Members of the GW STAND student organization gathered in front of the State Department Friday to protest the genocide in Darfur in anticipation of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to China – a key trading partner with Sudan with the potential to influence the ongoing conflict.
About a dozen students gathered to urge Clinton to make Darfur a priority during her visit with Chinese leaders and encourage her to appoint a special envoy to Sudan. The United States’ response to the fighting in the region has sparked debate across the country, and GW STAND has participated in many similar protests in the area in recent years.
Protestors carried signs and marched around the State Department complex, chanting refrains like “Save Darfur, talk with China” and “One, two, three, four, Hillary protect Darfur. Five, six, seven, eight, a new envoy cannot wait.”
“We want the Obama administration to react and show the government in Khartoum that we take this seriously and we want this genocide to come to a stop,” said Kaden Trifilio, communications director for GW STAND. “We also want Secretary Clinton, on her upcoming tour to Asia, to have some talks with China.”
He added, “China is still essentially fueling this conflict going on over there.”
The protest was designed to coincide with a telephone campaign also set for Friday. STAND members from across the country planned to call into the State Department once every minute from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., demanding the U.S. pay more attention to the region. But being just blocks away, the leaders of GW STAND opted to take their protest to the door of the State Department.
“We take kind of a responsibility onto ourselves because we have things available to us like being able to protest at the State Department,” Trifilio said. “We kind of have a responsibility to represent the chapters across the country here.”
The telephone campaign – as well as the protest at the State Department – is a part of a larger STAND campaign called “Darfur from Day One,” intended to persuade the Obama administration to make Darfur a priority during its first 100 days. Friday’s demonstration coincided with the 25th day of the Obama administration, and similar protests are tentatively planned to mark the 50th and 75th days.
STAND leaders are hopeful that the new president will make good on his campaign promises and work to end the genocide in Darfur. Still, being able to shout their message a little bit louder in the ears of those in power helps to solidify their confidence, protestors said.
Trifilio added, “I have a lot of faith at this point in the administration that they will listen to us and fulfill their promises.”