On April 4 through 6, members of the Millersville chapter of Amnesty International journeyed to Chicago for the Human Rights Conference and Annual General Meeting.
Amnesty International is a Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) independent from ideology, religion and economic interest. Their main focus is human rights infractions domestically and across borders. The description provided by the Amnesty International website states that, “Amnesty International is a global movement of people fighting injustice and promoting human rights.”
The issues discussed by Amnesty International include the Syrian crisis, women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, and Putin’s Russia. General topics listed are immigration, the death penalty, and environmental protection. Spreading the word about these issues is done through news bulletins and petitions.
Members of Amnesty International gathered from all over the country to participate in the conference’s activities. There were about 900 people in attendance and the group of Millersville students participated in rallies, workshops, vigils, and online conferences.
Danielle Perez, a Millersville student and member of the organization, attended the Human Rights Conference. “Throughout the weekend I was educated about different human rights issues I didn’t even know were present, such as the stop and search policy in [New York City], which is basically racial profiling,” said Perez.
Sandra Albo Basurto, an international student, says that the conference taught her that that Americans care about other countries more than she had thought. She went on to say that everyone should visit other places to get rid of stereotypes.
Steven W. Hawkins, Executive Director of Amnesty International in the US, opened the ceremony. He spoke about organizing a national rally in Washington DC this year. One million people are estimated to show up.
“Within the first couple of hours of attending, a group of 130 or so, including myself, were already on the streets of Chicago rallying against police torture and for police accountability, because sadly, many of the victims who were tortured in the 70s are still incarcerated,” said Perez.
Big events like the rally and vigil occurred in downtown Chicago. “On Saturday night, we held a candle vigil for the people in Syria to show them that Amnesty International still is fighting for them,” said Perez.
When not going to main events, the group of eight each went to a different panel. Sandra attended one about activism in art. Others went to a talk about Syria and Central Africa.
Later, the people who attended the conference participated in an online discussion with Glenn Greenwald , the journalist who published the reports of NSA surveillance. “[He spoke about] online data and keeping [private content] safe from the government,” said Albo Basurto. They were then surprised by an online appearance from Edward Snowden. “This was a huge deal because it was the first time he was speaking out after finding refuge in Russia,” explained Perez.
In their free time, the group members were able to sightsee in the Windy City. On Friday night, they attended a concert sponsored by Amnesty International held in the House of Blues. A band known as Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars played reggae for the crowd.
The Millersville members also learned techniques for enriching the Millersville chapter. “Along with the rally, we attended workshops about different human rights campaigns around the world and learned how to be better human rights activists in our communities,” said Perez. “The conference helped me to be a better leader in the Millersville chapter and to connect with others about the issues going on throughout our own country.”
The Millersville chapter meets at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays in McComsey 202. Perez is a psychology major, showing that the organization is not limited to international studies and government majors. “Anyone who has an interest in human rights and learning about different issues around the world should consider looking into this club,” explains Perez. She says the club is always open to new members.
Be sure to join the Millersville chapter of Amnesty International for a screening of Argo on April 17. Also, a rally against sexual violence will be taking place April 21 as a part of Superfest.