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Tibetan protesters begin trek to Chicago from Madison

July 28, 2008

Kevin Murphy
The Capital Times
July 25, 2008

MADISON, WI - Building on the completion of the recent visit by the
Dalai Lama to Madison, a dozen marchers stepped off from the Capitol
Friday toward the Chinese consulate in Chicago and their ultimate
goal of Tibetan independence.

"We knew that a lot of Tibetans would be here and we wanted to
capitalize on their presence here and we knew we could go a two-week
walk to Chicago and end there at the beginning of the Beijing
Olympics on August 8," said Larry Gerstein, a professor at Ball State
University who is president of the International Tibet Independence Movement.

Tibetan independence marchers have covered 3,400 miles on 360 days
during the past 13 years bringing the message of autonomy for Tibet
to North Americans while also giving hope to Tibetans, Gerstein said.

"The people in Tibet hear about our actions on radio stations that
aren't jammed and it gives them some hope. We really represent the
voices inside of Tibet that can't be expressed but have a strong
desire for independence," he said.

State Rep. Joe Parisi, D-Madison, whose district includes the Deer
Park Buddhist temple in Oregon, said Tibetan independence is a
concern to many of his constituents.

"People here are very knowledgeable and aware of events, and when
they see events like what has happened in China and with the visit of
his holiness the Dalai Lama last week, there's a lot more attention
on this issue. Now with the Olympics coming up, it's important for
people to see beyond the veil of what's going at the Olympic Games
and see the brutality, murder and imprisonment of Tibetan citizens in
order to keep the appearance of temporary peace at the Olympics," Parisi said.

While walking for Tibetan freedom, Gerstein has noticed a generosity
of American citizens who embrace strangers to their communities.

"We've been staying in a house here in Madison, (owned) by an
individual I've never met, I don't know her last name, and she's not
even there, but she's opened up her house to us the past three
nights," he said.

Along the way, the marchers will stay at Unitarian and Methodist
churches as they make their way, 15 miles a day, to Kenosha and then Chicago.

Jigme Norbu, nephew of the Dalai Lama, has been marching for eight
years in an effort to keep alive hope for eventual Tibetan independence.

"We're not giving up, we're going to continue our struggle, nothing
is easy in life, and along the way we're going to educate people that
what's been going on in Tibet can no longer continue," said Norbu,
who lives in Bloomington, Ind.

Norbu said his father's generation fought China's military, but his
generation and the following one need examples of Tibetans standing
up in a peaceful manner to a powerful China, which occupied the
mountainous region in 1950.

A call to the communications office of the Chinese consulate in
Chicago wasn't returned before deadline, but officials there maintain
that Tibet has been part of China since the 13th century.

More information about ITIM, the march, including its route, is
available at
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
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