Embassy protesters ask, ‘Can we talk to Sergey?!’
Demonstrators target Russian ambassador after Cabinet revelations
Andrew Seidman, 33, a high school English teacher from Maryland, stood outside the Russian Embassy in Washington on Saturday morning, yelling a question:
“Can we talk to Sergey?! Is he in there?”
Sergey, as everyone knows these days, would be Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, who sits at the center of a hurrican-esque news cycle over his conversations with Trump advisers in the runup to and immediately after the presidential election. Surrounded by umpteen surveillance cameras on nearby lamp posts (and perhaps many more that could not be as easily spotted), Seidman joined dozens of other likeminded people to protest President Trump’s perceived ties to the Russian government outside the embassy, just north of Georgetown, on Wisconsin Avenue.
To their disappointment, Russia’s longtime envoy did not emerge from the gated compound to greet his visitors. The Washington Post emailed the embassy’s press office on Saturday seeking comment, but the message was not returned.
The protesters converged outside the embassy in Glover Park following a spate of revelations in the press in the past month showing that former and current Trump advisers — Michael Flynn, the ex-national security adviser, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — had not disclosed that they had spoken with Kislyak before the election or before the inauguration.
The Post broke a story Wednesday showing that last year, when Sessions was a Trump surrogate and Republican senator from Alabama, he spoke twice with Kislyak — discussions that he failed to mention during his confirmation hearing for attorney general when asked about communication with the Russian government.
The Post reported that one of the meetings between Sessions and Kislyak happened in September, at the peak of what American intelligence officials have deemed a Russian cyber campaign that helped reveal embarrassing emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.
At the Saturday protest outside the embassy — which sits on a hilltop known as Mount Alto, one of the capital’s highest points — people carried signs that read: “Bromance, Bribery, Blackmail, Bad! Investigate Trump + Vlad” and “Tinkle Tinkle Little Czar, Putin Put You Where You Are.” One person pasted the words from a recent New York Times advertising campaign onto her poster: “TRUTH. It’s more important now than ever.”
The event was organized not by a Democrat but by a selfdescribed conservative who says he always voted Republican for president until November, when he cast his ballot for a third-party candidate. Greg Schliesmann, 35, a branch manager at a mortgage company in Wisconsin, spread the word about the event through Facebook.
“It’s ironic that we are protesting an American president at the Russian Embassy,” he said, clutching a sign that read, “GOP Stop Putin’ Party Over Truth.”
The Russian Embassy is hardly a new target for protesters. In August 2013, about 100 people gathered at the building to rally against the Russian imprisonment of two members of the punk-rock group Pussy Riot.
At Saturday’s protest, people railed against Sessions and Trump and belted out singsong chants: “Republicans, don’t hesitate! You need to investigate!”
James Kameen, a sales and marketing manager for a fitness company, came with his friend, a federal contractor for the Environmental Protection Agency, who did not want to be named. (For obvious reasons, she said.) Kameen said he’s been tracking news about Trump’s ties to Russia since last year and fretted that the revelations “keep getting bigger and bigger.”
His friend nodded. “I feel like he’s making us into Russia,” she said.
Just then, a woman wearing a furry hat and jacket approached the embassy gates. She was pushing a stroller holding a child. She buzzed right on in.
The moment to sneak inside — to meet a Russian official, to ask questions, nose around a bit — was closing. The gate opened, then shut just as quickly. Kameen and his friend stayed put. They stared at the woman fading behind the black gates, wondering just who she was.
Eric Honour, left, and Diane Dzikiewicz, right, protest President Trump’s perceived ties to Russia on Saturday outside the Russian Embassy in Washington. Trump advisers have caused controversy by not disclosing that they had spoken with Russia’s U.S. ambassador.