Thirteen years ago, as the Bay Area Eritreans were preparing for a rally in San Francisco for June 1, 2002, on May 28, 2002, The Pencil carried the following editorial which is being republished on the occasion of the demonstration that is planned for May 18, 2015. We encourage everyone to join the San Francisco demonstration on Monday, May 18, 2015. Meet at 899 Market St. (Powell Bart Station) at 10 am. Show your solidarity to the cause by participating in the demonstration.
Consider the upcoming rally the thirteenth anniversary of the first grand demonstration that challenged the PFDJ bullying in the Bay Area and proved to the opposition forces that unity can break any wall. On that day, the walls of the PFDJ fortress in the Bay Area was demolished for good. No more bullying and no more hiding; the regime is exposed to the bone though the pressure must be kept alive. This is the link to the report of the June 1, 2002 demonstration.
May 28, 2002
“Although our compatriots in the Diaspora have already frustrated these designs, a special Commission will nonetheless be established to enhance their exemplary participation in the affairs of their country.” — Isaias Afwerki, May 24, 2002
The “commission” announced by the head of the PFDJ in his Independence Day address has gotten its first marching orders on how best to enhance the exemplary participation of those in Diaspora. In a mischievous move that PFDJ is famous for, a brainchild of PFDJ office (now wearing the phony hat of “Eritrean American Community of the Greater Bay Area”) has scheduled a rally on June 1st at the San Francisco City Hall: the exact date and the exact time that a coalition of movements opposed to the PFDJ regime had scheduled its rally to protest PFDJ injustice.
One of the many things that makes the United States a great country is the right of self-expression including rallies and demonstrations in support and against a government. It is so great that it is now standard article in every nation’s constitution—including nations with governments who have no intention of implementing it. This is why we shall be witnessing what Eritreans in Europe have witnessed: a group of people who, from the comforts of their life in their adopted land, organize a demonstration to support an oppressive government back home that denies their compatriots, among many other civil liberties, the right to demonstrate.
This last minute PFDJ counter-programming has no positive purpose: it is designed to derail, to intimidate and to confuse. It is intended to de-motivate and discourage future anti-government rallies. It is intended to cast fear on people who do not want to be a part of any confrontation, given the disruptive habits of some of the rowdier PFDJ elements.
Let’s address this concern first. There will be San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) presence throughout the demonstration. San Francisco is a city that has seen more than its fair share of demonstrations and the SFPD are quite experienced at dealing with disruptive elements. We invite all demonstrators—in support or against the government— to rally peacefully. We invite all to refuse to be provoked by the provocateurs—the ones with the camcorders, the cameras, the catcalls, the insult-slingers whose sole purpose is to intimidate. We invite those who come to protest injustice to let the law enforcement agencies deal with the provocateurs.
Why did the PFDJ choose this day, June 1st, to conduct its rally? Simple: it is for propaganda purposes. Rallies in Diaspora make for great propaganda footage at Eri-TV: they are intended to communicate to the average Eritrean back home that the government “enjoys the overwhelming support of Eritreans everywhere.” The script of the reportage is already typed and ready for publication at Shaebia.org: “…. in only one week, the Eritrean community in the Greater Bay Area were able to organize _________ (take actual number, multiply by 2-3) in support of their government. The traitors/defeatists were not able to organize more than _________ (take actual number, divide by 2-3)….” All that is missing is the pictures.
Here’s what the report won’t tell you:
(1) The Oakland branch of the PFDJ will conduct non-stop telemarketing for the whole week. The callers will beg, plead, threaten and otherwise play every card in their deck to get a “huge” turnout. The rally will be sold as a “Warsai-Yekaalo” project when in fact it has nothing to do with Warsai-Yekaalo and is no more than a political muscle flexing;
(2) At most, about 400 people will show up. In a classic PFDJ embellishment, the rally will be reported as having had the attendance of nearly 1,000.
(3) Although the Bay Area reflects the diversity of Eritrea (religion/nationality), the pro-government rally will not even come close to doing that. Notwithstanding the selective use of names to give the impression that the government enjoys the “overwhelming” support of Eritreans, (as they did in the European demonstrations) the pro-government rally will demonstrate, once again, that the government has “parted ways” with a huge chunk of the Eritrean population.
In short, the pro-PFDJ rally will be made up of people who have been begged and directed to attend an “important” meeting; it will be a tiny fraction of the constituency on whose behalf it claims to speak and, of the few attending, there will be no representation of Eritrea’s diversity.
On the other hand, those protesting the PFDJ misrule maybe relatively small—but they will be more representative of Eritrea’s diversity and Eritrean values of justice.
There will be two rallies on June 1st in San Francisco, California. There will be slogans and placards. Lest there be confusion about the objectives of the demonstrators, let us evaluate the benchmarks:
- Justice/Rule of Law: The coalition of movements opposed to the government are calling for bringing the hundreds of prisoners of conscience Eritreans languishing in jail, to be brought to a court of law. The pro-government rally is to demonstrate “total and unequivocal support” of the government, including its practice of disappearing and arresting citizens without charge;
- Power: The movements opposed to the government are calling for surrendering power to the people. The pro-government rally is in support of a government that has repeatedly demonstrated it has no intention of empowering the people and operates without laws;
- Freedom of Speech: The movements opposed to the government are calling on the government to respect the Eritrean peoples right to freedom of speech and the freeing or bringing to court of the arrested reporters. The pro-government rally is in support of a government that has shut down all free press and continues to detain journalists with no charge and has no timetable of when it will do so. They are demonstrating in support of a government that denies Eritreans the rights they enjoy in host nations like the United States;
- Political Pluralism: The movements opposed to the government are demonstrating against the one-party rule of the PFDJ. The pro-government rally is in support of a government that has had power monopoly for ten years and has no time-table of when it will “permit” Eritreans to organize and form political associations;
- Peace: The movements opposed to the government are demonstrating against the Eritrean government’s established seven-year pattern of resorting to war to resolve all conflicts. The pro-government rally is in support of a government that embroils Eritrea in cycles of war and then “celebrates” the interim moments of peace between wars;
- Foreign Policy: The movements opposed to the government are demonstrating against the Eritrean government’s reckless policies which have resulted in painting Eritrea as a pariah nation shunned by the European Union and befriended by outlaw regimes. The pro-government rally is in support of such a government and its policies;
Bay Area Eritreans, the choices cannot be clearer. One rally is to protest injustice; the other is to bless injustice One is to protest authoritarianism; the other is to give it a mandate. One rally is to speak on behalf of the muted Eritrean; the other is to license the government to be even more oppressive and abusive. Do not be confused or intimidated by the PFDJ. The protest against injustice is organized by a coalition of organizations and individuals who may have differing views on different issues but agree on one overriding concern: The PFDJ is an Unjust, Undemocratic movement that is bringing ruin to a country we all love. Do not fall for their trap of “fifth columnists”, “traitors,” “defeatists,” “extremists” and other labels they use to deflect attention from their misrule and injustice. The pro-PFDJ rally is an invitation to support an extension to the life of a regime that disappears, arrests and terrorizes people. Do not take our word for it; read the reports of human rights watchdog groups; better yet, call your friends and relatives in Eritrea and ask them about their living conditions under PFDJ. They will tell you that the PFDJ is a brutal system that would not hesitate to disappear, arrest, torture the “Warsai” and the Yekaalo,–the same heroes it is trying to milk for political mileage–if they were to so much as ask for their rights as citizens.
There will be two rallies on June 1st. One rally is a call for justice; the other is a call for political Stand up for your rights—and the rights of the terrorized Eritreans—and protest against the injustice of PFDJ! It is the least you can do for Eritreans in Eritrea who are living under a reign of fear, terror, injustice and intermittent wars. Fight for justice! Fight for freedom! Make your voice count! Say “No” To Injustice and Intimidation.
An Eritrea Without A Free People Is Still Not Free
The Awate Team