Five members of Congress and leading Darfur activists were arrested today in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. The group gathered to protest the dire humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan, which was exacerbated by the government’s recent expulsion of 13 international aid agencies. State-sanctioned violence in Darfur began in 2003, forcing an estimated 2.5 million people from their homes and into camps where they are dependent on aid. Now, the government’s decision to prevent major aid agencies from providing food, water, and basic services to the people living in the camps means that starvation and disease loom.
"We need to shake up the status quo, and that’s why we’re getting arrested today," said Enough’s John Prendergast, standing next to the police barricade surrounding the Sudanese Embassy.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Jerry Fowler of Save Darfur Coalition, and John Prendergast of the Enough Project led the protest.
Following speeches by the protest’s headliners, the group stepped onto the property of the embassy and was given three warnings by the U.S. Secret Service to leave. As the protesters stood defiant, police handcuffed each of the leaders and escorted them into a Secret Service vehicle.
Update: The members of Congress and Darfur activists were released from jail this afternoon. Upon his return to our office, Enough co-Founder John Prendergast had this to say about the event:
We hope our message is heard in the White House in Washington and at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum. The time to end the genocide is long overdue, and the best way to do that is for the Obama administration to take the lead in helping to construct a credible peace initiative for Darfur and a more effective means to promote the implementation of the North-South peace deal.
Video, pictures, and updates can be found here.