France: Avaaz Activists Celebrate Election Results, WWII Anniversary
Despite the rain, activists turned out to celebrate France's election results on the morning of May 8. They also sought to mark an important anniversary. Allied forces achieved victory in World War II on this day in 1945. The young demonstrators assembled at the world-famous Eiffel Tower. They were joined by an 88-year-old survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Elie Buzyn encouraged the Avaaz activists to continue supporting the president that they helped elect and keep working to stop extremism.
Unlike most people in Paris, Buzyn can recall the day when German forces surrendered. This happened during the month after he regained freedom. He also remembers the summer in 1944 when Nazi authorities sent his family to the Auschwitz camp because of their Jewish faith. Buzyn was 15 years old at the time. His parents soon died, and guards forced him to perform stone masonry work. The boy had promised his mother that he would fight against fascism and inform the extended family about her fate.
Although Soviet troops reached Auschwitz during early 1945, Buzyn was among the prisoners who were moved to another concentration camp before the Russians arrived. He had to march across snowy terrain to reach Buchenwald. Three months later, the end of World War II brought about his release. Buzyn left Germany and searched for his extended family in France. He also lived in Israel for several years but decided to make France his permanent home. The young man returned to school and eventually began working as a doctor.
Buzyn and many other minorities worried that extremist presidential candidate Marine Le Pen might win the election. They were relieved when 66 percent of the voters supported Emmanuel Macron. The president-elect has strongly opposed Le Pen and her right-wing National Front party. Although NF leaders have avoided anti-Semitic remarks in recent years, the group's goals remain quite controversial. It calls for the government to prohibit most immigration, hire more police and construct numerous prisons. The party also backs right-wing extremists in other European countries.
As they celebrated the election results, Avaaz activists held signs that expressed their opposition to racial intolerance. Some individuals carried the flags of France or the European Union. The demonstrators spoke in favor of peace, unity and vigilance. One woman mentioned that voters in Austria and the Netherlands had also recently rejected extremist candidates. Activists from several other nations took part in the rally. A man from Berlin expressed the hope that German voters would also repudiate right-wing extremism in September. Buzyn reminded participants of the upcoming French legislative elections and the need to stay involved.
This activist group has headquarters in New York City, but it organizes campaigns throughout the world. Its name means "voice" in numerous languages. More than 40 million people in nearly 200 nations have chosen to become Avaaz members. The staff uses 15 different languages to communicate with them. This group was established a decade ago, when several progressive organizations worked together to create it. Major media outlets like 1843 Magazine and The Guardian have published articles about Avaaz.
The organization frequently focuses on economic issues, climate change, armed conflicts and animal rights. Its campaigns range from efforts to protect honey bees to petitions against corporate mergers and internet censorship. In addition to planning demonstrations, Avaaz uses media outlets to disseminate important messages and asks citizens to contact government officials about specific issues. Members may recommend and vote on causes for the group to support. They also make optional financial contributions. Anyone can freely become an Avaaz member by completing a short online form.
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