S.F. solidarity with Yemen
SAN FRANCISCO--Some 300 people attended a solidarity demonstration for the people of Yemen on March 26. Protesters echoed the demands of Yemen's revolution, which calls for an end to the three-decade reign of Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Saleh announced he would cede power to "safe hands," but this ambiguous statement does not satisfy the demands of the people of Yeme,n who have for months called for the president to immediately resign. Sustained protests in Yemen forced the president to make concessions, and after pro-regime snipers massacred 52 people, half the military, including a top general, joined the opposition.
Most of the crowd at the San Francisco protest were natives of Yemen or of Yemeni descent. As the opening rally commenced, dozens of people with Yemeni flags gathered near the front of the stage. A call for a moment of silence was made in honor of those who died in protests. At one point, there was a break for afternoon prayer.
During the opening rally, University of California Berkeley Professor Hatem Bazian listed the "six strategies common to the dictators of the region." They included claiming that only they can govern, threatening civil war, declare Israel and the U.S. to blame even though their regimes collaborated with the U.S. and Israel, blaming Iran and blaming al-Qaeda.
"These countries have been ruled by dictators for 30 or 40 years. It's about time for people to rise up," said a protester named Mustafa.
Salen, who was born in Texas and lived in Jordan, said, "I'm here to support Yemen against Saleh's rule. Thirty years of killing and abusing people and destroying the wealth of the country. I hope policymakers will watch today's protest and not support the regime. It needs to leave. We need people's choice: democracy. I am very optimistic. It was Egypt then Libya's turn, why not Yemen?"
Bahrain solidarity was also evident as some chanted "Justice for Bahrain." One marcher carried a sign that read, "Free Bahrain. Saudis Leave." This is a reference to the 1,000-plus troops the Saudis sent to neighboring Bahrain to quell protests calling for the end of the Al Kalifa family rule.
Zainab Khan summed up the sentiment of many who attended the event. "I'm here to support the Arab world's revolution: Bahrain, Yemen, Libya. The U.S. should not support the regime. The tear gas canisters you find on the ground are from the U.S."
He added, "Egypt worked out, but the U.S. is powerful, so I am not sure if they will get success. We want a democratic society, regardless of religion or race. I support the people for the truth."
Protesters marched from UN Plaza through downtown chanting, "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" and "People want to bring the system down" in Arabic and "Red, black, white--for Yemen we will fight."
At the closing rally, one speaker vowed to come back as long as Saleh remained in power. "We are proud of you, especially the youth," said Abdul Malik. "You are waking the world. When the youth wake up the world wakes up."