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. Freed_From_W

    I admire these people greatly. Rep. Lewis is a courageous and noble man who deserves anyone's respect.

    April 27, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  2. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    This is the one time I don't enjoy seeing politicians behind bars!

    April 27, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  3. Richard Carroll

    Why is GM, shutting down the pontiac line, that makes gas saver fuel vehicles. They should be closing down the Hummers and the big gas guzzling suburbandsand tahoes. If you think about it , they are not going to change there ways, this is from a taxpayer that can figure this out , now why cant the president figure this out.

    April 27, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  4. LETS FACE IT....

    Sooner or later the world must realize our population growth is out of control. Air, water, food, space and space to grow food. It's all becoming a question of where do we as a civilized world draw the line in stopping human production...

    More then that, in what countries do we start drawing the line and IF human population growth should be managed who has the say so in how it is managed.. IF countries such as Darfur can not or will not get their population to a manageable level, (ie) able to produce enough food, schooling, hospitals, water, jobs etc... To sustain their population, then is genocide so out of the question?

    Our earth can only sustain so many humans and it's time the world started facing that situation. Limiting sizes of families all over the world isn't such a bad idea. The idea of having a zillion people on the planet needs to be changed unless we want to get to the point of living like a bunch of scurring mice...

    Ah yes, now comes the religious right with all their save the babies clap trap..... For what? starvation, illnesses, mistreatment, doesn't it mostly fall back on the children........ Look at Darfur for your example.

    April 27, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  5. Liberal4Obama

    I applaud them for bringing attention to such an important issue.

    April 27, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  6. Simon

    Interesting and telling that these were all Democrats, bent on intentionally breaking the law so they would be arrested and could be credited with drawing attention to their pet issue. As has been shown before, some of our lawmakers have no respect for the law itself, and too often there's a "D" in parentheses after their name. We deserve better than these publicity-stunt opportunist scufflaws.

    April 27, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  7. Bill

    God bless John Lewis and the other 6. They are putting their bodies on the line where most of us simply speak or shake our head at the genocide and feel helpless.

    April 27, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  8. bsmith171

    NO bail!

    April 27, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  9. Patriot

    Thanks for having the guts to do the right thing.

    April 27, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  10. Kevin from Maryland

    I commmend Lewis on his civil rights record and someone should speak up for Sudan. It's amazing that we send troops every where else in the world except Africa, unless there was oil there to protect. Even Obama has been quiet on the issue as he will more than likely watch from the sidelines as every other politician has done. You can not leave an oppressive Government alone to handle it's own problems. Well we will see if Obama can meet what his big mouth stated on the campaign trail.

    April 27, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  11. frank tx

    they shouldnt be breaking the law, now they are crimminals.

    April 27, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  12. Michelle from Colorado

    This is, on a miniature scale, one of the reasons we in the US look like a bunch of hot headed idiots in other countries. No, I do not believe in genocide. But, excuse me Mr. Lewis, who do you think you are to go to another country, most likely "trespass" and then say you cannot wait for a change in Darfur?
    There are some things that cannot be changed over night and some things that cannot be changed by a few men. You made an ass out of yourself and it isn't going to change a thing in Darfur. Why don't you adopt someone from the region or sponsor a family in a refugee camp? That will make a real difference.

    April 27, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  13. john

    As the members who were arrested all were reported as Democrats, mark this as another GOP NO vote. At least they are being consistent

    April 27, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    What a laugh!! Serves them right. There are ways to do things correctly, not subservient.

    April 27, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  15. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    As much as I despise what's happening in Darfur, I cannot see how John Lewis is helping by going to jail. George Clooney and others have gone to Darfur to help and bring attention to the evil that's going on there, but they did so without going to jail. John Lewis needs to return to American soil and work with his constituents in Washington because he is not an ambassador to any country.

    April 27, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  16. CF

    Cant wait to see how the Republicans spin this to portray Democratic congressmen as "evil law breakers"

    April 27, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  17. OhioGirl82

    The White House thinks the TEA party protesters are unhinged and partaking in unhealthy activities. How dare they be upset by outrageous deficits! Note that not one of them was arrested. Not one of them ignored the police. And they're the crazies......

    April 27, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  18. mark

    You would think a law maker would respect the law and not cross a police barricade. They are there for a reason. I fully agree with people's right to protest but when a respectable lawmaker violates the law this blatently then their sentence should include one way ticket out of Washington. Their action sheds a lot of light on exactly how high above the law they think they are. Shamefull. Just shamefull.

    April 27, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  19. t walton

    good to see lawmakers actually doing something that matters.

    keep it up

    April 27, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  20. dustbunny

    Hope they lock them up and throw away the key.

    April 27, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  21. TomJay

    Maybe John Lewis should picket at the White House. We have a new President, one of Mr. Lewis' own party, and maybe Mr. Lewis can convince President Obama to act.

    April 27, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  22. anita

    misdemeanor?
    there will be no such record.

    April 27, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  23. beth

    Notice, there were no Republicans protesting....I guess when there's nothing in it for them ($$$) they really don't care what happens to people.

    April 27, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  24. Takeshi

    Thats so unfair. I wish we would do something about this. the hole world. needs to stand up

    April 27, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  25. ADR Investigations

    It is nice to see people standing up for injustice in this world today – we don't do that as much as we use to – me included...God bless them and their fight

    April 27, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
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