Yemen: Yemeni Protesters Greet Saleh With a Shoe in New York

This post is part of our special coverage Yemen Protests 2011.

Yemenis in New York threw a shoe in the direction of outgoing Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, whom they say should be standing before the International Criminal Court (ICC) and not staying at Manhattan's Luxury Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The shoe did not hit Saleh but sent home the message that Yemenis are angry he is getting pampered instead of facing justice for his crimes against the Yemeni people.

On Thursday February 2, 2012, a press conference was organized in front of the Ritz Carlton, where Yemenis and Yemeni Americans standing on the sidewalk opposite the hotel expressed their anger by waving placards with slogans saying “democracies should not host dictators,” as well as photographs of people who were killed in Yemen's year-long revolution.

Amel Ahmed @iiamelii, a NYC-based freelance writer, law student and member of the Yemeni American Coalition for Change speaking to Democracy Now (video starts at “10:45) said:

Dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh is staying at this hotel, so we came out to protest the fact that our government would allow him into this country to begin with. We don’t feel that he should be here in the United States of America. We think it sends the wrong message to the Middle East, if you’re saying that you support democracy in the Middle East, and you’re anti-extremism in the Middle East, then you shouldn’t be supporting dictators. You should be supporting people on the ground who are calling for a democracy. I mean, for years, we’ve criticized the Muslim world, for turning to extremism and not sharing the same democratic values, meanwhile we have an entire generation that’s rising up and demanding democracy, and meanwhile, you’re hosting a dictator in a five-star hotel. The message is conflicting, and there should be a consistent message coming from the White House.”

Another protester rally was staged on Sunday (Feb 5), when Saleh himself exited the Ritz Carlton, confirming his debatable stay at the hotel. Protesters shouted at him, “O'Afash (an offensive name given to Saleh by Yemenis) you will be prosecuted for killing innocent people,” when Saleh provokingly waved at them and blew kisses at them as shown in this video (posted by: ahmedfathinyc) prompting a shoe to be hurled at him from a protester. Another tried to cross the police barricade but was arrested.

@SummerNasser, who was at the protest, tweeted:

@SummerNasser: SALEH CAME OUT OF THE RITZ, throwing kisses at us. one protester tried to run across the street to go after him. He got arrested!!!!!

@SummerNasser: The chants that we said were: “ICC not NYC” ; “Shame On Ritz for hosting criminals” ; Obama must choose a side, Human rights or genocide”

@SummerNasser: I can't believe I saw the man that killed thousands of my people back home. No words to describe what I was feeling. No words..

She tweeted a photograph of a sign another fellow activist, Ahlam Said, was carrying:

@SummerNasser: @AhlamS's sign for the rally today.

A sign Ahlam Said was carrying in the protest in front of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New York

A sign Ahlam Said was carrying in the protest in front of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New York

@AhlamS, an online organizer and daughter of Yemeni immigrants, tweeted:

While Yemenis at Guantanamo bay r being tortured w/out a trial, Saleh is livin it up at the ritz carlton. THE RITZ! #yemen

@AhlamS added:

video of #Saleh n NY waving & throwing kisses at the #Yemeni protestors. Medical treatment my @$$. He looks fine 2 me

She finally added:

@monaeltahawy picture of us with the shoe that was few feet frm hitting #Yemen's brutal dictator #Saleh

@SamWaddah expressed what the majority of Yemenis felt:

@SummerNasser @AhlamS Proud of you guys! Saleh has faced humiliation today like never before!

@wsaqaf tweeted with irony:

Protester who threw #Saleh with shoe in #NYC got arrested by police yet when Saleh threw bombs at his people, he was rewarded!

A statement issued by the Yemeni American Coalition for Change, the organizers of the rally said:

[We] are outraged and disgusted with our government's decision to grant the dictator temporary haven and diplomatic immunity….We demand with a unified voice that that these hotel chains respond to what the international community has classified as the work of war criminals.

Yemenis, especially the Yemeni-American community living in the US have been protesting against Saleh's visit to the US, which was under the pretext of seeking medical treatment. Many believe Saleh is in the US for a treat rather than a medical treatment. When the Obama administration decided in December to permit Saleh to visit the country, an official said that NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital would be providing his treatment, but the hospital has not confirmed that report.

Update: If the purpose of the visit to the US was really medical @GregoryDJohnsen suggested:

This all could have been avoided Instead of bringing Salih to the US, could have brought US doctors to Salih in Saudi

This post is part of our special coverage Yemen Protests 2011.

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