Lines of taxicabs were parked along Fairmount Avenue in City Heights yesterday afternoon–Sunday April 28. Police cars were parked in front of the Golden Hall East African Community and Cultural Center where approximately sixty people were holding a protest that spilled into the adjacent parking lot. Signs with “Stop Human Rights Abuses” were visible among the group waving Ethiopian and American flags.
According to protesters, the Ethiopian Consulate from Los Angeles was barricaded inside the cultural center with an undetermined number of members of the San Diego and Los Angeles Ethiopian Community. The Consulate was attending a widely publicized meeting to promote the purchase of bonds to build a controversial dam in Ethiopia that threatens the livelihood of thousands of indigenous peoples.
Protesters maintained that flyers advertising the meeting had been left in City Heights Ethiopian markets and restaurants. One woman told me that when the protesting group entered the cultural center they were met with invectives, hostility and intimidation before being dispersed from the meeting which had been publicized as open to the public.
Protesters were anxious to describe the current conditions in Ethiopia under a government led by the minority Tigray tribe. Someone handed me the 2012 US State Department Human Rights Watch which detailed the Ethiopian government suppression of journalists and bloggers and the alarming incidences of imprisonment and torture. There is no independent press in Ethiopia and dissenting political views are often treated as “terrorism.”
The enormous dam under construction in Ethiopia, undertaken by the current government/Tigray minority, has become a flash point for inter-tribal tensions. The protesters represented non-Tigray ethnic and tribal groups who described being left out of the dam planning process, despite the profound impacts it would have upon their villages.
By Anna Daniels
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