About 100 Harvard undergraduates will travel to Washington this coming Saturday to protest the persecution of Soviet Jews on the eve of a summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
The demonstration, which is supported by Jewish and human rights organizations around the country and from Canada, including Harvard Hillel, is expected to draw more than 100,000 people. First conceived of after a possible Gorbachev visit to the U.S. was mentioned at last November's Rejkavik summit, the rally will take place on December 5.
Demonstrators will march along the mall and pause in front of the Lincoln Memorial to hear several Soviet and American activists speak. including popular refusniks Ida Nudel. Natan Sharansky and Vladimir Slepak. Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Weisel and Vice President George Bush will also appear.
As Gorbachev is the first Soviet premier to visit the U.S. in 14 years, the rally "is a historic opportunity to tell Gorbachev that he's got to back up his policy of Glasnost by action in releasing the 400,000 Jews who will probably never get out unless we get the message to him," said project co-organizer Daniel L. Alexander '90.
But activists said they planned the rally for the day before Gorbachev's arrival so that it will not be seen as a protest of the visit.
Sam Mandales, director of the Boston Regional Hillel organization which is coordinating transportation for area college students, said, "The point is not to embarrass Gorbachev or to put him on the spot but just to let him know how we feel about the issue."
The majority of the protesters from the Boston area will probably be students, according to Scott Speigler, an official at the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). "They have high social consciences and high energy," he said. "They can also endure the long bus ride."
Sam Solomon--director of executive operations at Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), one of the organizers of the rally--said organizers should try to attract as many supporters as possible. "If we get the numbers we hope, it will be a dramatic expression of the will of an important segment of the population," he said.
One Harvard student whose family emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1979 said that she would definitely participate in the protest. Julia Fayngold '91 said, "On a personal level I feel that I have to go to try and help gain the release of others who can't leave. If things like [the demonstration] did not happen then my family would probably still be there."