Monday, April 05, 2004

My Sweetheart in the News

Somerville News
March 17, 2004
Rights activists to bus to NYC
by Franklin W. Liu

The local coordinator for Amnesty International spoke at the March 12 contributors meeting of the Somerville News about the organization and its April 16 “Get on the Bus” trip to New York City.

It started nine years ago when 30 members of the local group 133 went to New York City together to protest the execution of the Nigerian environmentalist Ken Sero-Wiwa, said Ann Corbett, a four-year resident of the city.

The group has such a positive experience that they decided to make it a yearly event, she said.

Because the Somerville chapter has such a reputation for activism and innovation, other Amnesty groups heard about the trip and made plans to go to New York City to meet them there, she said.

This year, it is expected that more than 800 activists from eight states take part. Everyone will converge on Central Park in the morning for a short rally and then it is off to a day of Manhattan fun and protest, she said.

It is the single largest annual Amnesty event in all of North America, she said.

She said this year’s protest will focus on three consulates, Russia, Egypt and China. “We always do China.”

Corbett is leading the protest at the Russian consulate. There the activists will protest the lack of laws protecting woman, particularly from domestic violence. “36,000 women are beaten by their husbands or partners in the Russian Federation,” she said.

“Even the Russian authorities stated that 14,000 women die every year at the hands of their husbands or relatives. Yet, domestic violence is not recognized as a crime,” she said.

The Russian protest is part of a larger, global Amnesty campaign called “The Campaign to Stop Violence Against Women,” a coordinated, aggressive action plan to curb the epidemic, she said.

The next protest stop is the Egyptian consulate. There the protesters will condemn that country’s systematic harassment, entrapment and detention of gay people in Egypt, she said.

In one case, Egyptian police arrested hundreds of passengers on a gay cruise and detained them for many months without trial, she said.

The last stop in the perennial protest against the government of China, she said. “We’re going to the Chinese consulate to demonstrate against the death sentence given to Tibetan monk Tenkin Delek.”

In the past, Chinese dissenters who were freed after our protests have come to march with us, this year is no exception, she said.

“Amnesty International is a non-political, non-partisan organization with a founding interest in freeing political prisoners. Our work has expanded to concern many areas of human rights,” she said.

Local Group 133 does not receive funding from the main headquarters, she said. “We are staffed mostly by volunteers who believe that grassroots can, indeed, change the world,” she said.


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