Journal of the People’s Pastor

“Writing The History I’ve Lived, Living The History I Write!”

DARFUR DIARY

Darfur Diary – Civil Disobedience At The China Mission


In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, 2/19/08, President Bush speaking from Rwanda, talked about what he is doing for Africa. He was proud of the fact that American dollars had purchased nets for beds, which prevented mosquito bits, substantially reducing malaria and death. He cited his assistance in the fight against HIV+ (AIDS). He promised Peace Corp workers. Then he made reference to an issue around which we were preparing to do civil disobedience later in the day. Standing next to Mr. Bush was Mr. Paul Kagame the President of Rwanda, Mr. Bush talked about the crises in Darfur. He called it genocide. He spoke of his attempt to implement sanctions against the Sudanese government. He applauded President Kagame for being among the first to send peacekeeping troops into Darfur. And, he said he had allocated 100 million dollars for Darfur.

While Mr. Bush seemed to be uncomfortable and out of place in Africa and his offer to help seems meager, still, it was something; and his reference to the situation in Darfur as genocidal and his sanctions against the El Bashir government made for a significantly timely statement, especially since Africa, Darfur in particular, is an issue that has been close to my heart and for which I have worked for a long time. And, to repeat, in a few hours we would be going to jail regarding the Darfur crises.

Then, later in the evening, after Senator Barack Obama had won Wisconsin, in his victory speech he said he would, “End the genocide in Darfur.” So, a sitting President and possibly the next President of the United States of America expressed strongly a commitment to the people of Darfur. Still more, Steven Spielberg announced his refusal to participate in the Olympic Games in Beijing August 2008 because of China’s support for Sudan. Against the above background, I made ready for the day’s event. Grateful for what I had heard from the President of the United States and an internationally known movie making genius, hopefully the issue of Darfur will gain, and even surpass, the moderate attention and concern it once had.

We departed my Church (the House of the Lord Church) at 11:15am. We stopped for a moment at the Sudanese Mission located at 47th Street between 1st & 2nd Avenues. We paused at the Isaiah Wall in front of the United Nations (UN) on 42nd Street & 1st Avenue, and then walked to the Chinese Mission on 1st Avenue between 34th & 35th Streets. When we arrived, the police had already assembled, far outnumbering the demonstrators. The patty wagon was waiting. The front entrance of the Chinese Mission was closed. We went to the back entrance on 34th Street. We commenced to marching, holding up placards and chanting, “Boycott the Olympic Games.” “China support Sudan’s genocidal policies.” We vigorously gave out literature explaining our action.

We focused on China because China is the main supporter of the Sudanese government. By calling for a boycott of the Olympic Games, we hope to persuade China to employ its considerable influence on Sudan to end the crises in Darfur, cease support for rebels attempting to destabilize or overthrow the Chadian government, thus creating more tension and hardship in the region.

We decided rather than get arrested on the sidewalk in front of the Chinese Mission; we would block the traffic in front of the Mission, in so doing, creating greater tension and attention.

The cold wind blowing fiercely from the East River seems to be joining our protest against China. The police speaking loudly and firmly through a megaphone threaten an arrest if we refused to move. It was the signal that everybody would move to the sidewalk except those who would be arrested. There were three of us arrested. Rev. C. Herbert Oliver, veteran civil rights activist, who anti-dated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Birmingham, Alabama, and who served as the President of the Ocean Hills/Brownsville School Board of Directors, Omar Wilks, my young assistant, and I. It was 1:30pm when we entered the patty wagon. The handcuffs were old style steel. The patty wagon was cold and the ride to the precinct very bumpy.

We arrived at the 17th Precinct at 51st Street & 3rd Avenue, where we were charged with disorderly conduct. We had been brought to this same Precinct a year before for similar acts of disobedience. We were locked in a large cell, as jail cells go, while the police completed their paperwork. There were no mug shots or finger prints. We were released at 3:52pm. We walked out into the cold air, feeling warm inside, again we had made our statement on this “genocidal crises.”

At the time of this writing, we had planned to be back on Tuesday the 26th and every Tuesday indefinitely. We were counting on consistency to make the impact. But, while we were planning the next demonstration and civil disobedience for Tuesday the 26th, we remembered that the Sean Bell trial would begin on Monday, February 25, 2008. We decided we would suspend the demonstration until we see how the trial proceeds. We are asking all our supporters to support the Bell family at the court and stay tuned to our next Darfur action.

There was an incident that caused us deep concern. One of our demonstrators, Ms. Grier Wright, who had worked diligently giving out literature and conversing with bystanders and passersby, as she moved to and fro, tripped in a hole in the street. She fell to the ground. She said she heard something pop in her foot. As she laid on the curve raring in pain, tears in her eyes, she continued to stream, “Boycott the Olympic Games.” One of the other demonstrators, Ms. Debra Dawkins, rode with her in the ambulance to the hospital. Later they sent her home on crushes. I spoke to her at 10pm. She was buoyant and glad to have participated in the demonstration and couldn’t wait until the next time. I thanked her for her commitment and courage.To be continued…

Upcoming Events

Attend the Timbuktu Learning Center’s weekly Thursday Night Community Forums. All Forums are held at the House of the Lord Church from 7pm to 9pm.

Join Operation Life Line if you need assistance or know someone who needs assistance with their mortgages as it relates to foreclosures, predatory lending and/or sub prime lending.

Attend NRLAA’s monthly forum Focus on Africa the 2nd Saturday from 2pm to 4pm.

Organizing Meetings regarding Darfur every Thursday - 12noon @ the House of the Lord Church
Keep abreast of our Darfurian activities by checking our web page @ www.holnj.org.