The world lights up for Belarus. Will San Francisco join?
As Belarusians passed the 16th day of protests amid the rigged presidential election and brutal violence against peaceful demonstrations, solidarity events continue happening all over the world in support of the Belarusian nation’s fight for freedom and democracy. So far, six people died during the protests, 81 missing, and thousands have been tortured behind bars in Belarus.
Peaceful rallies, also called Belarusian Solidarity Lines, became an international movement this summer, and have been already held in over 100 cities on five continents worldwide. Lots of civil activists and Belarusian expats reached out to their local governments in the US, Canada, Europe, and worldwide to have the buildings and other sights lit up in the white, red and white colors of the Belarusian historical flag.
This past Friday, August 21, the Seattle Great Wheel was lit up in the Belarusian national colors. The Belarusian community of Seattle showcased this event with another peaceful rally in support of freedom in their home country.
August 10, the next day after the controversial elections and violence against peaceful protesters, four bridges were lit up in the colors of the Belarusian national flag in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania: Mindaugas, Zverinsky, as well as White and Green bridges.
August 17, a historical Belarusian white-red-white flag was also showcased on the Kyiv City Hall building in the capital of Ukraine. “Long Live Belarus!” wrote city’s mayor Vitali Klitschko in his Telegram channel.
One of the biggest Belarusian communities in the US resides in California, with lots of Belarusians working in the tech industry of Silicon Valley. Several community representatives reached out to Mayor London Breed and district project director Robert Reiter with a request to light up the City Hall building to support the fight for democracy in Belarus. Their request was submitted back on August 12, however, they have yet to hear anything in response. We talked to one of the activists, Uladzislau Skoblia.
“I was born and raised in Belarus, my friends and my family are still back home in Belarus. A number of people I personally know were illegally detained. Therefore, I can’t just be silent here. I have to show up for them now like they are showing up for Belarus.”
Uladzislau believes the San Francisco City Hall is a place where positive changes that shape the world happen.
“I believe the support of San Francisco would motivate people not to give up. The story of Belarusians fighting for basics now could inspire a number of Americans to be more politically active and care about the democracy here more,” he added.
The current official Belarusian state flag is green and red. However, the historical one is white-red-white. It was also the official government flag when Belarus gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Mr. Lukashenko, also known as “the last dictator in Europe,” took his first presidential term’s oath under this flag back in 1994. A year later, he repealed it through a controversial referendum. Its results, same as all other elections, were not recognized by the international community as either free or fair. Since then, the historical white-red-white flag became a symbol of the ongoing protests against the dictatorship regime, gathering millions of people in their fight for fundamental human rights and freedom.
“We asked the officials to support the people of Belarus by showcasing the historical triband of white, red, and white. It has become the symbol of freedom and honesty and for a long time, Lukashenko’s regime banned it. Displaying it in public could lead to an arrest. But over the last fifteen days, the colors of the flag inspired millions of Belarusians to protest police brutality, dictatorship, and abuse of basic human rights. No way I could support brave people in Belarus by requesting a showcase of a red-green flag. No way!” said Skoblia.
The Belarusian community in the US is doing a lot to help everyone back home, inspire, and support. Skoblia hopes that as a global community they would be able to make the voices of Belarusians be heard.
The district project director Robert Reiter and the San Francisco City Hall building management department did not return a request for comment at the time of this writing.
Check out our video of the Belarusian Solidarity Line in front of the San Francisco City Hall.