WARREN — In the freezing cold and a driving snow squall, a crowd gathered in Warren Dec. 15 to support fellow demonstrators 4,870 miles away, calling for democratic rule, an end to corruption and the right to do business with Europe.
Rallies in support of the Euromaidan movement have taken place in communities across the U.S. — including several in Warren — since late November, when peaceful demonstrators in Kiev, Ukraine gathered to protest the government’s suspension of a pending free trade agreement with the European Union. A growing number of student demonstrators later joined the rallies in Ukraine, and supporters said the crowd in Kiev swelled to more than a million by early December when riot police moved in.
The alleged brutality and arrest of peaceful demonstrators that ensued prompted calls for the resignation of Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych and a restored pursuit of economic ties with Europe. The demonstrators oppose closer ties with neighboring Russia, which ruled Ukraine as part of the former Soviet Union until 1991.
Yanukovych, who has supported a closer alliance with Russia, scored a controversial victory during the country’s presidential election in 2004. He eventually lost, however, after massive protests fueled by allegations of electoral fraud resulted in a victory for pro-EU candidate Viktor Yuschenko. The election became known as the “Orange Revolution.”
Yanukovych was eventually elected president of Ukraine in 2010.
The Warren rally at the St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church was organized by the Ukrainian-American Civic Committee and supported by the New Wave, an association dedicated to assisting recent immigrants from Ukraine with cultural transition.
Ulana Kushner, president of the Ukrainian-American Civic Committee, called on metro Detroit’s Ukrainian community to support those demonstrating for Ukraine’s right to unhindered economic, cultural and political ties with its European neighbors.
“We would like to do it peacefully. They want to join democratic countries,” Kushner said.
U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, attended the rally and addressed the crowd of about 125 gathered with signs and waiving the flags of Ukraine and the United States.
“We’re here today standing with all the Ukrainians in Ukraine who are saying to the government of that country, ‘We want freedom. We have the right to be free. We also have the right, if we want to, to become part of Europe,’” Levin said. “It’s appropriate that it’s snowing here in Warren, because in the snow, we stand with the people of Ukraine.”
State Rep. Martin Howrylak, R-Troy, introduced a resolution of solidarity with the people of Ukraine that he said was unanimously approved by a voice vote in the Michigan House of Representatives.
“We want to continue down that pathway of freedom and respect the rights of human beings to express themselves as they should,” Howrylak said.