Student protesters take a stand

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By Anyusha Rose

Photo: Anyusha Rose

St Andrews became the scene of dramatic protest on October 16, when twenty-two students from the University Amnesty International Society marched in silence to demonstrate against the Burmese Junta.

Prior to the march, Amnesty International Society members campaigned outside the Union by writing the names of Burmese political prisoners on people’s hands and photographing them. These images  will form part of an international Amnesty petition to be introduced at the Association of South East Asian Nations  (ASEAN) summit at the end of October.

After being photographed, students brandished placards and signs decrying foreign bans on civil liberties, and processed from the Union to the library garden.

The protestors, all dressed in black, then organised themselves into the shape of the Amnesty International logo: a candle wrapped in barbed wire, for a series of aerial photographs taken from the top floor of the library.

The Society’s Events co-ordinator Meredith Lawder explained, “the candle image is iconic, and we hope that by recreating it in a public space, students who recognise it but have never participated in an Amnesty event before, will be encouraged to join and help us make a difference.”

For some, it was in fact the first time they had been involved with the Society. Economics student Harshad Sambamurthy said, “I came along because it sounded interesting, but didn’t really know much about the Society or what it did. However, after today I have promised myself to become a member – it’s great to be part of something that I believe in, and would like to know more about.”

Sambamurthy’s views were no exception as membership numbers grew across the weekend, reflecting University-wide support for Burmese prisoners of conscience, and a potential shift towards a more active protest scene in St Andrews.

The event marked the start of Amnesty’s annual ‘Protect the Human Week’, a UK-wide campaign to raise awareness of international human rights abuses. In St Andrews the Society focused on Burma throughout the week, screening the political documentary ‘Burma VJ’, an expose of the 2007 anti-Junta protests, and finishing the week’s events with a neon themed fundraiser at Golf Place.

Potential future protests have not yet been arranged, but if trends are to be believed, it will not be long before Market Street is once more the setting of forward-thinking student activism.

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