By Abebe Gellaw
Hundreds of Ethiopians residing in and around San Jose, California, raised their historic tricolor for the ninth time last Friday at New City Hall in the presence of Mayor Charles Rufus Reed, Councilman Sam Liccardo and other city officials. But TPLF representatives’ effort to block the historic event unless its coat of arms was honored was rejected by the San Jose city council.
Organized by the Ethiopian American Council (EAC), the annual celebration attracted a record number of young people including the rising stars of Young Ethio Jazz, who entertained the crowd with their signature tunes.
Mayor Reed said on the occasion that the Ethiopian flag raising ceremony is an acknowledgement to the contribution of Ethiopians and Ethiopian Americans in the vibrant city at the heart of Silicon Valley. He thanked the community for making San Jose a better place to live and work.
Councilman San Liccardo said on his part that that the Ethiopian Flag made history in the city. He pointed out that it became the first foreign flag to fly over the city hall. He saluted Ethiopians for adding unique flavor and working hard to make positive contributions.
Abebe Hailu noted on behalf of the Ethiopian American Council that the Ethiopian heritage flag is a true embodiment of our unity regardless our diversity and differences. “The turnout from the youth is very successful and heartwarming. Our youngsters want to keep Ethiopia alive in their heart,” he said.
This year’s celebration was particularly notable as Ethiopian activists and city residents got mobilized to overcome and defeat the lobbying of the Union of Tigrians in North America (UTNA) and the Tigray Development Association (TDA), backed by the Ethiopian Consulate General in Los Angeles, to block the celebration.
UTNA and TDA jointly petitioned the San Jose to stop the annual Ethiopian Heritage flag raising event unless it honors the flag that bears the coat of arms of the tyrannical and supremacist TPLF regime. In a letter they jointly wrote to the city, they referred the historic plain Ethiopian flag that does not represent any political affinity as “illegal and obsolete.”“
“Please do the right thing and use the new flag that represents the current reality of the overwhelming majority or alternatively don’t raise the flag that despair and undermine the proud nation of Ethiopia and its people. Raising the illegal and obsolete flag will only invoke bad memories for many of our community members who suffer a lot under the old regime that is symbolized by the obsolete flag,” the letter stated.
The Ethiopian government’s Consul General in LA also pestered city officials to cancel the even unless the coat of arms of the current regime was raised, it was learned. The Deputy Consul General, Esayas Gotta, unsuccessfully petitioned and pressed the city to use the official flag of the tyrannical regime or else cancel the event.
“The Consul General requests the City Council of San Jose to oppose any effort by some disgruntled Ethiopian Diaspora to raise any defunct flag,” a letter sent to city officials pleads.
“It is sad to see that the TPLF always behaves like a snake in the grass. Though it is futile, its effort to divide people and impose its tyranny even in this land of freedom reveals the fact that TPLF is totally out of touch. Demanding Ethiopians to honor their symbol of oppression and tyranny is totally outrageous,” Dawit Tsega, a resident of Silicon Valley said.
After careful consideration the San Jose city council decided to use the plain Ethiopian flag that does not symbolize the current or past regimes.
Meanwhile, Congressman Michael Honda, on behalf of the 17th Congressional District, supported the annual ceremony with a letter he sent to EAC. “Beginning nearly a decade ago, the annual Ethiopian Heritage Flag Raising Ceremony symbolizes the successes of the Ethiopian American Council. The Council promotes the Ethiopian culture and lends a voice to the rapidly expanding number of Ethiopians within the United States,” Congressman Honda noted in his letter of support.
Letters from TPLF’s reps in America
By Abebe Gellaw