Thousands at New York Rally to Free Anatoly Sharansky
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Thousands at New York Rally to Free Anatoly Sharansky

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Guerrilla theater, freedom songs, Yiddish poems, art sketches and speeches were part of the “Free Anatoly Sharansky” demonstration Friday in front of Aeroflot, Soviet airline office and outside the New York Public Library on Fifth Ave. Painters, musicians, writers, poets, filmmakers and photographers–members of the Martin Steinberg Jewish Arts Center of the American Jewish Congress-joined the rally to protest charges of treason leveled by the Soviet regime against Sharansky, a Jewish activist in Moscow who has been accused of spying for the CIA. The charge carries a possible death penalty.

The demonstration featured street performers acting out a mock trial of Sharansky. Speaking at the rally, Bronx Borough President Robert Abrams warned that the charge against Sharansky “signals a new era of Soviet repression reminiscent of the darkest days of the brutal age of Stalin.”


Abrams, who is chairman of the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry, told the rally: “Unless the Soviet Union immediately drops the trumped-up charge of treason against Sharansky, the pledges it signed at the Helsinki conference two years ago will not be worth the paper they are written on, and will represent a brutal rebuff to all those nations in the world that are concerned with human dignity.” Organizers of the demonstration–the Martin Steinberg Center of the AJCongress the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry and Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry called the campaign against Sharansky an attempt to “break the back of the Soviet emigration movement.”

Aryeh Neier, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the demonstrators that “Americans should be concerned with violations of human rights all over the world, not just in our country. Governments should raise their voices whenever violations, such as we are witnessing against Sharansky, occur. Because only in silence can the violators get away with their actions.” Jack Greenberg, director and counsel of the NAACP legal defense and educational fund, told the demonstrators he had met with Sharansky while on a visit to the USSR to intervene in the case of Jewish activists. “Now the Soviets have incarcerated Sharansky and he faces a death penalty.” Greenberg said. “It took great courage on the part of Sharansky to volunteer as a monitor of Soviet compliance with the Helsinki agreement. The least we can do here is speak out publicly on his behalf.”

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