The image was striking. A black man with his fists raised in the air, his arms crossed like an X. It was even more striking given that this man was standing on the medal stand at the Rio Olympics and not on an American street corner protesting in the name of Black Lives Matter. It was a protest for black lives nonetheless, those about 6,000 miles away in Ethiopia.
“In the last nine months, more than 1,000 people died,” Feyisa Lilesa, who won a silver medal for Ethiopia in the marathon, told reporters after the race on Sunday. “And others charged with treason. It’s a very dangerous situation among Oromo people in Ethiopia.”
Lilesa, a member of the Oromo tribe, said he threw up the “X” in protest of Ethiopia’s government and in solidarity with his persecuted tribesmen. The Oromo is the country’s largest tribe, but also among its most marginalized.
For his act Lilesa said he’d likely be punished by his government.
“They will kill me,” Lilesa said. “If not, they will [arrest and] charge me.”
Lilesa’s symbolic protest, which he raised when crossing the finish line and again on the podium, comes decades after other black athletes protested treatment of their own people. None were killed, but they suffered great losses nonetheless. (Huffington Post)