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In Downtown Protest, Occupy Detroit and Arab-American Community Leaders Join Forces

posted on: Jan 28, 2012

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About 150 protesters with Occupy Detroit and the Arab-American community held a joint rally today in downtown Detroit on the one-year anniversary of the uprising in Tahrir Square in Egypt.

The crowd walked from Grand Circus Park to the federal McNamara building and back, holding up signs that read: “From Tahrir to Detroit, we are the 99%” and “Tahrir! Occupy says Thank you! Happy Anniversary.”

The demonstrators sought to link the protests in Egypt with those in the U.S., saying the uprisings in the Arab world inspired the Occupy movement in the U.S.

“Their example inspired the American people,” Dearborn attorney Tarek Baydoun said at the rally. “This is an issue of human dignity.”

The demonstrators criticized the military of Egypt for its alleged abuses of protesters and called for the U.S. to stop funding it.

“The Egyptian people are under attack,” the protesters chanted as they walked back to Grand Circus Park, the site of the Occupy Detroit encampment last year.

“If it wasn’t for people standing up against dictators in the Middle East…I don’t think we’d be seeing the movements here in the United States,” said Aaron Petcoff, of Occupy Detroit.

The Occupy movement started in September near Wall Street in New York City as a movement against what protesters saw as economic injustices; it echoed unemployment protests in Spain last summer and the Arab uprisings. Massive protests in Egypt against the government started on Jan. 25 last year.

Members of the Dearborn-based Arab American Political Action Committee and the Congress of Arab American Organizations took part in today’s rally, saying they support the movements in both the Arab world and in the U.S.

“We have to force change through non-violent means,” said Baydoun. “The Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings are a perfect example to the world…Arab-Americans are very proud of that.”

Niraj Warikoo
Detroit Free Press