Hundreds of demonstrators called for an end to government-sponsored genocide in western Sudan’s Darfur region during a march yesterday in front of the Sudanese Embassy.
Secret Service agents stood guard at the entrance of the embassy as more than 200 people participating in a “Day of Action” marched along the 2200 block of Massachusetts Avenue NW chanting “Stop the killing, stop the killing now” and “Hey, hey, you can’t hide — we charge you with genocide.” Some carried signs with slogans such as “Read My Lips — It’s Genocide” and “Slavery+Genocide = Sudan.”
The demonstrators are seeking to bring attention to atrocities taking place in Sudan, where militias called the Janjaweed are being blamed by the United Nations and human rights organizations for the deaths of 50,000 people and the displacement of 1 million.
On July 30, the U.N. Security Council gave the Sudanese government 30 days to stop the bloodshed.
“This is our moment, and we must seize the moment. We must continue to [apply] pressure on the Sudan government. Changes are not made unless there’s passion,” said activist and actor Danny Glover, who addressed the crowd before he and other demonstrators were arrested for unlawful assembly on the steps of the embassy.
“We’re going to keep marching — our power lies in that,” Mr. Glover said.
Ambassador Khidir Haroun Ahmed said protesters have a right to demonstrate, but that they do not understand that his government is working to stop the killings in Darfur.
“We think most of the people have good intentions. They are sincere, noble, but they are also misinformed about the situation,” Mr. Ahmed said.
Radio talk-show host Joe Madison said such protests would continue to draw attention to the crisis in Sudan.
“We have demonstrated every day since June 29, and will continue to demonstrate,” Mr. Madison said.
“Our mission is not to shut down an embassy. We want to shut down genocide. Our mission is to shut down the raping, our mission is to shut down the refugee camps, and allow people to live the way they’re supposed to live. We want the right people in the right places to do the right thing.”
Mr. Ahmed said his government has sent 9,000 troops to the region to try to restore order. The Khartoum government denies that it initially armed the Arab militias that began their rampage in February 2003.
“We are all here for the same reason — because we’re human beings. … The Sudanese government is the author of genocide,” Salih Booker, executive director of Africa Action told the crowd during the hourlong protest sponsored by his organization and TransAfrica Forum.
“You can’t call on the criminal to stop the crime. We submit ourselves to civil disobedience to draw attention to public policy-makers,” Mr. Booker said.
Demonstrators heard a series of short speeches from Mr. Booker; Bill Fletcher Jr., president of TransAfrica Forum; Sylvia Hill, a professor at the University of the District of Columbia and member of the TransAfrica Forum board; Emira Woods, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus; and the Rev. William Sinkford of the Unitarian Universalist Association. They were arrested with Mr. Glover, who in a speech thanked all the first-time marchers.
“No one wants to go to jail, but every so often, you do something to make a difference. We want to make a statement — we’re saying the Sudan government is culpable,” Mr. Fletcher said.
James Morrison contributed to this report.