April 27th, 2009
04:51 PM ET
6 years ago

U.S. lawmakers arrested in Darfur protest at Sudan embassy

Rep. John Lewis faces a misdemeanor charge of trespassing.
Rep. John Lewis faces a misdemeanor charge of trespassing.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Five members of Congress were among those arrested Monday outside the Embassy of Sudan for crossing a police line during a demonstration against genocide in Darfur.

"You have to find a way to dramatize an issue," Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) told CNN as he was led away in handcuffs.

The other U.S. lawmakers who were arrested during the protest are Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts), Donna Edwards (D-Maryland), Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota), and Lynn Woolsey (D-California).

Lewis faces a misdemeanor charge of trespassing, after he refused three warnings from police to stay behind a barricade established toprotect the diplomatic compound located along Washington's Embassy Row.

A champion of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Lewis said the U.S. cannot afford to wait for Sudan to settle ethnic conflict and massive killings that the State Department has characterized as genocide.

As he was lined up with seven other people to be loaded into a prisoner transport vehicle, Lewis said "this is another step toward helping to free the children of Darfur and put an end to the genocide, to the violence; crimes against humanity."

A CNN reporter asked Lewis whether his arrest would make a difference, and Lewis replied "it is my hope and my prayer that it will." Police then moved him toward a van, and removed his shoelaces and belt as part of standard precautions with prisoner transport.

Activist Rev. David Saperstein and two organizers of the protestrally were also placed in handcuffs. The group was to be processed at a city police precinct and likely released on their promise to appear incourt.

About 50 demonstrators, including those arrested, gathered on a sidewalk outside Sudan's embassy, where police had already set up a yellow-tape barricade.

CNN Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.


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soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. yeahrrright

    This are the people who rightly have to run this country. Because they really stode for the REAL values that America stode and represent for.

    April 27, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  2. Anna

    God Bless those Freedom Riders regardless of their Race.

    April 27, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  3. vernah petersen

    In addition, to the genocide and killing in Darfur that will need an attention for more discussion of what do, in solving their problems. Why killing their innocent people because they can not feed them all, or just for ritual propaganda to the world so they will get the attention from other powerful country, like U.S. and start having a what people think of a "war". Is not gonna work.

    April 27, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  4. larry

    I agree with one minor observation: I agree with what they are trying to do, but they should realize that if are crossing police restricted areas (irriespective of whether or not you they think their laws are just), you run the risk of arrest and/or fines or imprisonment for violating that countries laws.
    If, on the other hand, they feel the cause is just enough too take the risk...then they must except the punishment determined by the law of that country, and should get no more or less consideration than the CITIZENS of that country. In short, if you want to do the cha cha rather than the bop, you can't complain if they drag you off the floor if they warned you that the only dance allowed is the bop....if you can't handle that, I would suggest that you find a different dance hall.

    April 27, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  5. lawman

    How is it that the nation who shows outrage for Michael Vick's dog fighting (and the act should garner outrage) stays so silent on this massacre of human beings. We can't police every situation around the world, but this continuous issue's solution compared to the continued carnage begs a much more intense response and a committment of involvement into the solution.

    April 27, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  6. Tim

    I love to hear about congress doing something right. These members are standing up for something that needs more attention. I can only hope it inspires more international action.

    April 27, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  7. Anon

    Whatever happened to diplomatic immunity?

    April 27, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  8. Stephen

    They were arrested in the U.S. at the Sudan embassy

    April 27, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  9. Charles

    Where are the Republicans? Where is McCain (who named Lewis as one of his heroes)? Where is Hannity, Limbaugh, and the rest of the media mouths? Where is PRESIDENT OBAMA!!!

    April 27, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  10. Suc Mi Wang

    Wow, dumocrats standing tall. This media stunt will accomplish nothing I suppose the slaughter in Darfur can be stopped by stern words and diplomacy because God knows they(dumocrats) won't acknowledge the fact that sometimes the evil in this world(Saddam, NK, Iran) can't be reasoned with and needs to be dealt with militarily. Until they come out of the fantasy land they live in, innocents will continue to get slaughtered.

    April 27, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  11. Jim in Asheville

    Let's see... lawmakers as lawbreakers. It would seem that a message against the government of Sudan could be sent without violating the police barricade. The same people that were arrested probably appreciate the protections that they are given (and expect to be enforced) at various public events. This type of grandstanding further encourages those shameless reprobates who shout down and interrupt speakers they happen to disagree with. Hey folks, let's honor the rule of law and work to constitutionally change the ones we disagree with.

    April 27, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  12. Melissa

    Much respect to our Congressional Representatives for standing up for the innocent and indefensable in Darfur. May more attention be brought to this unconscionable tragedy in our world. We CAN make a difference and demand Human Rights for ALL!!

    April 27, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  13. Larry Schluet

    Again, and again, the democrats need to have a big show rather than being able to do something about the problem. They can not take care of the problem, but would rather treat the symptom.

    April 27, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  14. Chris

    A "Congressional Lawmaker" breaking the law? Kind of ironic... NOT!

    April 27, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  15. Votr

    Will this then mean that if the US acts on behalf of freedom and democracy toward Sudan that Obama will have more cause to apologize for America's arrogance and imperialism toward Sudan and other nations? Maybe because it is the Obama cult and not anyone prior to his highness that it will be spun "as the right thing to do"? Either way it gives Obama cause to apologize and for the US to "be humble" toward other nations thereby excusing their acts of violence and dictatorship over their people. National Socialism at it's best I guess.

    April 27, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  16. Avi Shlomo

    Mr. Lewis, If you have the courage, The Israeli Embassy is not far away, unless you'r swimming in AIPAC money. I would dare you to speak about the Israeli Apartheid and you know the SA apartheid was nothing compared to what we are witnessing now.

    April 27, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  17. eliz

    You have got to be kidding me!! These are our LAWMAKERS....???!!! They should be promoting change nd raising awareness by introduing bills and getting interviews from the friendly media so things can be handled in an orderly fashion. These people should be examples for all that watch them. They should be showing that you must act WITHIN the law. I was afraid of this.... and it is true.... the 60s radicals have in fact taken over this country. These representatives of the people, OF THE USA I might add, are instead teaching children, teens, and their peers that the way to handle situations is to take to the streets and perform acts contrary to our laws. THAT is the ABSOLUTE WRONG MESSAGE AND BEHAVIOR. Anarchy in the streets next? Please gentlemen and ladies...rethinnk your actions. Thank you....

    April 27, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  18. Bill

    They should have been arrested. Such people can easily cause a riot or storming the gates by protestors. If it was an average person, you can be assurred they would have been charged with inciting a riot. Why should they be treated any different????

    April 27, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  19. Al Mellen

    You were warned,,,,,You are the people that write OUR laws which are supposed to pertain to everyone. Years ago myself and other Firefighters in America ,,,,,,,we went on strike. Firefighters are NOT supposed to strike,,,,,,,,,i knew it,,,,the other firefighters were aware of this. The Governor of the state informed us,,,,go back to work, or go to jail,,,,,,we returned to work. Because of our actions,,,,,,,the problems that we were having with our city fathers were resolved through an outside mediator. If you truly were arrested,,,,,,i hope you were treated like the averager taxpayer would be treated,,,,,,,,more than likely booked,,,,,,,fingerprinted and etc. I hope just because you are Politicians you were not given preferential treatment. I have NO sympathy for you breaking the law.

    April 27, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  20. Simon Cohen

    Not a single Republican!

    April 27, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  21. Elvi

    Walking the walk, not just talking the talk. My prayers are you all of them, their families and the people of Darfur.

    April 27, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  22. Charm

    The situation in Dafur is heart breaking and I think this is a courageous thing for them to do.

    April 27, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  23. Toronto

    Keith Ellison and the rest are what is needed to bring light to the Dafur region, to stop genocide. Its the modern day Holocaust yet, no one is lifting a thumb.

    April 27, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
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