MOROCCO (WJZ) — More than a dozen Americans are accused of funding violent protests in Egypt. A Maryland student who witnessed the unrest is speaking out.

Weijia Jiang has this new insight into the troubling case.

Egyptian protesters slung stones at police. Others ran from tear gas canisters. The ongoing clashes are all too familiar to Sarah Blake, who grew up in Columbia.

“It was scary. I got tear-gassed; people were handing gas masks to us,” Blake said.

Blake, a junior at Dickenson College, had been studying abroad in Egypt for a month during the fall of Hosni Mubarak. This week, the constant chaos that has engulfed the country for nearly a year led to 19 Americans being charged with encouraging the unrest.

WJZ reached Blake via Skype in Morocco, where she’s studying now. Her heart aches for friends left behind and for those trying to help them.

“I think the people who have been arrested, I’m sure it wasn’t their fault by any means, which makes it more scary,” Blake said.

Among those charged is the son of Ray LaHood, the president’s transportation secretary. Sam LaHood, who’s the head of the Egypt office for the International Republican Institute, is forbidden to leave Cairo.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney suggests the crackdown could halt aid to Egypt. Every year, the U.S. gives the country $1.5 billion.

“We have said clearly that these actions could have consequences for our relationship, including regarding our assistance programs,” said Carney.

Blake hopes for a resolution that will finally lead to peace.

“They want to see democracy come the fastest way possible. They want to see the violence end,” Blake said.

Blake says her Egyptian friends—by now seasoned protesters pushing for democracy—welcomed help from international non-government organizations and were shocked to see so many workers charged.

The Americans charged will face a trial in Egypt. Six of them are banned from leaving the country.


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