Rep. Ellison arrested at D.C. Darfur protest


Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison was arrested today along with seven others in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. He was protesting the removal of several aid groups from Darfur.

Ellison said he thought it was wrong to not help "the most vulnerable people on our planet" as he was being taken away. The Star Tribune has images of Ellison's arrest.

Ellison spokesman Rick Jauert emailed a Save Darfur Coalition press release with more details on the incident:
Members of Congress - including Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), John Lewis (D-GA), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) - and Darfur activist leaders were today arrested for civil disobedience outside of the Sudanese Embassy while protesting the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Participants called on the international community to impose clear costs on the Sudanese government if it continues its use of starvation as a weapon of war. Additionally, advocates urged President Obama to be firm in responding to the impending humanitarian crisis, promoting international justice and working toward a viable long-term peace that includes Darfur and a reinvigorated Comprehensive Peace Agreement for the south.

After speaking on the steps of the embassy to a group of local activists and Darfuris, members of Congress and activist leaders were asked by police to leave the scene. When the protest continued, officers arrested Representatives McGovern, Lewis, Edwards, Ellison and Woolsey along with Save Darfur Coalition president Jerry Fowler, Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Ann Brown of Save Darfur says the representatives were arrested around 10:45 a.m. Eastern time and were unable to take cell phones with them. She said this type of arrest usually takes about two hours to process, so they are likely still in custody.

Jauert told Minnesota Public Radio that the representatives planned the arrest and Ellison was arrested for civil disobedience. He expects Ellison to be released from custody today.

"It leaves these people with no lifeline whatsoever and so that is why the congressman and the other members of Congress have decided that they need to do something that hopefully will bring a heightened awareness to what is happening on our clock," Jauert said.
More from the Strib:
The activists are urging world leaders to take a stand against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's decision to expel 16 aid agencies from Darfur.

Since 2007, early in his congressional tenure, Ellison has tried to make conditions in Darfur a major legislative priority. He is a member of Amnesty International USA's, Save Darfur Coalition.

We will update if more information on Ellison's arrest becomes available.