For several months, the people of Sudan have been engaging in peaceful protests in order to advocate for the implementation of a civilian-led government. The world has watched the Sudanese effectively demonstrate tactics of nonviolence, which culminated into a powerful two-day general strike. On Monday, June 3rd, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) decided to respond to these peaceful demonstrations with violence, and have killed an estimated 35 citizens. In addition to these unnecessary deaths, hundreds more were physically and sexually assaulted at the hands of the TMC. In response to these attacks, a protest was organized at the White House on Tuesday morning.

This is my third week as an intern at Nonviolence International. During this time, I have studied, researched, and discussed the advantages and strategies of nonviolence; however, I had yet to see its effect in person. Therefore, when I had the opportunity to attend this demonstration at the White House, I immediately agreed. I wasn’t sure what to expect for my first protest, especially since it was organized under such grim circumstances, but I was anxious to find out.

Shortly after arriving at the White House, we equipped ourselves with cardboard signs consisting of various messages relating to the crisis in Sudan. We waved our posters, chanted phrases, and took pictures in order to show the Sudanese community that they are not facing this challenge alone. Personally, the most meaningful part of the experience was when I spoke with the Sudanese protesters. One woman told me that although it was Eid, a day full of celebration and festivities, she wasn’t even able to wake up with a smile on her face due to these ongoing atrocities. For her, one of the worst aspects of the attacks was that the TMC had cut off the Internet service in the country. This action made it impossible for citizens to share videos of the violence through social media in order to spread awareness about what was happening. The TMC used a combination of violence and censorship in order to try and scare Sudanese citizens into compliance.

I experienced many emotions and thoughts as a result of attending this protest. I was extremely moved by the Sudanese protesters’ stories, and also in turn, a bit overwhelmed. Seeing and hearing the horrible details regarding the violent attacks was devastating, and for a brief moment, I wasn’t sure what would come next. However, I was greatly inspired by the members of the Sudanese community, who were all also horrified by the TMC’s actions, but refused to give up and accept the current situation that they were facing. In Sudan, those who suffered from this violence rejected the military’s demands. The protesters in D.C. showed their support for their community and this decision. For me, it demonstrated extreme power and virtue on behalf of the Sudanese to respond to violence with nonviolent action. As a result, I came out of the experience more inclined to try and do everything I can to help people who are fighting injustice with nonviolence. The protest also caused me to realize that I have a lot more to learn about the current human rights abuses that are occurring all around the world. Furthermore, I realized the importance of hearing stories and learning information from people who are directly affected by these issues. Overall, I am extremely grateful that I attended this protest for several reasons: I saw firsthand the power of nonviolent action, I was able to show my support to the Sudanese community, and I became more motivated to help tell the stories of nonviolent activists in order to provide hope in these challenging times.  

It is during this time of crisis that the people of Sudan need us now more than ever. We must lend our support in any way that we can, and let them know that they are not alone in their struggle. If I could leave you with one takeaway from my experience, it would be this: educate and engage. Educate yourself about the current humanitarian crises occurring all around the globe, and how tactics of nonviolence could help resolve some of these conflicts. Take this newfound acquired knowledge and engage in the world around you, whether that is through educating others or by taking part in nonviolent protests yourself. I know that after attending my first protest, it certainly won’t be my last.

You can follow the uprising on Twitter by searching for the hashtag #SudanUprising.

-Annalisa Bell

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