|Simegnew Bekele at the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in November 2017
Addis Ababa (CNN) – Police fired tear gas Sunday at demonstrators in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, where tens of thousands had gathered to mourn a national hero.
Bekele’s body arrived in the city’s Meskel Square about 11 a.m. local time in a hearse adorned with garlands, followed by about 50 white cars. Witnesses told CNN that some members of the crowd became angry after they were prevented from following Bekele’s coffin to the church where he was to be laid to rest.
The scene at Meskel Square in Addis Ababa during a state funeral for Semegnew Bekele.
“For about 20 minutes, they were chanting that this government is not yet democratic,” said Bisrat Teshome, 35, an economist who was at the square.
Several protesters then attempted to climb a pole and replace the current Ethiopian flag, which bears a star, with an older version without the emblem, in an act of political defiance.
The star is a symbol of diversity and unity, but there has long been public annoyance that it was added to the flag without proper consultation, Teshome said.
“They (the police) started throwing tear gas in between people. Then everyone ran away. It was the first time I had seen tear gas,” Teshome said.
A handful of people were rushed to a hospital after being sprayed with tear gas, witnesses told CNN.
—— AUTO – GENERATED; Published (Halifax Canada Time AST) on: July 29, 2018 at 02:30PM