About 100 protesters from the city's Eritrean community demonstrated outside the offices of the Free Press Thursday, upset about stories they believe portray them as having terrorist links.

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KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Eritrean protesters at the Free Press building Thursday claim stories in the paper falsely portray them as tied to terrorists.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Eritrean protesters at the Free Press building Thursday claim stories in the paper falsely portray them as tied to terrorists.

About 100 protesters from the city's Eritrean community demonstrated outside the offices of the Free Press Thursday, upset about stories they believe portray them as having terrorist links.

Lambros Kyriakakos, president of the Eritrean Community in Winnipeg Inc., said he wants to see an apology in the Free Press.

"We want to see action," Kyriakakos said. "Our children are being called terrorists... this causes damage... We are now Canadians. The actions of two or three people can't stigmatize the whole community."

Among the protesters, some adults and children waved signs reading "We are victims of terrorists" and "Don't victimize the victim." One person waved a large Eritrean flag. Nearby, another waved a Canadian flag.

At one point, six Winnipeg police cruisers were at the Free Press and a police officer helped the newspaper's security close one of the gates after a vehicle with four members of an opposing group drove into the parking lot. The vehicle suffered some damage from the crowd.

Free Press editor Margo Goodhand went outside and waded into the middle of the protest to give the newspaper's side and to hear from the protesters. Goodhand later spoke with the opposition as well.

"This is a free and democratic society, and we welcome opinions of all kinds," Goodhand said.

"I'm glad these people came out to express their perspective, and we will continue to investigate the issue. We will not be intimidated by protests or petitions or threats on either side.

"We stand by our reporters and the work they have done on this story."

One of those in the small counter-protest, Ghezae Hagos, said he believes there are more Eritreans in Winnipeg who disagree with the protesters, but they are afraid of repercussions against them or their family.

Hagos said he supports the stories in the Free Press.

"It is a privilege to come to Canada," Hagos said.

"These people are perpetuating the problems in Eritrea. This protest is a reflection of what is going on back home.

"They have just come to demonstrate and silence us."

In a Free Press report last month, Hagos and some other members of the city's Eritrean community accused others in the community of squeezing them for money to support the dictatorial regime in the African country. They said they were asked at a social gathering for $500 to support the Eritrean Defence Forces in the fight against neighbouring Ethiopia.

There currently is a resolution before the UN Security Council aimed at banning the Eritrean government from collecting remittances from abroad. In a classified report made public by WikiLeaks, Ronald K. McMullen, recently U.S. ambassador to Eritrea, said the money collected by Eritrean embassies and local community centres represents 11 per cent of Eritrea's GDP.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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