From Maine to Pennsylvania, Students Convene in New York to Condemn Human Rights Abuses in India, Jamaica, China, and Mexico
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Birgit Werner, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: 617-230-2712
ATTENTION TELEVISION PRODUCERS: B-Roll of Bhopal is available upon request.
Friday, April 15th, 2005
(Friday, April 15, 2005) — For the tenth year in a row, more than one thousand high school and college students from ten states are traveling to New York to protest human rights abuses across the world as part of “Get On the Bus,” Amnesty International USA’s largest entirely volunteer-run event.
“Get on the Bus” is organized by Amnesty Group 133 from Somerville, Massachusetts and started ten years ago after the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other peaceful environmental activists in Nigeria. Upset about this horrific human rights violation, several members of the group traveled to New York and protested in front of the Nigerian consulate, shouting “Ken Saro-Wiwa…We will not forget!” Each year since 1996, the group has been coming back in memory of Saro-Wiwa’s heroic activism to protest human rights abuses around the world. However, what started out as a small trip of 30 people has grown to include approximately 1500 activists, mostly high school and college students.
A major goal of “Get On the Bus” is the introduction of young people to human rights activism. Rick Roth, activist and father to eight children said: “The great thing about Get on the Bus is not only the actions we take that day for human rights themselves, but that 1,000 students return to their communities and spread the word that ordinary citizens can play a part in changing the world, and also they have some specific plans on how to do it.”
This year, demonstrations are taking place at the Indian, the Jamaican, the Chinese, and the Mexican consulates. At the Indian consulate, students demand that the victims of the 1984 Union Carbide (UCC) disaster in Bhopal, India (the world’s greatest human rights disaster arising from corporate negligence) receive just treatment and compensation and that the Indian government hold UCC/Dow Chemical accountable. “We need the Indian government to bring Dow Chemical and Union Carbide to justice,” said panel speaker Gary Cohen, a board member of the Sambhavana Trust, a free clinic for the survivors of the disaster. “Dow/Carbide has not cleaned up the abandoned pesticide factory even after 20 years, and the company has been declared a fugitive in the pending criminal case in Bhopal. The world can not tolerate companies getting away with murder.”
At the Jamaican consulate, activists are demonstrating for the repeal of sodomy laws and against a political climate that tolerates homophobic violence. Amnesty International has documented a serious pattern of homophobic violence in Jamaica ranging from vigilante attacks to torture and ill-treatment by police. Gay men and women have been beaten, cut, burned, raped and shot on account of their sexuality, and there appears to be little or no accountability. “The situation in Jamaica brings into sharp relief the brutal abuse suffered by lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people around the world,” said Michael Heflin, Director of AIUSA’s OUTfront program for LGBT rights. “All too often, authorities turn a blind eye to such abuse or, even worse, are active participants – and Jamaica is no exception. In ignoring or advocating violence, they are ignoring their commitment to uphold national and international laws and standards that dictate the equal protection of all human beings.”
At the Chinese consulate, protesters are calling for the release of political prisoners such as Buddhist monk Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche. Many Tibetan political prisoners are tortured and ill-treated during their detainment and go without a fair trial or adequate legal support. Geshe Lobsang Tenpa, a former student of Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche, who himself had been detained and tortured in a Chinese prison, is speaking from first-hand experience about human rights abuses in Tibet.
In addition to the three major demonstrations, a smaller side protest is taking place during the lunch break, where activists will gather in front of the Mexican Consulate to call on the government to dedicate energy and resources to end twelve years of abductions and killings of women in the border cities of Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua. Demonstrators carry pink crosses to remember the over 400 women who have been brutally murdered or disappeared since 1993. The group is also delivering petitions addressed to President Fox, calling on his government to conduct thorough, impartial, and independent investigations into the murders and bring to justice those responsible for the crimes.
Besides being the tenth anniversary, this year’s “Get On the Bus” is also special because, in coordination with the demonstrations in New York, several events will take place in other cities of the US and in India. Today, Students for Bhopal supporters are organizing delegations to visit the Indian consulate in Houston and Washington, DC and call in/fax actions in San Francisco and New Delhi, India. In Chicago and Chennai, India, supporters will hold parallel events in the following days. Members of OUTfront, Amnesty International USA’s campaign for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Human Rights, held vigils in Washington, DC outside the Jamaican Embassy and in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on April 14th.