1,500 shut down freeway briefly to protest Ethiopia’s treatment of Oromo
The Oromo, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, are engaged in a conflict with that country’s government.
By Matt McKinney, Star Tribune, JULY 10, 2020
More than 1,000 people protesting the Ethiopian government’s treatment of the Oromo ethnic group briefly closed down the Interstate 35W bridge Friday afternoon.
A crowd of 1,500 people calling for human rights and democracy walked onto Interstate 35W in downtown Minneapolis Friday evening to protest the Ethiopian government’s treatment of the Oromo people, shutting down the roadway for more than an hour.
The peaceful protest featured mostly Oromo people, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, which is currently engaged in a violent standoff with Ethiopian government leaders over elections, self-rule, and their country’s future.
The June 29 killing of a popular Oromo singer and activist, Hachalu Handesa, has sparked riots and protests in Oromo communities worldwide. And the arrest of Jawar Mohammed, a prominent opposition politician who at one time was living in exile in Minnesota, drew the local Oromo community to the protest Friday, said a local Oromo woman.
“The Oromo people want elections, they want the freedom to choose who are the leaders of their country,” said Zemu Tuke, of Minneapolis, who was among the hundreds of people marching on 35W on Friday.
The government has imprisoned about 1,500 people in response to the protests, and some 240 people have died in confrontations with government soldiers, according to media reports.
The Oromo diaspora has staged protests in cities across the United States since Handesa’s killing.
The demonstrators cleared the freeway by 5:50 p.m., but Minnesota State Patrol officers pulled over two cars following the marchers and issued tickets to the drivers and impounded their vehicles. The freeway was reopened by 6:25 p.m.