Hikers freed from Iranian prison speak at Occupy Oakland
on October 18, 2011
The three hikers who garnered fame when they were detained by the Iranian government, accused of spying, and recently released, spoke in support of the Occupy Oakland protest on Monday afternoon in front of city hall.
Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd told the crowd of about 150 protesters and spectators that they support the Occupy Wall Street protest and California prisoners who are protesting solitary confinement conditions.
“I’ve been on hunger strike for 24 hours in solidarity with the prisoners,” Fattal said as he addressed the crowd.
In July 2009, the three were hiking near the Iran-Iraq border when they crossed into Iran and then were then detained by the Iranian government. Originally tried and sentenced to eight years in prison, Bauer and Fattal were released last month. Shourd was released last year due to health concerns after 418 days of solitary confinement. She was charged, but never convicted, of espionage and illegally crossing the Iranian border. Monday was the first time Bauer and Fattal spoke publicly on the West Coast since being released.
Shourd noted how the protests began right before Bauer and Fattal were freed. “Two days before they were released, Occupy started on Wall Street,” Shourd said to the crowd from the stage as she glanced at Bauer and Fattal. “Forever in my heart, those two things will be linked.”
Last month, people in New York City took to Wall Street to protest, among a variety of complaints, the influence of big banks, greed and economic inequality. Many of the protestors call themselves “the 99 percent” and say they’re the ones taking the brunt of a troublesome economy, while the richest one percent of the population continues to thrive. As of Saturday, more than 900 cities have taken part in the movement.
Last week, the demonstration made its way to downtown Oakland. Protesters have taken over the grass field at Frank Ogawa Plaza with tents, sleeping bags and signs supporting their cause. “I feel proud this is happening in my city,” Bauer said to a round of applause and cheers.
While Bauer, Fattal and Shourd spoke mostly about the Occupy Oakland protests, they also voiced their support for hunger strikes by California prisoners. Thousands of inmates in the California Department of Corrections stopped eating for three weeks in a protest of inmate treatment in solitary confinement units that ended last week.
“I can’t tell you guys what it means to be in solitary confinement,” Bauer said. “It’s hell and no person should have to live that. Thousands of people have been on hunger strikes. These people are struggling like we had to struggle in Iran.”
Although Occupy Oakland has a wide range of goals, the main focus is on issues facing Oakland, including many because of budget cuts.
“We want to support our prisoners,” said Darren Striplin, 29, one of the Occupy Oakland leaders. “We want to prevent five schools from getting shut down and prevent the curfew injunction.”
Shourd reaffirmed backing of the Occupy Oakland movement, though she said she still is finding out just what the movement is about.
“I’m still learning about what’s going on here, but some of the things I’ve heard are very inspiring, and I’m excited to see what’s next,” she said.
You can see Oakland North’s complete coverage of Occupy Oakland here.
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