Saperstein, members of Congress arrested in Darfur protest
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Saperstein, members of Congress arrested in Darfur protest

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism director Rabbi David Saperstein and five members of Congress were among those arrested Monday for civil disobedience in a protest at the Sudan Embassy. The group was protesting Sudan’s removal of international aid groups from the country, leaving those in Darfur without access to food, water and health care. Here’s the Save Darfur Coalition’s press release on the arrests:

MEMBERS OF CONGRESS, DARFUR ACTIVIST LEADERS PROTEST DETERIORATING HUMANITARIAN SITUATION

Participants arrested for civil disobedience at Sudanese Embassy

WASHINGTON – Members of Congress – including Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), John Lewis (D-GA), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) – and Darfur activist leaders were today arrested for civil disobedience outside of the Sudanese Embassy while protesting the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Participants called on the international community to impose clear costs on the Sudanese government if it continues its use of starvation as a weapon of war. Additionally, advocates urged President Obama to be firm in responding to the impending humanitarian crisis, promoting international justice and working toward a viable long-term peace that includes Darfur and a reinvigorated Comprehensive Peace Agreement for the south. 

”President Bashir has a choice,” stated Rep. Jim McGovern. “He can choose to let the humanitarian groups return; he can choose to end the violence and the killing; and he can choose serious negotiations for a just and lasting peace. Or he can continue to commit crimes against humanity – crimes with which he is already charged – and charges that will one day catch up with him and bring him down.”

After speaking on the steps of the embassy to a group of local activists and Darfuris, members of Congress and activist leaders were asked by police to leave the scene. When the protest continued, officers arrested Representatives McGovern, Lewis, Edwards, Ellison and Woolsey along with Save Darfur Coalition president Jerry Fowler, Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

"We know President Obama and members of his administration care passionately about ending the Darfur crisis and promoting peace in Sudan," said coalition president Jerry Fowler. "As President Obama nears his 100th day in office this week, he can demonstrate that Sudan is a strategic priority for the United States by committing to build a multilateral coalition for peace and investing in the diplomacy necessary to achieve an equitable and lasting solution for Darfuris and all Sudanese."

Throughout the month of April, survivors from Darfur and five previous genocides have joined anti-genocide advocates and people of conscience around the world to observe Genocide Prevention Month. The tragedies of Darfur, Bosnia, Rwanda, Cambodia, the Holocaust and Armenia all have major anniversaries throughout the month. The Sudanese government’s recent decision to expel 13 international aid agencies – which will soon leave approximately 1.1 million civilians without food aid, 1.5 million without health care and more than one million without potable water – underscores the need for urgent U.S. action to address Darfur’s deteriorating humanitarian crisis.