has been happening throughout the Middle East for the past month, people simply came together and organized themselves.
“We are here today to show solidarity with the Libyan people,” said Ali, rubbing his bare hands to keep them warm in the cold. “We want the bloodshed to stop immediately. We need the whole world to stop this killing. We need the US government to help the Libyan people to free themselves. We are calling for a full investigation of the mercenaries who are killing the Libyan people.”
The group broke up congenially at around four o’clock, making conversation and social plans. It was a glimpse in our own backyard, however small and brief, of the positive spirit of the revolution taking place half a world away.
Maybe this is what democracy looks like.
Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Collaborative.