Protest-turned-party celebrates social justice

Text and reporting: Samantha Fernandes
Camera: Chantale Dahmer

It’s not often that a protest turns into a party, but that’s what happened when Ryerson’s third annual Social Justice Week kicked-off on Monday.

A rally to protest for the release of Toronto filmmaker John Greyson and emergency ward doctor Tarek Loubani transformed into a victory rally after the Canadians were released from the Cairo prison where they had been held for 51 days.

Greyson and Loubani were arrested on Aug. 16 during anti-government demonstrations in Egypt and held without charges. They had recently ended a 16-day hunger strike when they were unexpectedly released from the prison last weekend.

Though their release is a cause for celebration, the event should be a reminder that there is more work to be done in Egypt, said Marusya Bociurkiw, a Ryerson associate professor in media theory who has known Greyson for 25 years through the Toronto arts community.

“There’s still hundreds of innocent citizens and journalists in Egypt that are still behind bars,” said Bociurkiw, a rally organizer, before addressing a crowd of nearly thirty people at Monday’s rally.

Ryerson University President Sheldon Levy and Greyson’s sister Cecilia Greyson also spoke to the crowd.

Cecilia Greyson thanked supporters and said that her brother and Loubani were safely in Cairo with consular staff.

“It’s really an incredible experience to be at a rally where we are celebrating instead of protesting,” said Cecilia Greyson to the crowd. “We’re hoping to get them back in Canada as soon as we can.”

Greyson and Loubani are now cleared to leave Egypt, said their lawyer on Thursday.

They were blocked from flying out of Egypt to Germany on Sunday because their names appeared on a “stop list.” Their names have now been removed from the list. It has not been announced where they will be flying to or how soon they will arrive in Canada.

PhD student Shozab Raza was at the victory rally holding a large sign with ‘Free Tarek and John Now’ on the front. Raza, a long-time supporter of Greyson’s work, said that the real celebration will begin once Greyson and Loubani are back in Canada.

“We can’t…celebrate fully until they’ve arrived, so I’m just waiting for that,” Raza said.

This was the first of many events as part of Ryerson’s Social Justice Week running until Oct.11. The week will also include exhibits and speakers to raise awareness about issues like human rights and labour relations.

Bociurkiw hopes that Greyson and Loubani’s release will act as a reminder to the impact that activism can have on social justice.

“When we work together to change things, we can change things. It’s not often that we get to cancel a protest rally, but here we are doing that,” said Bociurkiw.

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