PHILADELPHIA Born in Ukraine and now a resident of Philadelphia, Marta Sydoryak gathered with other demonstrators Sunday afternoon outside the Liberty Bell Center to protest what she called "a night of tragedy" in her homeland.
Bearing banners and chanting slogans, Sydoryak and about 40 others stood on Independence Mall freely denouncing the violent treatment of demonstrators thousands of miles away - in Independence Square, Kiev, Ukraine.
Riot police there on Saturday used billy clubs and tear gas to disperse hundreds of peaceful demonstrators protesting President Viktor Yanukovych's refusal to sign a key agreement with the European Union.
Yanukovych has said that further negotiations were needed to protect Ukrainians from economic harm, but that he intended to "sign the association agreement in the nearest future."
"We consider him a criminal," Sydoryak, 22, said of Yanukovych. She demanded his resignation and called on the world to impose immediate sanctions on the Ukrainian government.
"Ukraine is Europe!" the protesters in Philadelphia said in Ukraine's native language.
"They just want a better life and are disappointed in a government that let them down," said Tom Proctor, 42, who said he had friends in Ukraine. He held a sign that read, "Support democracy in Ukraine. No more bloodshed."
According to U.S. census figures, more than 13,000 Philadelphians and more than 114,000 Pennsylvanians reported Ukrainian ancestry in the 2012 American Community Survey.
The U.S. State Department condemned the violence against the Independence Square protesters and called on Ukraine's leaders to respect their people's right to freedom of expression and assembly.
Yanukovych himself condemned the violence and denied any role in the police action. He ordered his top prosecutor to conduct a "prompt and objective investigation in order to punish the perpetrators" of the violent crackdown.