Lawmakers Released After Arrest at Darfur Protest

Posted April 27, 2009 at 11:48am

Updated: 3:49 p.m.

The five liberal House Democrats arrested Monday morning outside the Sudanese Embassy during a protest of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur have been released.

The lawmakers — Reps. Donna Edwards (Md.), Keith Ellison (Minn.), John Lewis (Ga.), Jim McGovern (Mass.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.) — spent about three hours in jail on misdemeanor charges after they refused to leave the scene of the protest this morning. Each paid a $100 fine to walk free this afternoon.

The Members were calling on the Sudanese government to let international aid organizations back into the Darfur region to help ease the humanitarian crisis there. And protesters wanted President Barack Obama to pressure the international community to respond.

The regime of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir kicked out aid groups last month after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“President Bashir has a choice,— McGovern, a co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, said in a statement. “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 last 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.—

McGovern and four other lawmakers were arrested in a similar protest outside the Sudanese Embassy almost exactly three years ago. And a month after that event, Lewis and six other members of the Congressional Black Caucus were arrested during another protest at the embassy.

Republican Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) also attended the protest on Monday but was not arrested.