Menu JTA Search

Over 10,000 Demonstrate in Washington – Jackson Says Amendment Will Pass

More than 10,000 Americans concerned with the fate of Soviet Jews massed in the nation’s capital today to remind visiting Soviet Communist Party Secretary Leonid I. Brezhnev and his host, President Nixon, that there is a moral and humanitarian factor in the relations between great powers that must not be ignored.

The Freedom Assembly for Soviet Jews began in the West Plaza of the Capitol shortly after 2 p.m. The throngs who came here in planes, trains, buses and cars from 20 states gathered under threatening skies and intermittent rainfall to hear speakers demand free emigration for Jews and other citizens of the Soviet Union, an end to arrests and harassment of those seeking exit visas and to urge the U.S. government to see to it that the USSR complies with the basic tenets of human rights before extending to it the benefits of profitable trade with this country.

NOT ANTI-SOVIET

The demonstration was described by police as “orderly,” “well-behaved” and “well organized.” The demonstrators were preponderantly young people.

Young women pushing babies in prams were visible in the crowd. There were men and women of all ages and they came from states as far away as Nevada, Colorado, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida. Many carried signs reading, “Freedom Now,” “Let My People Go,” “Freedom For Soviet Jews.”

Several unrelated demonstrations were held in different parts of Washington today with an undisguised anti-Soviet flavor. These were organized by Ukrainian and Baltic emigre groups and by Young Americans for Freedom, a right-wing youth group which said it planned to burn Brezhnev in effigy.

Organizers of the Freedom Assembly for Soviet Jews stressed however that their demonstration was not aimed against Brezhnev or opposed to detente between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It was intended only to convey to the Russian leader the overwhelming concern of Americans for the situation of Jews seeking to leave the USSR.

As Rabbi Irving Lehrman of Miami Beach, Fla., past president of the Synagogue Council of America put it in his remarks at the Capitol Plaza rally, “We are not here as cold warriors, we are not here to do battle with the Soviet Union or Mr. Brezhnev. We are for detente. But should detente be built on the agony of Soviet Jews?”

The warmest and most prolonged ovation went to Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D. Wash.), author of legislation that would condition U.S. trade concessions to the Soviet Union on the latter’s removing its restrictions on emigration.

JACKSON DENOUNCES “CYNICAL FORMULA”

Sen. Jackson delivered a slashing attack on what he called unfulfilled Soviet and American promises to bring about freedom of emigration in the Soviet Union. He predicted that Congress would adopt legislation for a detente between the superpowers based on respect for human rights.

“We must have a genuine detente between peoples, not some cynical formula between governments for capitulation on the requirement for human rights,” Sen. Jackson told the crowd assembled for the Freedom Assembly. “If a detente is not based on human rights, it will not only betray our most solemn promises, it will, in the long run, fail to produce peace. That is why the Congress is going to pass our amendment,” he said.

MEANY MESSAGE

Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R.NY), in a message to the Freedom Assembly, said that justice for Soviet Jewry is “an indispensable condition” for close American relations with the Soviet Union in trade and finance.” He said that the American expressions of concern over the “maltreatment of Jews in the Soviet Union” is a “determination based on a moral and national conviction” that detente between the superpowers “must have moral content too.”

Another message, from AFL-CIO president George Meany said, “I am proud to pledge to you the full support of the AFL-CIO in the effort you have undertaken in behalf of Jews and others fighting for freedom in the USSR.”

The rally at the Capitol Plaza ended at 4 p.m. and the demonstrators marched a mile to the Washington Monument grounds behind the White House to continue the Freedom Assembly.

During today’s events in Washington, Brezhnev was at Camp David, Md., reportedly conferring, with Presidential advisor Henry Kissinger prior to his first meeting with President Nixon at the White House tomorrow morning. Nixon was at his retreat at Key Biscayne, Fla.

NEXT STORY