Darfur Fast in D.C.–Day 1
The Sudanese Embassy said they would call off plans for a commemorative event for late Vice President John Garang, and closed their consular office for two days, after our group refused to interrupt our 4-day fast and vigil for an end to genocide in Darfur.
Embassy staffer lowers flag to half-mast.
The core group of people fasting for an end to genocide in Darfur started off the day by joining a weekly vigil at the Pentagon.
Then we moved to the Embassy of Sudan, beginning today’s 9am-5pm vigil. It was only the first day of the fast, so everyone felt OK.
Note eroded lawn in lower right of picture.
Several journalists came by to talk to us and the embassy staff, probably because Sudanese Vice President and opposition leader John Garang died yesterday. The reporters were an eclectic bunch, and included a man from al-Jazeera who was in the documentary “Control Room.” Well, his hand was in the documentary–he’s holding a microphone that Donald Rumsfeld is speaking into.
Secret Service agents were hanging around all day, at least ten of them at one point. The Secret Service polices the embassies.
They went in to talk to the Ambassador, and returned with news: the Embassy wanted to invite dignitaries and ambassadors to sign a condolences book for Garang, but not if a bunch of guys holding signs about Darfur were there. Would we consider leaving for part of Tuesday?
No, we would not, but, via the Secret Service, we offered lots of other concessions, out of respect for the Ambassador and the mourning of the Sudanese. This wasn’t good enough for the Ambassador, who asked that we leave for a few hours on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon.
Again, we decided not to leave, but offered to move the vigil across the street at those times. The Secret Service agents were in the Embassy for a long time, finally emerging with word that the book signing was off.
This hat, improvised from plastic bags, made Tom Lewis look like Dennis Hopper in “Apocalypse Now.”
A handful of other folks arrived to join the core group in demonstrating. We handed out lots of fliers, and everyone was supportive. One man visiting the Embassy said he’d been a general in Sudan in the old days, and had been imprisoned and tortured for five years after the government was overthrown. “They are committing genocide!” he shouted. “They’re killers! They’re killers!”
Late in the afternoon, a sign was posted by the door to the Embassy:
The Consular Section of the Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan in Washington, D.C. is closed.
Consular office will resume regular business hours on August 4, 2005.
The vigil and fast will continue. Also check out an article previewing the parallel fast in South Bend, Indiana, “Pair hope fast draws attention to Darfur”.