Abolitionists Jailed

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Civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory leads anti-slavery protest

May 10, 2001

WASHINGTON, DC (iAbolish) - For the third time in two weeks, activists protesting against slavery in Sudan were arrested outside Sudanese diplomatic offices.

Linking arms with representatives of the American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG) and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), noted activist and comedian Dick Gregory blocked the entrance to the Sudanese Embassy and, in front of an enthusiastic crowd of demonstrators, was promptly arrested by the Secret Service.

"I came here to disturb the peace," Gregory announced. "When women are enslaved and gang-raped, the peace needs to be disturbed."

Tucked away among a row of diplomatic buildings on Washington's Massachusetts Avenue, Sudan's Embassy was targeted two weeks earlier by former DC Congressman Rev. Walter Fauntroy and radio host Joe Madison (see photo at left). Over a decade ago, Fauntroy used a similar technique of civil disobedience at the South African Embassy to launch the anti-apartheid movement.

Today, a group of marching and chanting protestors crowded around the entrance to the Sudanese Embassy, while a number of news cameras and reporters documented the events of the afternoon.

Wearing an image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Keith Silvers of the SCLC joined Gregory and AASG President Dr. Charles Jacobs in blocking the door to the embassy.

"We bind ourselves to the doors of the Embassy of Sudan," Gregory explained, "because this embassy represents a regime that continues to enslave black African Sudanese people."

Jacobs, who was arrested one week earlier while protesting outside Sudan's Mission to the United Nations in New York City, had strong words for the Sudanese government. "As to the pharaohs, we say to you, 'Let our people go.'"

Secret Service members and police soon surrounded the men and warned them three times that they would be arrested if they did not move. "I respectfully decline," Gregory responded.

The three were then handcuffed and escorted through the crowd-which was now chanting "Free Dick Gregory! Free the abolitionists!" -and into an awaiting police wagon.

After their release from jail, Jacobs and Gregory declared that the campaign of civil disobedience outside Sudanese diplomatic sites-in the United States and abroad-was only just beginning.

"Slavery is not about Right of Left," remarked Jacobs. "It's about right and wrong. And we will not sit this one out."

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