Battle Creek

Threat to democracy in Myanmar catalyst for Battle Creek protest supporting those challenging coup

Hundreds turned out in Battle Creek Feb. 3 to protest the threat to democracy in Myanmar and to show support for those opposing the military coup in that country.

“We at the Burma Center are alarmed and saddened by what is happening in Myanmar,” said a flier calling for action and announcing a demonstration of support for free elections in Myanmar. “We are deeply concerned about the safety and wellbeing of the people in Myanmar.” 

The event at the Sojourner Truth Monument was designed to “create a space for our community to demonstrate our concern and support for Burma’s democratic institution and urge the military and other parties to adhere to the result of the November election." It also raised awareness of what is happening in Myanmar, the former Burma.

The base of the Sojourner Truth Monument drew hundreds of protestors. On Feb. 1 the Myanmar military claimed it was forced to take over from the civilian government because of what it called widespread irregularities in November’s parliamentary elections. Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won a huge victory and observers found no evidence of widespread election irregularities. The military has since arrested Suu Kyi and hundreds of members of her party, along with other activists and public figures. The military has said it will retain control for at least a year, at which point it will host new elections, supervised by a new “reformed” election commission. 

News outlets were reporting Feb. 11 that protesters in Myanmar poured into the streets for the fifth straight day on Wednesday to oppose last week’s military coup, despite an escalating use of force by authorities. Tens of thousands of people have participated in street rallies and marches opposing the Feb. 1 takeover. The coup ended a democratic shift in the country that began a decade ago and abruptly put Myanmar back into the hands of the military. The military has ruled the country for most of the 70 years since its independence from British colonial rule.

Reports from just five years ago say that Burmese fleeing ethnic and religious persecution had become the biggest refugee group arriving in United States. And according to the 2010 United States Census, 100,200 persons of Burmese descent were residing in the United States, an increase of 499% over the previous census, which recorded 16,720 individuals of Burmese descent.

There are about 2,500 Burmese living in the Battle Creek area.
The base of the Sojourner Truth Monument drew hundreds of protestors.
Besides Battle Creek, large groups of Burmese refugees are found in Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, Ind.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Tulsa, Okla.; and four cities in Iowa. Protests took place in many of those communities. Hundreds of Minnesota’s refugee residents marched on the U.S. Capitol on Monday, urging a tougher stance toward their home country of Myanmar as a new refugee crisis unfolds there.

To learn more, check out these reports.

Tens of thousands rise up against the coup in Myanmar

Myanmar coup: What is happening and why?

EXPLAINER: How are the Myanmar protests being organized?

The base of the Sojourner Truth Monument drew hundreds of protestors.
The base of the Sojourner Truth Monument drew hundreds of protestors.
Protestors show a list of concerns.
With signs and speeches in Burmese and English, Battle Creek's Burmese residents showed their support for democracy in Myanmar.Jeffo Cotton covers the protest for On the Ground Battle Creek.
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Read more articles by Kathy Jennings.

Kathy Jennings is the managing editor of Southwest Michigan's Second Wave. She is a freelance writer and editor.