The streets of Washington were alive with protesters yesterday as different rallies around the city denounced Soviet treatment of Jews, called for an end to nuclear proliferation, and criticized cults.
D.C. police arrested 48 Hebrew teachers demonstrating in front of the Soviet Embassy to protest the persecution of Soviet Jews, while four blocks away in front of the White House about 1,000 people chanting "Let my people go" rallied for the same cause.
The demonstration, organized by a group of Jewish organizations, was one of several held in the United States and Europe this week calling on Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Reagan, meeting at a summit in Geneva, to address the grievances of Soviet Jews.
"Now is the time to repeat our demand that Mikhail Gorbachev stop Russian anti-Semitism and let our people go free," said Rabbi David Oler, chairman of the Washington Board of Rabbis' Soviet Jewry Action Committee.
Those arrested in front of the embassy on 16th Street near L Street were charged with demonstrating within 500 feet of an embassy and were released after posting $50 bonds.
These arrests brought to approximately 150 the number charged with rallying in front of the Soviet Embassy in six protests since May.
Meanwhile, 25 activists from the Baltimore Physicians for Social Responsibility marched to the Soviet Embassy and the White House to present letters pleading for good-faith negotiations in Geneva.
In an unrelated rally, organized by a group called the Cult Awareness Network, about 50 persons attended a ceremony next to the Capitol commemorating the seventh anniversary of the mass suicide at Jonestown, Guyana, where 912 members of the People's Temple died.
Patricia Ryan, daughter of Rep. Leo J. Ryan, the California Democrat killed by the Jonestown cultists, addressed the rally about the dangers of cults and about her fears that followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh -- the Indian guru who left his home base of Oregon last week after pleading guilty to immigration fraud -- will themselves commit mass suicide.
Patricia Ryan's sister Shannon joined the group a year after her father's death and lives at the Oregon retreat. Patricia Ryan said that her sister told reporters that the guru's followers would kill themselves if he asked. Patricia Ryan added that the Rajneesh group has been thrown into a panic by the guru's flight from the United States last week, and that their "paranoia" made mass suicide "not inconceivable."
A spokesman for the Rajneesh commune said Patricia Ryan's statements were "utterly absurd."