WASHINGTON (AFP) — Washington police arrested five US lawmakers Monday during a protest outside the Sudanese embassy over the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's Darfur region.
Organizers said the five, who included Democratic representative John Lewis, a leading veteran of the US civil rights movement, were detained for civil disobedience after refusing a police order to disperse.
The protestors called on the government of Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir to reverse a recent decision to expel international humanitarian groups from Darfur and end what they called his use of starvation as a weapon of war in the region.
"President Beshir has a choice," said another Democratic lawmaker, Jim McGovern, before the group was arrested.
"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 lasting peace, or he can continue to commit crimes against humanity," he said.
The other detained lawmakers were Donna Edwards, Keith Ellison and Lynn Woolsey, all members of President Barack Obama's Democratic Party.
Police also arrested three organizers of the protest, including Jerry Fowler of the Save Darfur Coalition and John Prendergast, a former State Department advisor.
Obama's administration has vowed renewed efforts to end the conflict in Darfur, where some 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million been made homeless since fighting erupted between rebels and the government in 2003.
The International Criminal Court has charged Beshir with war crimes and crimes against humanity over the conflict.
During Monday's demonstration, protestors urged Obama to increase the pressure on Khartoum.
"We know President Obama and members of his administration care passionately about ending the Darfur crisis and promoting peace in Sudan," Fowler said.
"As President Obama nears his 100th day in office this week, he can demonstrate that Sudan is a strategic priority for the United States by committing to build a multilateral coalition for peace and investing in the diplomacy necessary to achieve an equitable and lasting solution for Darfuris and all Sudanese," he said.
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