On April 11, activists and community members from Los Angeles County rallied to say #NoMore to the United States government policy to divide and conquer throughout Africa and to #BreakTheSilence surrounding sanctions on these countries. The protest took place in Sherman Oaks in front of Congressman Brad Sherman’s office building due to his support of the proposed Ethiopia Peace and Stabilization Act of 2022, or H.R.6600.
If passed, the bill will expand the sanctions on Ethiopia and suspend financial and security assistance to the country, which would worsen the lives of ordinary people. Although the bill’s name is intended to mislead the public about the consequences of sanctions, the demonstrators exposed the true nature of the bill. They chanted “No more sanctions! Break the silence on sanctions! Sanctions kill people not governments!”
The coalition of organizers is determined to see the withdrawal of H.R.6600 and to unseat Sherman. The rally was attended by organizers from the American-Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee, Global Ethiopian Advocacy Nexus, Ethiopian Public Diplomacy Network, National Council of Eritrean Americans, ANSWER Coalition, and Aarika Rhodes, a schoolteacher, running to represent CA-32. The rally was made up mostly of leaders within the Ethiopian American community, but also of other nationalities within the African diaspora.
The entrance to Sherman’s office was colored by waving flags of solidarity with Ethiopia and other sanctioned countries such as Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Somalia and Haiti. The image of all of these flags illustrated not only the solidarity, but also the sense of pride and duty held by those in attendance.
Hermela Aregawi, an Ethiopian-American journalist, addressed Sherman during a speech. “All of us live here in the L.A. area. I’m in his district. The [lack of housing crisis] is out of control, the education is so sub-par, and he’s over there in Africa. You’ve got problems right here. He has acted with impunity because he did not expect us to resist.” Not only has Sherman supported the bill, he has also called for U.S. military intervention against the democratically elected government of Ethiopia, a blatant contradiction with his supposed intent to promote peace.
Aregawi also shared that she was taught to keep activism out of her work as a journalist but she later realized the need to speak about against suffering caused by U.S. intervention. “I used to think ‘I’m never going to be on the microphone or on the bullhorn. I’m not an activist. I’m a journalist.’ But somebody’s gotta do it.”
Kameron Hurt spoke on behalf of ANSWER Los Angeles and made a connection between the U.S. government’s policy in Africa and domestic policy at home. “We see a sign behind me that says ‘the sanctions will kill her dreams.’ We have to think about the dreams that have also been crushed here by politicians who would rather fund wars and police, than fund education, and end poverty.”
Aarika Rhodes shared a similar sentiment. “We shouldn’t have to protest to get our representatives to listen to the things that we care about. Rep. Brad Sherman should set a meeting with our Ethiopian constituents to address this problem and hear this side. When you take money from people that do not have our best interests at heart but only your best interests that is an injustice.”
An aide for Sherman stepped out of the building towards the end of the rally to inform the organizers that the Congressmen would try to set up a meeting with the coalition but did not specify a timeline.
In the meantime, the coalition of activists and community members will continue to demand the end of U.S. meddling in the Horn of Africa.