April 27th, 2009
04:51 PM ET
10 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. tiniolives

    Can anyone say Grand Standing. . .

    April 27, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  2. David

    John Lewis should have followed the law and stayed back. He desrves to be arrested...not really any news here. You break the law, you get arrested.

    April 27, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  3. Nicole

    Good for them. The people in Darfur need someone to stand up for them and thier government is not doing it. The poeple of Darfur need a champion, someone to stop all the killings and rape. We can not imagine what it must be like to live in those conditions.

    I am proud to say that Keith Ellison is from my home state and is doing some good while in Washington.

    April 27, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  4. Dustin

    Finally, some small semblance of outrage by the American people and their elected officials. Keep up the good fight!

    April 27, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  5. Rene

    God bless them, hope they make it home safely!

    April 27, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  6. John G

    Alright now the left is violating diplomatic immunity...what's next?

    April 27, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  7. FreeNLovIt

    Oh man, that's not good. That's ugly! He's a brave man.

    April 27, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  8. Candy West Virginia

    I pray that he is okay and safe and we all thank him for his sacrifice for such a worthy cause.

    April 27, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  9. Jim

    Keith Ellison is awesome. We're lucky to have him representing Minnesota. Keep fighting the cause Keith. You rock.

    April 27, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  10. Jimmy

    Lawmakers with no respect for the law should not be lawmakers.

    Vote 'em out!

    April 27, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  11. Scooter

    Why are our lawmakers being busy bodies in a country where they are not wanted. Why don't they take care of business at home?

    Oh–I forgot. They are Democrats

    April 27, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  12. Sue

    Interesting that no Republicans from Congress were present for this. Really-can you still say that you are the party of the people?

    April 27, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  13. IndyVoter

    Not very responsible Congressman. Hamas and the Taliban have the same argument and disobey laws and justify it in the name of dramatizing their so-called plight. Protest? Yes. Cross police lines or otherwise disobey the law? No.

    April 27, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  14. Bella Caruthers

    Wouldn't it have been better to stay within the law and introduce legislation in the Congress to support your views?

    April 27, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  15. Explorer

    For the love of God, you are United States congressmen and congresswomen. Act like it! You are not 19 year old idealistic hippies! Everyone understands the urgency in Darfur, but stomping the streets like petulant children is not going to improve the situation. Getting off your duffs and putting the onus and pressure on the idiot do-nothings at the U.N. would be a better start.

    April 27, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  16. Nile

    Dear Congressional Team Members –

    Good job . . . . keep on standin!

    April 27, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  17. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    Darfur is none of the proper business of the US. These members of Congress have no business being there as anything except private American citizens, and even that was a dumb idea.

    April 27, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  18. Letcommonsenseprevail

    How about that? Lawmakers breaking the law. Now there's a change.

    April 27, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  19. steve

    Radical left-wing extremists! Where's Janet?

    April 27, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  20. Azreal

    And I for one applaud their efforts! Why isnt this being covered more? People look up the definition of "genocide"...let me help you, ": the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group", This country let Rawanda go unchecked, we barely did anything during the whole onslaught! And now this? But what I find even more interesting is that not 1 repub name was on this list....well, im not that suprised.

    April 27, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  21. Film Professor

    Congressman Lewis represents me very well in Congress; as a Georgian and an American, I am proud of the actions he took today and his lifelong willingness to put himself "out there" for causes that he feels passionately about.

    April 27, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  22. JS

    What a ridiculous way for members of Congress to behave! These are people with all the power in the world to make changes from within the system and every opportunity to convince their colleagues that they are the right things to do. However, they feel the need to grandstand for their constituents and show that they are "one of them".

    April 27, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  23. Sharon Kitchen

    are prayers are with you Rep. Lewis and all the others that were arrested, as well as all those that are suffering.

    April 27, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  24. korir

    I applaud the congressmen and women for standing up against this senseless barbaric act of violence against innocent unarmed civilians. More needs to be done however to stop this atrocity.

    Korir, Dallas TX

    April 27, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  25. zgomer

    To something that is illegal, you have the libs doing something illegal also, they are above the law and don't have to do what police say...throw the book at them and throw away the key.

    April 27, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
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