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Congressman Filner honored by Amnesty International

OCEANSIDE — The North County Chapter of Amnesty International will present the 2011 Digna Ochoa Human Rights Defender Award to U.S. Congressman Bob Filner at the 23rd annual Candlelight Walk for Human Rights at the Oceanside Amphitheater Oct. 23. The award will be presented at 5:30 p.m. at the amphitheater and pier in Oceanside.
The presentation will be made in recognition of Filner’s advocacy for civil rights that began at the age of 18 when he became one of the first to set foot on a Greyhound bus headed into the deep South on what would become known as, the Freedom Rides. At the time he was a student at Cornell University where he was studying engineering. In June 1961, after pulling into the bus station in Jackson, Mississippi, Filner was arrested along with his co-riders for being part of an integrated group in a bus station waiting room — a violation of the law requiring that blacks and whites wait in different rooms.
Filner’s case was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States, along with all the cases for other activists. It was when this happened, that they also overturned the laws for racial separation.
“I’ve always felt that, if you think something should be changed, it’s your responsibility to actively pursue that change,” Filner said. His involvement in the civil rights movement showed him “that people could change things.” That legal victory provided the foundation for Filner’s “abiding faith that personal involvement and commitment can change society.”
The human rights award was established by the Amnesty International chapter in memory of the prominent Mexican Human Rights attorney, Digna Ochoa y Placido, who was shot dead in her office in 2001 following several years of threats against her life. Ochoa worked for the Centro de Derechos Humanos in Mexico City. No one has been arrested or charged in her death.
This year’s focus is Amnesty International’s 50 years of highlighting human rights and will feature speakers including Ann Burroughs, jailed during the Apartheid in South Africa; Tong Yi, Chinese dissident who was forced in a “re-education through labor” camp where she experienced beatings and torture for more than two years, and Palden Gyatso, a Tibetan monk, who was arrested by the Chinese Army in 1959. He spent 33 years in prison for the “crimes” of peaceful demonstration and refusal to denounce his apolitical teacher as an Indian spy. He was tortured, starved and sentenced to hard labor.
After the program of speakers, participants will be invited to join in a symbolic reading and brief candlelight walk along the pier. They will be provided with simple action letters to do later from home on behalf of the victims of human rights abuses. For more information, call (760) 731-0735 or (760) 731-9174 or visit