About 30 people brought their signs and slogans to the Egyptian Embassy for an Amnesty International-sponsored “protest in solidarity” for the millions swarming Cairo and Alexandria. Their call for human rights followed anti-Mubarak rallies over the weekend which featured hundreds of protesters.
While the images from Egypt on Tuesday showed streets bursting with people, this group of demonstrators were hard-pressed to fill their gated bullpen outside the gray granite building in northwest Washington. Indeed, by the scheduled start time of noon, enough people had arrived to make a one-person-one-letter “HUMAN RIGHTS IN EGYPT!” sign — but barely.
Folabi Olagbaju, the protest’s leader, promised that more would be on the way. “That’s what they all say,” replied one of the group members.
But by 12:15 p.m. enough reinforcements had trickled in for Olagbaju, megaphone in hand, to begin. “Welcome everyone, thank you so much for coming today,” he said, to a rousing cheer from the group.
Olagbaju, director of Amnesty’s mid-Atlantic regional office, led the chants, including one homage to John Lennon: “All we are saying, is human rights now!” The protesters walked in a circle inside their gated area, shaking homemade noisemakers fashioned from soda cans.
After maybe 15 minutes, Olagbaju announced that he had been “asked to shut up.” A moment of silence ensued, with protesters lighting candles.
T. Kumar, director of international advocacy, followed with a mini-speech in which he said they were there “to send a powerful message” and that this was “not a political call, but a human call.” He pushed for President Barack Obama to “translate that [call] into policy.”
Then, a bit more chanting — and laughter, when one member loudly responded to “when do we want it?” with “Egypt!”, clearly confusing “when” for “where”.
And that was that. At 12:45 p.m., group members put their shakers and yellow Amnesty signs back in the box on the ground, and went their separate ways.