Members of the Libyan community in Portland held a rally to support rebel opponents of Moammar Gadhafi's regime and to plead for U.S. aid in ousting the strongman from their homeland.
The rain fell heavily on Pioneer Courthouse Square Friday evening, but the voices of more than 50 Libyan-Americans and other supporters were strong as they marched bearing signs and flags, chanting "No more Gadhafi!"
Although the rally was originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon, outbreaks of violence in in the cities of Tripoli, Zawia and Benghazi led the crowd to come out early in solidarity.
"We know that today will be a bloody day in Libya, because the masses are demonstrating," said rally organizer Jamal Tarhuni, who came to the United States from Libya more than 35 years ago. "These people are tired of seeing pictures of their sisters and brothers and little kids dying every single day."
As counterattacks on rebel opponents by the Libyan military intensify, the question of whether or not President Obama will impose a "no fly zone" over Libya took center stage in the crowd's pleas for U.S. support.
"(Gadhafi is) bringing in mercenaries from outside of the country. The people who are fighting against the Libyan people aren’t even Libyan," said Tarhuni's 21-year-old daughter Lina, who also helped organize the rally."He keeps saying that it’s a civil war, but there is no civil war."
Beside the goal of peace, the protesters seemed to have one thing in common: people they love in Libya.
"Every single person here has at least one family member back there," said Lina Tarhuni. She last spoke to her family on Wednesday morning, just as the news broke that the Libyan military had bombed the oil port town of Brega. "You think [your family] is going to be OK, and all of the sudden you realize they’re living in a war zone."
Although the success of similar revolts in Tunisia and Egypt have brought the protesters some hope, they believe that Gadhafi's 42-year regime will not end without some assistance from other governments.
"We desperately need help in every way, and the first thing is to get rid of this Gahdafi," said protestor Amna Shebani, whose family fled Libya in 1980 as a result of Gadhafi's terrorism. Her eyes shown with emotion as she spoke. "We are American Libyans and we are asking ask America to come out and help us," Shevani said. "Please, please…we beg."