Nine arrested, released in Darfur protest

posted by Mike on March 30th, 2006

Nine people were arrested in a protest against the Darfur genocide yesterday at the Sudanese embassy in Washington, DC.

Yesterday morning, several dozen people gathered at the statue of Gandhi at the nearby Indian Embassy, holding signs depicting the victims and survivors of the ethnic violence in Darfur.

They marched to the Sudanese Embassy, where they handed out leaflets to passersby. Several demonstrators spoke, including Holocaust survivor Helen Goldkind. Mrs. Goldkind said:

My name is Helen Goldkind. I am a survivor of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. The reason why I came here today is because when I was a little girl nobody spoke out for us. I want to speak up for others. Nobody should have to be punished or killed because they’re of any color or religion. Please, the world should hear us now. There was nothing done fifty, sixty years ago when Hitler did to the Jews what they [motions towards Sudanese embassy] are doing now.

Then three demonstrators stood blocking the bottom of the stairs. A uniformed Secret Service agent warned them that by blocking the stairs, they were breaking the law. Demonstrator Brenna Cussen invited him to join them on the stairs, and he replied, “I don’t wanna get arrested! I respect what y’all are doing. If I get arrested, I’ll lose my clearance.”

After two more warnings, the three were arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly. Six more demonstrators came forward to block the stairs, and they, too, were arrested.

The demonstrators had warned the Secret Service about the civil disobedience beforehand, and representatives of the two groups had informally discussed how things would play out. Plasticuffed in the police van, Ms. Cussen commented on the gentleness with which the police treated the demonstrators. “It feels weird. I guess it’s good. It takes the ego out of it. This is about making a statement about Darfur, not being heroes.”

Those arrested were Brenna Cussen, of the Catholic Worker in South Bend, Indiana; Al Guilmette, of Leominster, Massachusetts; David Maher, of West Brookfield, Massachusetts; Mike Benedetti, Ken Hannaford-Ricardi, and Scott Schaeffer-Duffy of Saints Francis & Therese Catholic Worker in Worcester, Massachusetts; and Clark University students Philip Loomis, Ryan Smith, and Lia Volat of Worcester, Massachusetts.

Several of the demonstrators were college students unable to miss more than one day of studies, so the demonstrators had decided beforehand to pay a $50 fine (without an admission of guilt) in exchange for a quick release. After a few hours in holding cells, they were free.

As the men exited the police station, one cop said to them, “You people are doing this for a good cause.”

Afterwards, Al Guilmette, a retiree from Leominster committing civil disobedience for the first time, said it was “quite an experience.” When asked if he’d recommend it to others, he said, “For this cause, yes.”

Update: All photos.

Philip Loomis is searched by the Secret Service.
Philip Loomis is searched by the Secret Service.

Philip Loomis, Mike Benedetti, and Brenna Cussen are arrested by the Secret Service
Philip Loomis, Mike Benedetti, and Brenna Cussen are arrested by the Secret Service.

David Maher, Ken Hannaford-Ricardi, Scott Schaeffer-Duffy, Lia Volat, Ryan Smith, and Al Guilmette block the steps to the Sudanese Embassy shortly before being arrested.
David Maher, Ken Hannaford-Ricardi, Scott Schaeffer-Duffy, Lia Volat, Ryan Smith, and Al Guilmette block the steps to the Sudanese Embassy shortly before being arrested.

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17 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On March 31, 2006 at 05:25 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    A recent related case in the House of Lords: R v. Jones, etc. [2006] UKHL 16 (vulgo The Fairford Five), reported in the Times as “Antiwar protesters cannot rely on preventing crime: The crime of aggression was not a crime under English domestic law; therefore protesters against the Iraq war who disrupted activities at military bases in England could not justify their conduct on the ground that they were preventing a crime or an offence by the government.” (I only read the Murdoch Times for its law reports nowadays.)

  2. On March 31, 2006 at 10:51 Mike (Worcester) said:

    Sometimes antiwar protestors in the US will point out that, Constitutionally, our treaties are also part of our law. So a violation of the Geneva Convention is in some sense a violation of US law. I don’t know all the details of this, nor do I know anything about how it might apply to UK law.

  3. On March 31, 2006 at 22:11 From South Darfur said:

    Dear friends in the US. I am one of the humanitarian workers in Darfur, and I am glad to see your commitment. I cannot tell you much, but I can just share this: it is going to be worse. Please do not dismay. Your voices in the US and internationally are needed. African Union needs the support of logistics and materials inmediately in order to do the job of stopping the killings and the suffering of the people in Darfur. From Nyala, South Darfur, April 1st 2006

  4. On April 1, 2006 at 10:09 Jen Smith said:

    Thanks you for your courage, energy and spirit. I am inspired and moved. Bless you.

  5. On April 1, 2006 at 12:54 lulah said:

    thank you. thank you. thank you. thank you. thank you. etc..

  6. On April 2, 2006 at 07:21 Carl Weaver said:

    Wow. I had no idea you were there and got arrested. Thanks for the good work you do, standing up for those who need the representation and telling the stories that need to be told.

  7. On April 3, 2006 at 06:08 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    Re law: The Law Lords explain the reasoning behind the decision in the judgment text, so it is helpful to have a quick skim. Also see Chapter 8 “Implementation of international rules within national systems” in Antonio Cassese (2001) International Law, Oxford University Press (ISBN 0-19-829998-2; this book has the advantage of being written before 2001-09-11). Even the implementation of Article VI of the USA Constitution is not as straightforward as the protesters would hope. I wonder how the Greek formulation plays out in real life. (I am not a lawyer.)

  8. On April 3, 2006 at 14:36 Adam (Southern California) said:

    I also am not a lawyer, but from that Wikipedia entry, it looks like in the U.S., the supremacy goes 1. U.S. Constitution, 2. International treaties, 3. State law, 4. local laws.

  9. On April 4, 2006 at 06:54 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    This is scary (via today’s Guardian): International laws hinder UK troops – Reid. Defence secretary calls for Geneva conventions to be redrawn “John Reid demanded sweeping changes to international law yesterday to free British soldiers from the restraints of the Geneva conventions and make it easier for the west to mount military actions against other states.”

  10. On April 5, 2006 at 12:01 Judy Piemme said:

    For Ryan…Good for you! Always stand up and express your opinion for what you feel is right and just. I’m super proud of who you are and what you do. With admiration, great respect and love, Aunt Judy

  11. On April 5, 2006 at 14:06 Nora Smith said:

    It takes a great deal of courage and conviction to protest non-violently – acting out of a sense of justice and reason. Kudos to all of you for making your concerns known in a way that shows your respect for all of humanity – even those who must arrest you. With respect and appreciation for your willingness to put your views and concern on the line and in the public eye.

  12. On April 30, 2006 at 22:23 Sarrellec said:

    Okay. This comment is not going to be real popular, but I’ve just about had enough.

    WHEN does the rest of the world STOP sacrificing its best and brightest and youngest and strongest for…ahem….”civilizations” which still exist in the dark ages!!!!

    Goddess above! We are thisclose to landing people on Mars. To determining whether there is an ocean beneath the crust of a Jovian moon and there is one third of this world who still live in dirt huts and squat to eliminate. And we’re supposed to drop everything; go billions of dollars into debt; divert time and effort that could be put forth toward ridding the world of its dependence on fossil fuels, developing CURES for cancer, AIDS, the freakin’ common cold!

    But noooooooo….We are continually drawn into the 19th or 18th century antics of Arabs and Negroes. For pity’s sake people! Either STOP killing each other or those of us who are sick and tired of hearing about the latest freakin’ famine, or genocide, or whatever, are gonna start cheering for the use of the neutron bomb on you.

    I was born in 1957 and my earliest memories are of those freakin’ commercials on television begging to save “little tyrell” or “little Anna Maria” or whatever. That’s almost 50 years, folks!

    When does it end? When do we STOP allowing ourselves to be dragged into these senseless and worthless schoolyard brawls being performed by supposedly grown up adult humans?!?!?

    If they WANT to continue to kill each other, then LET THEM!!!!

    Either build a nice big fence with armed guards until they learn to grow up and stop acting like violent rain-men or we put a stop to it ourselves.

    Neutron bombs destroy only living things leaving structures and the terrain intact, I understand.

    My bottom-line opinion? NONE of these so-called “civilizations” NOR those that populate them are worth the lives of my two dogs, let alone the life of ONE SINGLE BEAUTIFUL AMERICAN KID.

  13. On May 2, 2006 at 12:08 Mike (Worcester) said:

    Is your comment a joke? All people are children of God. All people are made in the image of God. All of them are of value.

    Political instability in Africa affects you as an American. So if only for selfish reasons, you should oppose genocide wherever it occurs.

  14. On May 5, 2006 at 01:54 Sarrellec said:

    Political instability in Africa doesn’t inherently effect me. Or you.

    What MAKES it effect us is that we respond to it like some kind of tribe throwing our children as sacrifices to those that have developed social arrestive retardation.

    And as for the g*d comment. Like Edith told Archie: Then let g*d take care of it.

    Last time I checked, I wasn’t g*d and neither are you. How are you so sure what g*d wants or doesn’t want? Frankly, I’m not that arrogant to presume that I can act for g*d.

    So, no, my comment is not a joke. It’s a point of view that I hope to spread to save a few thousand American kids’ arms, legs, faces, and lives.

    I fail to see how this could be construed as an affront to g*d by anyone. If g*d doesn’t want them to kill each other, then they won’t. The FACT that they DO kill each other sorta makes one think that if there is a g*d involved, he/she’s getting exactly what he/she wants.

    But, again, I’m not arrogant enough to presume that I KNOW that.

    I do know that American kids are losing their limbs and lives at the average age of 19!!!

  15. On May 5, 2006 at 12:26 Mike (Worcester) said:

    Do you think we’re encouraging military intervention in Darfur? We’re not. Have you read anything else on this site? Have you read anything else about the people or organizations involved in this event? I would encourage you to do so.

    In re: Arrogance.

    I don’t think it’s arrogant to love other people.

    I don’t think it’s arrogant to take one’s spiritual cues from the majority of spiritual seekers of the last three thousand years.

    I do think that what happens in Africa affects us both politically and economically, aside from the fact that everything affects everyone to some extent.

    Anyhow, thanks for your comments.

  16. On May 5, 2006 at 13:29 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    I am not that arrogant to presume that I am beyond God.

  17. On May 8, 2006 at 17:29 Mike (Worcester) said:

    Ethan Zuckerman answers: Why should we care about Africa?

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