Around 20 members of Sonoma County's Fijian community gathered in front of City Hall on Friday to protest the loss of democracy in the small island nation.
Fiji is currently under the government of a military junta, which has consistently restricted freedoms and delayed elections since taking power in 2006.
A graphic video of soldiers beating two handcuffed men surfaced several weeks ago, sparking a global outcry and sharp condemnation of the event from the United Nations.
"They're torturing and killing our people back home; it's ridiculous," said Vilisi Nadaku, who fled Fiji after he was arrested for speaking out against the government. "We want to let the world know what's going on."
Nadaku, whose wife and children remain in Fiji, came to the United States a year ago and has been trying to spread news from Fiji via social media.
"The dictator (Frank Bainimarama) paints a glossy picture of what goes on in Fiji," said Tevita Korodrau, the president of the U.S. chapter of the Democracy & Freedom for Fiji Movement. "The violence has been hidden."
The date for the rally was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the death of one of the men killed in an altercation with the government, and to honor Good Friday.
Pastor Jeremiah Temo of Oasis Christian Outreach in Windsor opened the rally in prayer, reminding attendees that Good Friday was a day of freedom because of Christ's death on the cross. Both Temo and one of the speakers, Elenoa Cuanilwa, exhorted rallygoers to pray for the freedom of Fiji.
"It's not acceptable," Cuanilwa said. "They need to be brought to justice and democracy should be restored to our nation."
Di Wan left Fiji with her family four years ago, after watching what was happening in her country.
"It was inhumane," Wan said. "We left because there was no future for our kids there."
Yavita Komaimoce, who came down from Seattle for the rally, described the limited numbers at Friday's rally as symptomatic of the fear that the coup has caused.
"People are afraid to speak out against the government in Fiji because they will be arrested," said Komaimoce. "Then they come here and are afraid to speak out in the U.S. because their families are still back there."
The rally concluded with a short march from City Hall to First Street.
"We'd like the Obama administration to denounce the violence and brutality," said Nadaku. "The U.S. needs to be aware of this."
(You can reach Staff Writer Melody Karpinski at 521-5205 or email@example.com.)