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Rally in Lexington supports peace, justice in Egypt

Mariam Manafi, left, and Fatimah Shalash, both of Lexington, listened to speakers during the rally held outside the Fayette County courthouse buildings. Shalash is a graduate student at the University of Kentucky. Manafi is a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Lexington Traditional Magnet School.
Mariam Manafi, left, and Fatimah Shalash, both of Lexington, listened to speakers during the rally held outside the Fayette County courthouse buildings. Shalash is a graduate student at the University of Kentucky. Manafi is a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Lexington Traditional Magnet School. Mark Ashley

A rally calling for peace and justice in Egypt drew a peaceful but spirited crowd of about 100 people to downtown Lexington Saturday.

Some carried signs supporting the people in Egypt who have protested in mass for nearly two weeks calling for President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule to end.

Others who gathered on the square outside the Fayette County courthouses chanted "Democracy, not Hypocrisy."

They called on President Obama and elected leaders representing Kentucky in Washington to support the Egyptian people in their fight for democracy.

"It is a people's rally just like the one in Egypt," said Noha El Maraghi, a native of Egypt and University of Kentucky graduate who organized the event in Lexington.

Maraghi said people from many backgrounds and walks of life came to the rally Saturday.

"I want to support people around the world who want freedom," said Nadia Rasheed, a physician and Iraqi-American who attended. "I live in a country that promotes freedom and democracy and I want that for everybody.

"In Egypt there has been no freedom or democracy for at least 30 years. I'm here because I'm happy that the people now have a voice."

One of the speakers at the rally was John Pence, a 21-year-old student from The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., who was studying in Egypt and was evacuated Jan. 31 as the protests intensified.

Pence, who is from Indiana, said he was in Lexington Saturday visiting his sister, WLEX-TV anchor Nicole Pence, when he heard about the rally and decided to attend.

In an interview, he described tense moments when looters got out of hand, and on Jan. 29 when "the military was flexing their muscles by flying F-15s low over the ground in Cairo."

"That's when things were starting to get really intense."

Pence told the crowd that his heart went out to the Egyptian people who wanted a peaceful protest.

"There are a lot of unknowns for the Egyptians I left behind, like their food and their jobs," he said later in an interview.

"You hope the most just and transparent message will prevail. Like everyone else, we are still watching and hoping that's the case."

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