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“I fantasize about lasagna a lot,” says the Rockville filmmaker Chris Flaherty. Flaherty will have to wait at least a few more hours before his big meal, though.
Flaherty has been on a five-day hunger strike in Lafayette Park in support of Ethiopian political prisoner Birtukan Mideksa. At 6 p.m. today, he’s calling it quits. “I’m feeling really dizzy,” he says.
Flaherty is staging the demonstration across from the White House to pressure President Barack Obama to issue a statement on behalf of Mideksa, an imprisoned politician from an Ethiopian opposition party. “I just want to push him just to give that statement,” Flaherty says.
Flaherty directed Migration of Beauty, a documentary about the controversial 2005 elections in Ethiopia and the reaction of Ethiopian émigrés, including some in Washington, to it. Flaherty’s documentary follows Ethiopians in America who are forced by the election and related protests to become involved in American politics. “My movie is about what you can accomplish when you get involved in the system,” Flaherty says. Migration of Beauty airs tonight on the Africa Channel at 8.
One Ethiopian joined Flaherty in the hunger strike for a few days, while others have been bringing him water.
But staying hydrated hasn’t made sleeping in the park any easier. Flaherty says Park Police have rousted him while he’s tried to sleep, insisting that he sit up on the benches. And there’s not much to do in the park, this many days in. “It does get rather boring, to be quite honest,” Flaherty says.
But when Arts Desk spoke to Flaherty Thursday night, his biggest obstacle seemed to have been finding a bathroom. Until then, he had been walking to hotels or a nearby emergency room. On Thursday, though, he realized he might soon be too weak to walk anywhere. “We didn’t put a lot of thought to this,” Flaherty says.