Members of the International Tibet Independence Movement marched along Fairfax Boulevard in Fairfax on Thursday, June 5 to create awareness of the situation in Tibet and stress the importance of freeing the country from Chinese rule. In existence since 1995, the ITIM has chosen to convey its message through marches between major cities around the country, the most recent of which began in Charlottesville, with Washington, D.C. being the ultimate destination.
"We chose to begin the march on June 4 to commemorate the 17th anniversary of Tiananmen Square, where the oppression of the Chinese government was clearly demonstrated," said Larry Gerstein, board member for the ITIM. "We have over 20 marchers, all from Tibet, ranging between the ages of 25 and 71." As they passed through Fairfax, marchers wore signs and waved flags to get attention from passing motorists.
AFTER COMPLETING over 150 miles of marching, ITIM activists met with members of the House of Representatives to petition for approval of presenting the Dalai Lama with the Constitutional Gold Medal Award.
"The Gold Medal Award is the highest civilian honor an individual can receive from Congress," said Ngawang Norbu, board member for the ITIM. "By awarding it to the Dalai Lama, the ideas of respecting each other and the importance of human value are stressed." In order to award this honor, 290 congressional signatures are needed, and the ITIM is well on their way to achieving that goal. “As a direct result of the walk, we got several affirmative votes. It is an ongoing lobbying process and we are aware that it isn’t going to happen overnight,” said Douglas Herman, tour coordinator.
“It has been such a dynamic experience to see 70-year-old native Tibetans who are now living in the United States interacting with their Congressmen and being received well," he said.
Following their visit to the Capitol, the marchers planned to rally outside of the Chinese embassy.
“Typically, we will call the embassy and try to establish some sort of dialogue,” said Herman. “Embassy officials will usually decline and then we start protesting their rule over Tibet.” Such public displays of protest have proved to be key factors for the ITIM in spreading the word of their cause. As they marched along Fairfax Boulevard, passing cars honked in recognition of their efforts.