Just when I thought that the Democrats in Congress were hardly worth their weight in sod, a handful of House Demsâ€”including two from my home state of Massachusettsâ€”went out and committed a good, old-fashioned act of civil disobedience to protest the continuing genocide in Darfur and the Sudanese governmentâ€™s complicity in such. I applaud their willingness to put themselves on the line and make a bold, public statementâ€”however symbolicâ€”about these atrocities. My only hope is that they might find a way to muster similar indignation and direct action about the egregious offenses perpetrated these last few years by the Bush administration. While I recognize that such a hope is perhaps more than a little unrealistic, particularly given that there is limited political downside to being arrested for protesting in front of the Sudanese embassy as opposed to in front of the White House, I am nonetheless heartened by seeing some evidence of spinal growth among the habitually invertebrate members of the Democratic delegation. Keep it up, folks.
With regard to todayâ€™s action, here is an excerpt of the story, as reported by Jim Doyle of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Five members of Congress, including Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo, CA) were arrested today when they blocked the front entrance at the Embassy of Sudan in Washington, D.C. Their protest and civil disobedience was designed to embarrass the military dictatorship’s ongoing genocide of its non-Arab citizens.
All told, 11 people were arrested outside the Sudanese embassy on Massachusetts Avenue, including six activists as well as representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston), Jim McGovern (D-Worcester, Mass.), Jim Moran (D-Virginia) and John Olver (D-Massachusetts). They were held in a jail cell for about 45 minutes and then released.
“If you’re looking for lack of international morality, Darfur encompasses all aspects,” Lantos said before his arrest. “Here we see the slaughter of innocent black women, children and men by a monstrous regime.”
Lantos, 78, was first elected to Congress in 1981. Two years later, he founded the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. As the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in Congress, he has pressed the Bush administration to take steps to deter the state-sanctioned murder and rape of hundreds of thousands of people in Sudan’s Darfur region.
“We have been calling on the civilized world to stand up and to say, ‘Enough,’ ” Lantos said. “The slaughter of the people of Darfur must end.”
Lantos’ arrest comes as a diverse coalition of human rights activists is planning to stage major Sudan-related rallies Sunday in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and other cities here and overseas. In recent months, the deteriorating situation in Sudan has become a dilemma for the Bush administration, which formally declared the killings in Sudan genocide in September 2004. Now, activists are trying to put pressure on the White House.
A crowd of about 60 demonstrators cheered as the members of Congress and other activists were arrested by U.S. Secret Service officers. They were taken in a van to a local D.C. Police Station where they were each charged with disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly, a misdemeanorâ€¦.
The situation in Sudan appears to be getting worse. Relief workers say that about 200,000 people have been displaced from their homes in the past three months. United Nations officials say that Sudan’s tenuous humanitarian aid network could soon break down, triggering the deaths of 100,000 people a month from starvation. [full text]