Congressman Jim Moran, who represents Northern Virginia's 8th District, was arrested Friday morning for crossing a police line along with actor George Clooney and several civil rights leaders at a protest on the steps of the Embassy of Sudan in D.C.
"We are not here for any economic or partisan political agenda, but there is a moral imperative involved here," Moran said. "We who benefit every day from being born into lives of prosperity have some obligation to speak out for those who suffer every day for the accident of their birth."
The group was taken to the District 2 Police Station and were expected to be released soon. "They probably have pretty good lawyers, so we shouldn't hold them for more than a couple hours," said a D.C. police officer at the scene.
Last week, Moran and Republican Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia's 10th District, introduced the Sudan Peace, Security and Accountability Act of 2012. The legislation would require the Obama administration to face the humanitarian situation in Sudan, create a plan of action for the region and make goals for the removal of sanctions when the violence and ill treatment cease.
Also arrested Friday were Martin Luther King III and NAACP President Ben Jealous and more than 20 other human rights and faith leaders.
The group, joined by hundreds of sign-waving protestors and throngs of media, demanded that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir end the blockade that is keeping food and humanitarian aid from reaching people living in Sudan's Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile regions.
"We're here really to ask two very simple questions," said Clooney, who recently traveled to the Nuba Mountains and made a four-minute documentary about it.
"The first question is something immediate," he said. "And immediately we need humanitarian aid to be allowed into the Sudan before it becomes the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Immediately. The second thing we are here to ask, it's a very simple thing, is for the government in Khartoum to stop randomly killing its own innocent men, women and children. Stop raping them and stop starving them. That's all we ask."
Martin Luther King III said today's protest was the first of many steps. "My father, Martin Luther King Jr. often told us that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," he said. "This crisis, we know, is beyond epidemic proportions, and so we all join today in a real sense to demand that justice occurs in the country of Sudan."
Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, said that it was the beginning of the end of the Bashir government. "It is time to stop using food as a weapon in Sudan, time to stop using rape as a weapon in Sudan, time to stop killing hundreds of thousands of people in the name of politics," he said.
Clooney's father, journalist Nick Clooney, made one of the more memorable comments of the day: "If we are who we think we are we should all be standing here. If we are who we've always said we are as Americans we should be standing here together, because what we know is that there are people who are in danger now," he said. "My son and I stand with the Sudanese."
Comedian Dick Gregory pledged to go on hunger strike. "I, Dick Gregory will not eat...solid food until the blockade is broken, and we will break the blockade," he said.
Others arrested included:
- Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Rep. John Oliver (D-Mass.), Rep. Al Green (D-Texas)
- Tom Andrews, president, United to End Genocide
- Bishop Andudu Elnail, Anglican Bishop of Kadugli, South Kordofan
- Niemat Ahmadi, United to End Genocide
- Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
- Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council of Public Affairs
- Fred Kramer, executive director, Jewish World Watch
- Ian Schwab, American Jewish World Service
- John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project