Rep. Ellison arrested in D.C.

The Minnesota representative was protesting for more aid to Darfur.

As police issued three warnings to Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. , and the four other members of Congress and three human rights activists protesting outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. , Monday, it was only a matter of time before they were arrested. But being arrested was exactly what the group wanted. âÄúItâÄôs not a surprise,âÄù Ellison spokesman Rick Jauert said. âÄúWe knew full well that this was going to happen.âÄù âÄú[They] intended to get arrested to bring a heightened awareness to the latest despicable actions on behalf of [Sudanese] President al-Bashir,âÄù Jauert said, âÄúwhich is the kicking out of the last 13 remaining [nongovernmental organizations] that were the lifeline for food, portable water and health care to over a million people.âÄù He added that Bashir removed the last NGOs because of an indictment against him for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court . According to the United Nations, 300,000 people have died since fighting started between ethnic African rebel groups and the largely Arab national government six years ago. Ellison was joined by fellow lawmakers Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., as well as Jerry Fowler, president of Save Darfur Now; John Prendergast, a co-founder of the Enough Project and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. The action was done in connection to other events, such as the Day for Darfur: The Faces of Genocide rally that took place at the Minnesota Capitol, for Genocide Prevention Month. Jauert said Ellison plans to continue his efforts in Congress, making sure there is funding for diplomatic efforts and U.N. peacekeeping. He added there is a need to look outside the box when approaching Darfur, as many resolutions proposed by the U.N. Security Council have been blocked by China, who has strong ties to oil and trade in Sudan. âÄúWhatever can be done to raise awareness is more than necessary,âÄù Ellen Kennedy, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies , said. âÄúI support what Rep. Ellison did.âÄù Kennedy said she contacted other representatives last week after learning about EllisonâÄôs plan to protest and was disappointed to see that more people did not join in the cause. âÄúSo many policy steps should have been taken years ago with this crisis and have not,âÄù Kennedy said. âÄúThe words âÄònever againâÄô have been echoed since 1945, and we see genocides happening over and over and over again.âÄù Kennedy echoed EllisonâÄôs sentiments in hoping that President Barack Obama will make Darfur a priority as he stated in his campaign platform. Although Kennedy may see EllisonâÄôs steps as an important step, a release provided to the Daily by Sudanese Embassy spokesman Seifeldin Yasin called the event a âÄúcleverly orchestrated publicity stunt.âÄù âÄúIt is rather sad that this pitiful spectacle is what the plight of our people in Darfur has been reduced to,âÄù Yasin writes, extending an invitation to members of Congress to sit down with the embassy to âÄúdiscuss better ways to have an impact on the crisis.âÄù Jauert said the group achieved their intent to bring a âÄúheightened awarenessâÄù to Darfur, citing the large number of phone calls he has already received by various media outlets as proof. âÄúDarfur was not on peopleâÄôs radar screens,âÄù Jauert said. âÄúAll of a sudden there is a new awareness. My phone rings off the hook and Darfur is suddenly back on everyoneâÄôs agenda.âÄù Jauert said similar tactics have been used by individuals in Congress in the past. Rep. Lewis, the civil rights leader who was also arrested Monday morning, was arrested more than 40 times during the civil rights movement. The protestors were charged with crossing a police line, a misdemeanor offense.