BRAMA, Dec 8, 2004, 1:00 pm ET|
Chicago Community Rallies to Build US Support for Ukraine
By Pavlo T. Bandriwsky
Chicago Pioneer Court on Chicago's Magnificent Mile, north of the Chicago River, was the location for a massive rally organized by the ad hoc group "Rebirth of Ukraine Committee" (Rebirth) that was held on Saturday 4 December 2004. The rally was organized just a few days earlier at the founding meeting of Rebirth, a group formed on an interim basis to coordinate activities supporting the democratic activities currently occurring in Ukraine with various political and community organizations in Chicago including 'Presidential Elections 2004' and 'Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, Illinois Branch.'
Ukrainian Saturday School dismissed their students early so parents and children could participate, joined by high school and college students that made up the youth contingent of the rally. Together with new immigrants, seniors, American-born Ukrainians and representatives of other ethnic nationalities, thousands of people filled the plaza enthusiastically chanting "Russia out of Ukraine," "USA support Ukraine" and "President Yuschenko."
The goals of the rally were to draw attention of the American public to the events in Ukraine and call upon the American government to support democracy in Ukraine. These objectives were resoundingly achieved as coverage was extensive: 4 television news stations showed rally excerpts and interviews, stories were published in the Chicago Tribune and reported on NPR and other radio stations. Additionally, hundreds of Christmas shoppers heading to the Magnificent Mile stopped to see what the sea of orange branded demonstrators were about and warmly received informational flyers.
US Congressman Luis Gutierrez, in whose district the Ukrainian Village is located, spoke very favorably about his solidarity with Ukraine's quest for democracy through the Orange Revolution. He included in his speech "Slava Ukrayini." Alderman Manny Flores, who represents most of the Ukrainian Village before the Chicago City Council, read a resolution supporting Ukrainian democracy and a fair election process. The politicians promised to enlighten their colleagues of the Ukrainian issues and garner their support as well.
The American anthem was sung and the Lord's Prayer recited. Several speakers from the Ukrainian community, including Dr. Yuri Melnyk and Yaroslav Zahayskyy, co-initiators of Rebirth, shared their perspective that the will of the people will prevail on 26 December, resulting in Viktor Yuschenko being elected president.
It was emphasized that international observers must monitor the run-off election to ensure that voter fraud, which transpired in the previous vote, was not repeated. Participants were urged to contact their federal representatives to insure funding for the observers initiative. Many left the event with a desire to do more such as vowing to make phone calls or planning to travel to Ukraine to serve as election monitors.
See more images from this event in the Chicago slideshow: