Shouting slogans like “Hey! Ho! Mubarak has to go!” and “Freedom will prevail, the people are speaking” the young and old gathered at the Federal Building in downtown San Diego Feb. 4.
The crowd, which included City College students and organizations, united on that Friday evening in response to the current protests taking place in Egypt over the past several weeks.
“Our purpose here is to express our solidarity with the revolutions that are spreading across the middle east,” said protest organizer Chuck Stemke of socialistworker.org. “Especially solidarity with the people fighting for freedom in Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen; all across the whole region where people are rising up against the dictatorships they have lived under for so many decades.”
One week after the protests at the Federal building were held, their voices, along with the thousands of other voices in Egypt, were heard, as the President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, stepped down after a 30-year reign.
The protests in Egypt began Jan. 25, when thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo and other Egyptian cities, calling for the immediate removal of President Hosni Mubarak and his government.
According to reports, protesters focused on legal and political issues including police brutality, state of emergency laws, lack of free elections and free speech and corruption, as well as economic issues including high unemployment, food price inflation and low minimum wages.
Since the beginning of these events, clashes have erupted between protesters and Egyptian police, as well as with ruling party members. The protests hit a climax as an announcement was made Thursday, stating that President Hosni Mubarak was to speak to the people of Egypt.
Protesters eagerly waited in Tahrir Square for word of his removal, but were angered when, yet again, Mubarak offered only the release of limited powers to the vice president, until free elections would be held in September.
Finally, after the announcement was met with an uproar from Egyptians, the vice president announced that all power would be held by the High Counsel of the military, until free elections are held.
City College students and Socialist Club members Antonio and Marcos Perez were part of the many voices in downtown hoping for this moment to come for the Egyptians.
“I feel that genuine change comes from below, meaning that the people in Egypt and in the Arab world have shown us how it is that we demand change,” Antonio said.
Antonio’s sentiment was reflected in posters carried by fellow protesters reading “Solidarity with the People of the Arab World” and in chants stating “Egypt, Egypt, will be free!”
“What’s going on over there is definitely inspiring,” Marcos said. “What’s making it so significant is that they’re not backing down and won’t be satisfied with just any ruler that comes to power. They keep insisting on serious change.”
The crowd swelled to well over 100 Friday evening, and brought together socialist, anti-war, and other peace demonstrators as well as Arab organizations, according to Stemke. However, a large part of the protesters consisted of San Diego’s immigrant community.
“We have Algerian flags, we have Palestinian flags, we have Egyptian flags,” Stemke said. “We have people who are from the countries that are going through revolutions right now; where their family members are back home living under dictatorships . who are now joining protests.”
“The people who are here today . are here with their friends, their family, their comrades . and feel like they have to do something here, living in the United States,” he added.
UC San Diego law student Omar Abdelghany was born in Egypt. He lived there until he was 8 years old and knows first hand what the situation is like there.
According to Abdelghany, his family still resides in Egypt and is taking part in the protest. He searched the Web for protests here in San Diego, supporting his family’s efforts in Egypt.
“I support the Egyptian people’s struggle for freedom,” Abdelghany said. “They want a government that is ‘for the people, by the people.’ They want to be able to choose who their president is, and who their representatives are. They want to fulfill their dreams of having good jobs and living in a productive society. It’s not anything complicated.”
And now, after an 18-day struggle for freedom, the Egyptian people will be able to fulfill these dreams as they move on to a new chapter in their history.