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

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

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/27/art.lewis.protest.cnn.jpg caption="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.

Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. Johnny C (Los Angeles)

    I am glad to see that they were arrested. At least this will bring to light a few concerns ... 1) Genocide is a shame and something needs to be done and 2) Why are these elected officials spending time on this issue ... self-motivated per chance!

    With all of the concerns that are going on these days, why are these elected representatives devoting so much time and energy to issues that do not drive positive changes in America? Are these concerns that have been voiced from their consituents?

    There seems to be a hidden agenda from my perspective.

    April 27, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  2. Wolfgang

    Make it home safely? They're not in Darfur, they're in Washington, D.C.

    But yes, an issue that warrants more attention.

    April 27, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  3. taxicab

    God Bless is right! These people are what politicians are supposed to be!

    April 27, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  4. Russ H

    Its a shame that none of the big boys in Congress were not put in handcuffs and taken off to jail (Pelosi) would be my first

    April 27, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  5. Minnesotan

    Where are the righteous Christian Republicans??? Why is it always the Dem's that put themselves on the line for a cause?

    There is definately something wrong with the U.S. version of Christianity.

    April 27, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  6. Richp

    Ah, set a good example for the next time one of our embassies or consulates get demonstrated overseas.

    April 27, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  7. dennisk

    Is it a coincidence that it was only Democrats arrested? Where are the Republicans who are standing up for human rights?

    April 27, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  8. nobody actually puts their name here...

    First thought: I hope getting arrested was part of the plan.

    Second thought: Those are all Democrats. I can see it now – all the liberals here will say "Yeah, because Repubs don't care." All the conservatives will say "At least we're not breaking international law."

    My take is a bit of both. I'm a little disappointed that these protests aren't bipartisan, but I'm also irked that these representatives had to get themselves arrested to make a statement. Government office holds a certain dignity, and these people ought to conduct themselves so as not to reduce that. We voted for them, after all.

    April 27, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  9. lescroc

    Lewis is nothing but an Obama wannabee and socialist, glad he got arrested! They can keep him there!

    April 27, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  10. HouseDiva

    I am proud of these 5 congressmen standing up to genocide....God bless them.

    April 27, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  11. KMAN

    Rene, they are already home ... they were arrested in Washington DC! I too, wish them well and thankt hem for their efforts on behalf of the victims in Dafur.

    April 27, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  12. dick

    Good!!! Lock up all the lying politicians and throw away the keys!

    April 27, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  13. Happy Dad

    Nice, our Congress is good for something after all. 🙂

    April 27, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  14. Diane

    this is what you have to do – otherwise, no one listens

    April 27, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  15. Mikey P

    I'm torn on this. I'm glad to see politicians actually show some passion, but how are they supposed to expect people to respect the establishment of law if the creators and enforcers can't even do so?

    April 27, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  16. Debra from Georgia

    I am proud of our congress (Democrats) Good luck and come home safe>

    April 27, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  17. Marge

    Why don't they protest the treatment of children in this country. No health insurance, no food, dying every day..It is commendable for them to call attention to Dafur but the US should come first.

    By the way since my comments never ever get published by CNN I am sending a copy of this one to my representative and senator and ask them how come CNN discriminates against me.

    I see all the comments by rabid republicans are posted and mind are no were close to be like that.

    April 27, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  18. The Death of America by Obama

    I wish they would keep you john lewis.

    April 27, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  19. Ben Heide

    I had the incredible opportunity to participate in a similar act of disobedience for Darfur, although I was arrested last April in front of the White House. All power to those who were arrested! It's surprising how little effort could be committed to ending the Darfur genocide.

    I have so much respect for those memebers of congress who aren't afraid to truly stand up for a cause.

    April 27, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  20. Sarah

    I am glad to see these brave people take a stand. I pray for a safe journey.

    April 27, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  21. robert, oakland ca

    democracy in action. This country FINALLY is alive again.

    April 27, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  22. Doug

    If it were Republicans ARRESTED this would make the front page. over the swine flu.

    April 27, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  23. Tina

    they were in our country; outside the Sudan embassy...poorly written by CNN..easy to mistake what you have read..

    and of course, this makes it even worse...to be arrested in the United States for protesting genecide??

    April 27, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  24. Christa

    I'm all for helping the Sudanese people, also, and have been doing so in practical and legal ways, but you are elected officials and should uphold the law NOT break it. Would you suggest we all follow suit and break the law to get attention from the media for whatever cause we want to support??? You guys should resign, go to Sudan, and help the other relief organizations that are helping in practical ways. Or get in touch with Mia Farrow; she's been working for this cause for a looooong time.

    April 27, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  25. Shecky

    They should know better.
    Who elected them, anyways?

    April 27, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
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