“China out of Tibet now, China out of Tibet now!” The cries of thousands of protestors echoed through the streets of New York on March 10th, 2013.
Yielding Tibetan flags and banners calling for a freedom from Chinese occupation, the participants marched from Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn to their first stop of the day- the United Nations Headquarters. The group later made their way to the Chinese Consulate followed by Union Square.
At the UN, the group, consisting of a variety of organizations fighting for Tibetan freedom as well as independent supporters, gathered for inspirational speeches and to demonstrate their steadfast determination to incite change.
“Today is March 10th which we call Tibet national uprising day. This is the commemoration and anniversary of the beginning of the big uprising of 1959 in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, that eventually led to the Dalai Lama’s escape,” said Lhadon Tethong, the Director of the Tibet Action Institute, before jumping onstage to present her speech.
“Sadly, this is now fifty-four years that we have been in the streets and we are still continuing the call for China to leave Tibet, to end the human rights abuses, and of course allow the Dhali Lama to return and live in a free Tibet.”
Tethong was one of the many important guest speakers at the demonstration, joined by others such as the American representative of the Dalai Lama, Lobsang Nyandak.
Wangchuk Shakabpa, a representative of the U.S. Tibet Committee, explained that while Tibetans have been fighting for freedom for over fifty-four years, conditions became more severe after demonstrations in 2008.
“In 2008 there were a very large number of protests in Tibet, more than 150. That resulted in an imposition of a sort of Marshall Law in Tibet. These increasing restrictions, among other things, lead over 100 Tibetans to self-immolate.”
These incidents caused the Chinese to impose more controls and restrictions in Tibet, inhibiting any outside interventions or access to Tibet from the UN and journalists alike. These restraints have slowed progressive action, but activists for Tibet, like Shakabpa, are fighting to change this.
“Now what we’re trying to do is have a multilateral conference on Tibet. This started off when Congressman Wolf and Congressman McGovern wrote a letter to the State Department saying we should have a multilateral conference on Tibet, and the U.S. should host it. So we’re following up on that theme,” said Wangchuk. “We want to have an open forum to discuss options on how the world can help Tibet. Because obviously we have world sympathy, but it’s been 60 years and it hasn’t really helped. But we’re still hopeful”
The demonstration was overflowing with supporters who shared Shakabpa’s goal. One woman in the crowd, Diane Gatterdam, has been a strong advocate of Tibetan freedom for many years, “I think it’s really important that as many people get out and walk and support the Tibetan people as possible. China is such a big voice in the world, and all of these things make a huge difference. When the city of New York can see almost 4,000 Tibetans march through the city, it makes a huge, huge statement.”
Despite the very large crowd, security surrounding the demonstrations seemed incredibly relaxed and nonchalant in the presence of the protest.
One member of the NYPD, Detective Arnold, said, “I’m here as disorder control, to make sure no one gets hurt. But there hasn’t been any problems- they’re very peaceful.”
The protest was indeed a testament to peace. At times it appeared more like a supportive gathering of friends and family, filled with multiple generations. Young children scurried around or played cards on the sidewalk while adults handed out warm tea and food to their fellow supporters.
Nevertheless, the message of the day rang clear with the countless signs, flags, and inspirational words of every speaker, who stood before the microphone.
“What it all comes down to is us,” said Tethong in the closing of her speech.
“That we never give up, that we never stop fighting, that a new generation continues to move into the streets. As our elders pass away, the little ones will take up the cause and take out the flag. We must never, ever give up, until we see the day when there is freedom in Tibet.”
See https://kristinethomason.wordpress.com/multimedia/ for multimedia component of this article