Friday, January 1, 2010

Jan. 1 - Hunger Strike Press Conference

Thirty Gaza Freedom March hunger strikers gathered on the steps of the Journalists Syndicate Building in Cairo today to issue a press release. Sitting quietly in rows on the building's steps and holding signs reading "Fasting for Gaza," they listened as a press release (see below) was read through a bullhorn by one of the fasters. This was followed by a personal statement by Hedy Epstein, Holocaust survivor and human rights activist, who inspired the hunger strike. Hedy urged her fellow fasters and supporters to keep the commitment to seek justice and break the siege on Gaza. Additional hunger strikers made statements in a variety of languages. One hunger striker from the U.S. called on President Obama to be an agent for justice by changing America's current foreign policy.

Michigan Peace Team members were joined on the steps by John Dear S.J., Pace e Bene's Fr. Louie Vitale, and peacemaker Martha Hennessy, grandaughter of Dorothy Day.

As the statements were read, approximately 30 to 40 riot police were standing in rows of formation off to the side of the peaceful event. About fifteen minutes into the press conference, the riot police were instructed to move forward from their standby position to pick up body shields and batons. Once they were equipped with riot gear, they surrounded the perimeter of the gathering, forming a human barrier around the group of hunger strikers, journalists and supporters. Some attendees quietly left the scene while the personal statements of the hunger strikers resumed. At one point, another officer walked through the line of riot police and collected their shields, leaving them with batons in their hands as they faced the group of fasters who were still quietly seated on the steps.

A Michigan Peace Team member was there to support and document the event. She reports,"When the riot police directly faced the group of hunger strikers, with their backs to their commanders in chief, their faces seem to soften. I felt spiritually drawn to slowly walk the perimeter of the riot-geared, uniformed human blockade and silently gaze into their eyes with the extreme love, sadness and peace that I was feeling inside. More of the young men returned the direct eye contact, sometimes with softened faces, sometimes with soft smiles. A few of the young police remained staring straight past me without any acknowledgement. "

To read personal reflections on the fast see:

Press Statement of the Gaza Freedom March Hunger Strikers:

We are thirty activists from around the world, inspired by Hedy Epstein, the 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, who initiated a hunger strike in Cairo for the opening of the borders of Gaza to the outside world. We recognize that the Palestinians of Gaza continue to hunger for food, shelter, and most of all for freedom. We continue to hunger for justice for Gaza and all of Palestine. At this time we will announce that we will feast when Gaza feasts.Until that time, each of us will choose the time to end her/his fast and again take food. Our pleasure in that food will always be mixed with the pain of the Palestinians. We call on all people of conscience from around the world to renew their resolve for peace and justice in Palestine.

1 comment:

  1. On Democracy Now Dec. 30 it was reported that : Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit had hash words for the marchers, saying, quote, “Those who tried to conspire against us, and they are more than a thousand, we will leave them in the street,”. I don't understand what he meant by marchers conspiring against us. Did he elaborate? Did DN take his statement out of context? Was that a statement made by a man that couldn't think of a plausible reason to deny marcher permission to cross that he could say in public? Thank You MPT for standing up for the people of Gaza. Travel safe my prayers are with you.