Monday, October 17, 2005

Students for Global Democracy march Saturday to support Belarus

Participant: 'Democracy is a really good thing'

By Jonathan Daugherty | Indiana Daily Student

A group of twenty students turned out for the Students for Global Democracy 12K Worldwide Walk for Democracy in Belarus Saturday afternoon in Brown County.

"We have a decent (sized) group, but I feel like the people we have here are really dedicated and focused on the cause which is far more important than just numbers that have turned out," said student Rachel Becker, the group's unofficial secretary.

The weather was agreeable for a walk through Brown County State Park -- sunny, breezy and 68 degrees. A little more than thirty minutes from campus, the walk started and ended at Ogle Lake.

The group's main focus for organizing the walk was to show solidarity with the people of Belarus while also raising awareness about the current political situation.

Belarus is often called "Europe's last dictatorship." The group walked 12 kilometers to represent the number of years the current authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko will have been in power at the time of the next election.

Walks were also held across the United States and in Ghana, Poland, South Africa, Taiwan and Turkey. Pictures from the various events are being sent to independent Belarusian media and groups supporting democracy there.

"People ... will see pictures of us and be inspired," said the group's president and founder, student Charlie Szrom.

After 45 minutes of walking up a steep hill, the group, wearing shirts with the slogan "United for a Free Belarus" in Belarusian, took a break and allowed the stragglers to catch up.

"Wow, democracy is tough," said Szrom, a former Indiana Daily Student columnist.

Becker, also serving as the group's resident cheerleader asked "are we ready to march on troops?"

She and Juwon Lee, a SFGD group member, also composed a chant for the event.

"United for Belarus, Lukashanko's gonna lose, democracy and freedom for all, dictatorships are gonna fall," they chanted, trying to get the group to join in with them.

Lee, a student from Seoul, South Korea is a new member of the group.

"I sort of wanted to give more to society," she said of her choice to join the group. "Democracy is a really good thing."

She wanted to participate in the walk because she said it's an active way to support the cause.

"We're not just sitting down, we're actually going out physically experiencing what we believe in ... and with the pictures (that get sent to Belarus) we're showing really strong emotional support for the Belarusian dissidents," Lee said.

After nearly three hours of walking through the woods the group disbanded, with Szrom thanking each participant individually.