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, 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.