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15 Arrested for Protest Near Soviet Embassy

December 9, 1987
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While Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was meeting with President Reagan Tuesday, 15 Jewish demonstrators were arrested for protesting within 500 feet of the Soviet Embassy here.

The protesters, led by Rabbi Avraham Weiss and Glenn Richter of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ), had crossed police barricades set up two blocks away from the embassy.

Wearing talleisim, they sat near the embassy for five minutes, singing “Hatikva,” “Am Yisrael Chai” and other Hebrew songs before police escorted them to a police bus. One of the protestors blew the shofar.

On Monday, just hours before Gorbachev arrived in Washington, the SSSJ and the North American Jewish Students’ Network demonstrated outside the office of the Soviet Union’s Aeroflot Airlines to protest the $2 billion in loans from American banks to the Soviet Union each year.

Representatives of the groups placed dozens of fake checks of $2 billion each payable to Gorbachev inside the security fence guarding the office.

Both the Tuesday and Monday demonstrations featured former Soviet Jewish refuseniks including Yosef Mendelevich, Leon and Anna Charny and Irina Dashevsy.

The former Jewish refuseniks who live in Israel did not cross the barricades Tuesday for fear that their arrests could jeopardize their right to visit the United States.

Also present were members of the Colorado Committee of Concern for Soviet Jewry. Some of the Denver protesters wore sweatshirts saying “Glasnost-Shmasnost, Summit-Shmummit. Just Let Our People Go.”

Both demonstrations focused on further restricting U.S.-Soviet economic ties until the Soviets live up to their obligations under the Helsinki human rights accords. The SSSJ and the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews support a legislative proposal by Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) that would allow President Reagan to suspend U.S. loans to the Soviet Union for reasons including national security or human rights violations.

At Monday’s protest, Mendelevich was named the ambassador of the newly created Union of Struggling Soviet Refuseniks Embassy in front of Aeroflot. Mendelevich displayed a styrofoam key to symbolically open the Soviets’ door to emigration.

Mendelevich said the Soviet government does not have “enough brains to consider any Jewish appeal” for increased emigration. He was referring to Gorbachev’s comments Nov. 30 that the emigration movement is part of a U.S. conspiracy to create a “brain drain” from the Soviet Union.

Rabbi Weiss, national chairman of the SSSJ, called for the Soviets to release 60,000 Soviet Jews annually. Until then, he said, the United States should continue to adhere to the Jackson–Vanik amendment linking trade advantages to human rights policy.

To protest Gorbachev’s scheduled meeting Thursday with U.S. business leaders, Weiss said he plans to stage a funeral procession Thursday in front of Aeroflot to mark the “death of morality in American business.”

Weiss also criticized U.S. politicians for not demanding at Sunday’s rally that the $2 billion in U.S. loans be linked to Soviet human rights policy, a position stated publicly Sunday by Mendelevich.

On Tuesday, the Jewish demonstrators protested at the police barricades near the embassy alongside Ethiopian-Americans critical of Soviet ties with the Ethiopian government.

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