By Chelsea Barrera, Refugees Campaign Intern, Amnesty International USA
“The people united will never be divided! What do we want? Human rights! When do we want it? Now!” we chanted as we stopped traffic on the streets of New York City.
As a young student, I understand how intimidating it can be to become outspoken against human rights abuses happening across the world. That’s why I was taken aback and truly inspired when I was surrounded by over a hundred impassioned activists, many of whom were years younger than me, this past Friday, April 6, at Get On The Bus for Human Rights (GOTB). For more than three hours, we were a chorus of voices demanding justice for people all around the world, until our throats hurt and our stomachs ached.
These students were not afraid to step up to the frontlines, grab the megaphone, and demand justice and human rights. Four girls from the South Brunswick High School Amnesty Student Group stood out in embodying the spirt of the day.
Left to Right: Isabella Alcaraz, Sarrah Aziz, Samira Mohamed, Nadeen Amin
When asked what inspired them to rally that day, this is what they had to say:
Nadeen Amin, 17, shared she was not new to rallying for human rights. She had protested for her own rights as part of the Arab Spring in her home country Egypt in 2011. Knowing what government oppression felt like, she knew she could not sit on the sidelines while people were being stripped of their rights and criminalized for defending themselves and others.
Samira Mohamed, 16“Get on the Bus is one of my favorite Amnesty events. It’s a time to express my voice and really make a difference. I truly enjoy every moment of protesting and every time there is good news of someone being released, I know it’s all been worth it.”
Sarrah Aziz, 17“I came out today to help make a difference. For so long I felt like I couldn’t do anything to help fix the problems in the world but once I found Amnesty, I found a way to express my voice. I cannot sit idle by while I know there are so many bad things happening in the world. This is my way of doing something rather than nothing.”
Isabella Alcaraz, 17“This was my first time participating in the Get on the Bus rally. When I found out about this rally, I knew that I had to join. This was my chance to be a part of all the rallies that I support over social media. This was my chance to do my part to help the victims in less fortunate parts of the world.”
Moved to tears by the students’ engagement and the power of their solidarity, Anna Phelan, a Get On the Bus for Human Rights (GOTB) Event Organizer, expressed that this is what makes these demonstrations a success: the passion and hopeful energy students bring with them. As we’ve seen with other demonstrations, the movement to defend human rights is now being organized and led by students, like these girls, who are outraged by the oppression and abuses they see around them. Taking action year-round, at events like Get On the Bus for Human Rights (GOTB), is important because of the real-life difference it can have on the outcomes of cases involving individuals at risk.
Each year, Get on the Busfor Human Rights (GOTB)is coordinated by Amnesty International USA Group 133 of Somerville, MA to unite activists for a day of human rights education and activism. This year, Get On the Bus for Human Rights (GOTB) focused on these six human rights actions:
· Ending the practice of family detentionin the US
· Demandingjustice for Ragihar Manoharan and the Trinco Fivein Sri Lanka
· Putting an end to ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyain Myanmar
Events like these remind us what Amnesty is all about- a grassroots movement led by passionate activists, of all ages and backgrounds, fighting to defend human rights across the world.