A little more than a dozen activists chanted slogans, sang songs and waved flags as part of a political protest in front of the embassy of the Republic of Congo (1720 16th St. NW) in Dupont Circle earlier this afternoon.
The activists represented The National Congress for Democracy, an organization that aims to “free Congo-Brazzaville from the oppressive reign of [current president] Denis Sassou Nguesso.” The organization also opposes Sassou Nguesso’s attempt to seek a third term in office.
Some protestors waved signs and booklets full of images of gruesome scenes. One sign displayed a closeup of a dead man with a gaping hole in the front of his head. Another sign depicted a small row of dead bodies, an alleged act of genocide.
“We’re here to ask the U.S. administration and President Obama to help the Congolese people to topple that dictator, to force him to go. We need to put pressure [on him],” said activist Jean-Alain Packounas.
“In the Middle East, any time someone strong stands up, the U.S. reacts the next day,” said another protestor, Jacques Miango. “Sassou Nguesso has already killed more than two million Congolese, and our children today are starving.”
Some activists waved to cars and cheered as vehicles passed the embassy. A few drivers waved and honked back. The spectacle, which grew in intensity and volume the longer it continued, even seemed to distract one driver enough to rear-end the car in front of her.
“We are just trying to bring awareness,” Miango said. “As was done when we had Apartheid in South Africa. We are just trying to bring awareness.”
Apparently, the squeaky wheel does get the grease. Or perhaps it often just has a better PR person? At any rate, Dupont Circle residents made so much noise about the decision by the Republic of Congo Embassy to pave their front yard that the embassy relented and began tearing up the concrete on Monday. (See No More Concrete at the Embassy of Congo.)
It took the DC Department of Transportation, the State Department and other local officials — along with neighborhood organizations — to make it happen. But now even the Grey Lady is in the picture. The New York Times story on Wednesday was after the Republic of Congo took corrective action with plans to replace the concrete with “bushes and mulch.”
The Dupont Circle Conservancy gets much of the credit in the article and the president is quoted a few times. The actual protests in front of the embassy were organized by the Dupont Circle Citizens Association.
The coverage of this squabble in the The Times means a few things:
- First, it is an extremely slow news week leading up to Christmas.
- Second, enough attention in local blogs can trickle up to the highest echelons of power (I’m talking about the State Department, not the The Times for any of you FOX News lovers).
- Third, be very careful if you want to build/renovate/alter anything in Dupont Circle.
The money quote in the article from the Republic of Congo’s ambassador, Serge Mombouli: “They asked us remove the pavement, and that is what we are doing,” he said. “I know that that will not look nice, but that for me is as far as it goes. If we are required to do more, we will lodge a strong protest with the U.S. government.”
Merry Christmas to you, too, Mr. Ambassador.
- No More Concrete at the Embassy of Congo
- Pavementgate: State Department Smackdown on Congolese Embassy
- The Other Side on the B&B that Became a Cement Embassy
- Embassies, Trees, B&Bs: Be Careful What You Protest?
- SYMHM: Concrete, Lincoln and Vintage
- DCCA to Protest Congolese Embassy Over 16th Street Renovations
- SYMHM: ANC 2B Says No to Congolese Chancery
- Toutorsky Mansion Owners Apply for Chancery Use
From Michelle Lancaster
ANC 2B Says No to Chancery at Tourtorsky Mansion
ANC 2B voted 8 to 0 Wednesday night to recommend that the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) not be allowed to use the Toutorksy Mansion at 16th Street and Riggs Place NW as a chancery. Borderstan’s Tom Hay reported Monday on the property and the Congolese government’s desire to use the historic property as an embassy chancery. While the ANC’s resolution is only advisory, the DC Board of Zoning Adjustment is required to give it consideration. Commissioner Jack Jacobson (2B04), whose district includes the property, told Borderstan that the resolution of disapproval passed after the commission reviewed photos of the Republic of Congo property at 16th Street and Colorado Avenue NW. The photos show serious maintenance problems with the property.