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News ::
Eight Hundred Activists Get on the Bus to NYC with Amnesty International
13 Apr 2002
NEW YORK––More than 800 mostly student activists gathered in New York City on April 8 for Get on the Bus, a day of demonstrations and reflection regarding human right crises in the United States and abroad organized by Amnesty International Local Group 133 (www.amnesty133.org) of Somerville, Mass.
Eight Hundred Activists Get on the Bus to New York City with Amnesty International

By: Paul Bugala

NEW YORK––More than 800 mostly student activists gathered in New York City on April 8 for Get on the Bus, a day of demonstrations and reflection regarding human right crises in the United States and abroad organized by Amnesty International Local Group 133 (www.amnesty133.org) of Somerville, Mass. As part of Get on the Bus, activists from 12 states in New England and the Mid Atlantic staged a rally in Central Park, met with a U.S. senator, and protested at the Russian and Chinese consulates to voice their concerns regarding torture and capital punishment, among other issues.

The day’s events began with a rally in the East Meadow of Central Park featuring guest speakers from Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union (www.aclu.org). The speakers’ topics ranged from racial profiling to the human rights implications of the United State’s war on terrorism. The opening rally ended a round protest songs sung by Hope Roth, a Group 133 member from Hartford, Conn., and Pat Keaney, a clean elections advocate and Group 133 member from Boston.

Following a march from Central Park, the protesters assembled outside of the Russian Consulate to call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to abolish the death penalty, release prisoner of conscience Grigory Pasko and put an end to the rape and torture of Chechen women.

During the action, Group 133 member Molly Johnson led a delegation in a meeting with Russian Consulate representatives to present petitions signed by the Get on the Bus participants urging Russian to abolish the death penalty.

At the same time, Group 133 member Russell Heines and several Get on the Bus participants met with U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D, NY). The activists urged Schumer to warn Columbia President Andres Pastrana about the human rights violations occurring during the current unrest in that country.

In the early afternoon, all of the Get on the Bus participants proceeded to the Brick Presbyterian Church for a speakers panel. Panel members included Bill Pelke of Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation (www.mvfr.org), World Trade Center victims’ family members Colleen Kell and Rita Lasar of Peaceful Tomorrows (www.peacefultomorrows.org), and Masuda Sultan, founder of Young Afghan World Alliance (www.ya-wa.org).

One of the most compelling moments of the day came when Lasar, who lost a brother in the World Trade Center attacks, reflected on the long-term influence that activities such as Get on the Bus should have on the participants’ priorities.

“You are receiving a world-class education today and it is your responsibility to use it,” she said. “But if you fall under the power of that aphrodisiac of making money, you will lose site of the things you think you want to accomplish now.”

The day’s events concluded with a demonstration in front of the Chinese Consulate to demand the release of 12 Tibetan nuns held in the Drapchi prison for participating in a peaceful Tibetan independence protests. The gathering was Get on the Bus’ sixth visit to the Chinese consulate or mission in as many years. The activist ended nearly an our of chanting by shouting the promise “we will be back next year.”

-30-
See also:
www.gotb.org and www.amnesty133.org
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