Diamond Protest Held in Boston

A fourth conflict diamond rally was held recently in Boston as part of a campaign to pressure jewelers to support Rep. Tony Halls “Clean Diamond Act.”

The Campaign to Eliminate Conflict Diamonds—a group of 70 NGOs that organized the rally—is introducing a sticker for jewelers who support Hall’s bill. It will urge members to shop only at “Jewelers for Clean Diamonds” who display the sticker. The jewelers’ names will be listed on the Committee’s Web site, www.endconflictdiamonds.org.

In an e-mail, Jewelers of America urged jewelers not to support the bill, which it is not backing (see “Conflict Battle Brews in Congress” above).

“You may … be asked to display a sticker or decal in your store or to list your store on a human rights group’s Web site,” the e-mail said. “We ask that you not take part in such activities at this time. While Congressman Hall and our industry agree that conflict diamonds must be eliminated and that passage of legislation is critical to that goal, we disagree on some important provisions of that legislation.”

Following a phone call from rally organizers, local jeweler Shreve, Crump and Low issued a press release—timed for the rally—that said the company “strongly supports the Clean Diamonds Act.” At the rally, speakers hailed the store for its apparent endorsement.

But Shreve president Richard Wycherley told JCK that he supported the demonstrators’ goal, not the specific bill. “My comment to them is: I think Tony Hall’s bill has some virtue, but it’s flawed in some major respects,” he said. “We support the concept, but we don’t think their bill is the answer. The bill by Judd Gregg is more likely to be useful.” He said the organizers first asked him to sign a document, but he didn’t think that was appropriate. “Certainly, there is no question of us putting a sticker in the window, or anything like that,” he said.

The rally included the main participants in the Campaign to Eliminate Conflict Diamonds—World Vision, Physicians for Human Rights, and Amnesty International USA—as well as Oxfam America. It drew about 60 attendees, mostly students from area schools and universities. Local media were absent, but reporters from Dateline NBC and National Geographic, both of which were already working on the story, were present.

At this rally, demonstrators handed out T-shirts that read “Dying for a Diamond?” and chanted, “Hey Congress, don’t sit back, pass the Clean Diamonds Act,” “Tiffany, Tiffany, the world is watching you,” “No more dying for diamonds,” “Hey, hey, ho, ho, conflict diamonds have got to go,” “Hey what! Hey you! Your diamonds are bloody, too,” and “No justice, no peace.” However, the tone of the comments was slightly less confrontational than at past demonstrations.

“We are not targeting the diamond industry,” said Josh Rubenstein of Amnesty International. “We want to work with the diamond industry.” But speakers didn’t shrink from describing African atrocities—which they contend wouldn’t have happened without diamonds. Hare Lyons read a particularly harrowing account of a young girl’s capture by the RUF, the Sierra Leone rebel force.

“Children are dying for diamonds,” said Rory Anderson of World Vision. “April’s birthstone must not be a death stone.

“The Clean Diamonds Act is a gift to the jewelers of America,” she continued. “It gives customers assurance their diamonds are not bathed in blood but are instead giving a better future to the children of Africa.”

Speakers urged demonstrators to ask jewelers where their diamonds were mined. The rally was timed to the latest meeting of the “Kimberley Process,” the ongoing collaboration between industry, NGOs, and governments to install the certification system. Organizers hoped the rally would increase pressure on governments that were wary of rough controls. A flier said the demonstration was held in Copley Square because it’s adjacent to a mall with a Tiffany’s. The world-famous jewelry retailer has drawn fire from NGOs because of its role in the World Diamond Council. When JCK stopped into the nearby Tiffany’s following the demonstration, store employees said they had heard no feedback from the rally, although demonstrators had met with store management earlier in the day.