Youth-led protests and militarized police reactions have rocked Nairobi, Kenya, as the government pushes a controversial new tax policy. Amid the turmoil in the East African nation’s capital, former United States President Barack Obama‘s sister and niece were caught in the heavy police response as they joined protestors, all captured on live television.

Who is Auma Obama?

Auma Obama, an activist, journalist and author who’s the 44th president’s older half-sister, was interviewed on Tuesday in the middle of the protest by CNN International correspondent Larry Madowo. As loud blasts, possibly from teargas canons, pop nearby, the 64-year-old explained that she joined the protests because “young Kenyans are demonstrating for their rights.” As the air around Obama and the other protestors became cloudy, she expressed, “I can’t even see anymore. We are being teargassed…” before she, Madowo and the others in the crowd were overcome by teargas and began fleeing the scene.

‘These young people are just trying to demonstrate for their rights’

The CNN broadcast returned to Madowo and Obama less than a minute later. Struggling to breathe, Obama said, “I can’t believe that these young people are just trying to demonstrate for their rights, … and we are being teargassed. We have flags and banners, nothing else.” She explained that the protests are driven by young people objecting to policies such as taxing ancestral land, which she compared to “a colonial situation.” She also explained that the government’s new taxes target young people who cannot afford them.

“Over 50% of our population who are under 35 have no jobs. We cannot tax them when they have no jobs,” she said.

Obama remarked that she was inspired to participate in the protests on behalf of her daughter, Akinyi Obama-Manners, who was also present and teargassed.

Controversial tax policies opposed by Gen Z

“This is one of the most heavy military responses I have seen,” Madowo reported, saying that the authorities in Nairobi were turning the city center into “what appears to be a war zone” as they cracked down on unarmed protestors who had organized over social media.

As The Washington Post reported, the chaotic scene occurred as Kenyans objected to a new financial bill, advocated by President William Ruto and pushed through the legislature by his ruling party, that would raise new taxes on the population. The bill increases income taxes and value-added tax, among other provisions. These new financial obligations have been particularly unpopular among young people, with the current demonstrations being called a Gen Z protest. Police crackdowns, which have included beatings and the use of teargas as well as live ammunition, killed at least one protestor last week. Several more deaths were mentioned Tuesday over social media.  Also on Tuesday, protestors surged into the Parliament building, lighting part of it on fire.

The government reportedly dropped some controversial measures from the tax bill before it was passed, but it remains to be seen whether it will make more concessions or continue to suppress demonstrations. However, with younger citizens mobilized against these new policies, heavy police response will not get rid of the discontent that these young Kenyans and their allies like Auma Obama are expressing.