Fighting for democracy

AddThis

Cries of “Not another nickel, not another dime, no more money for Mubarak’s crimes,” rang across the lawn in front of the Capitol on Saturday as protesters waved Egyptian flags and chanted to support the Egyptian uprising for democracy. Austinites carried anti-Mubarak signs in support of the Egyptian people’s fight to end President Hosni Mubarak’s rule of nearly 30 years. The International Socialist Organization and the Palestine Solidarity Committee, a UT organization, organized the rally to express their discontent with the American government’s military funding to Egyptian officials. Egyptian citizens began protesting Tuesday to fight against growing poverty, lack of democracy and overbearing government rule. American protesters are echoing Egyptian discontent and urging the American government to take a stand against Mubarak’s regime, said Karen Burke, spokeswoman for the International Socialist Organization. “The point of the protest was to say that the American people stand with the Egyptians in their fight for democracy and to encourage the government and our elected officials to withdraw funding to the Mubarak regime,” Burke said. According to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. has given $2 billion — most of which supports the military — to Egypt for more than 30 years. Daryl Harris, an Arabic studies graduate student, said he came to the protest to show support for the Egyptian people’s efforts and to express discontent with America’s role in Egyptian affairs. “The corruption in the Egyptian regime is appalling, and the fact that the U.S. does not take a deliberate stance in accordance with its democratic values upsets me as a [U.S.] citizen,” he said. Harris’ voice rang above the other protesters as he stood out in the crowd, shouting for protesters to “get loud” and to “get angry.” “I would like to see people yelling; I would like to see people visibly upset about this,” he said. “If militancy isn’t an alternative, than peace is taken for granted.” The mass Egyptian protests stemmed from the successful protest and overthrow of long-time ruler El Abidine Ben Ali by the Tunisians. The protests in Tunisia and Egypt are a testament to the power citizens can have to demand control over their government, said Snehal Shingavi, a UT assistant English professor. “We should take incredible inspiration from what is happening in the Middle East,” he said. “It shows what ordinary people are capable of doing when they demand democratic rights for themselves in protest of the conditions they live in.” Shingavi told the crowd that the Egyptian people are “heroes” who are empowering themselves and taking their freedom from their government. “Never let it be uttered again that the only way the Arab people will get democracy is with American soldiers coming in and invading their countries,” he said. “Let it never again be uttered that Egypt is not ready for democracy. The people on the streets are demonstrating just how ready for democracy they are.” Coptic Students of Texas, an Egyptian student religious group, expressed less political sentiment for Egyptian citizens in regard to overturning the government. Erene Attia, the group’s president, said their main concern is what will happen to the people in the midst of chaos. Attia said no one is obeying the curfew in spite of all the crime. “There is no sense of order there right now, and I feel like every step the government takes is just adding fuel to the fire,” Attia said.