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5 Lawmakers Arrested In Darfur Protest

Five Congress members were arrested and led away from the Sudanese Embassy in plastic handcuffs Friday in protest of the Sudanese government's role in atrocities in the Darfur region.

"The slaughter of the people of Darfur must end," Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., a Holocaust survivor who founded the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, said from the embassy steps before his arrest.

Four other Democratic Congress members — James McGovern and John Olver of Massachusetts, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Jim Moran of Virginia — were among 11 protesters arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly, a misdemeanor subject to a fine.

CBS News' Evelyn Thomas reports all five lawmakers were later released. Their trip to the embassy was coordinated by Rep. McGovern, who also plans on taking part in a rally against the Darfur violence that's scheduled at the National Mall on Sunday.

In other Darfur-related developments:

  • The U.N. food agency is halving rations for about 3 million people in Darfur because of a funding shortage, calling it a last resort and "scandalous." The World Food Program has cut rations from 2,100 calories per person, the daily minimum requirement, to 1,050 - so little that people may eventually face starvation. "This is one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. Haven't the people of Darfur suffered enough?" said WFP chief James Morris.
  • President Bush criticized the Sudanese government's thwarting of efforts by the U.N. and other international organizations to take a firmer control of fighting atrocities in Darfur. "My message to them is we expect there to be full compliance with the international desire for there to be peace in the Darfur region," the president said.
  • On Thursday, actor George Clooney, just back from Africa, said that Americans should not "turn our heads and look away" from genocide in Darfur. The Oscar winner told a packed room at the National Press Club in Washington that he wants to use his "credit card" as a Hollywood star to highlight the plight of two million desperate refugees.

    The protest at the Sudanese embassy in Washington drew dozens of demonstrators, with some carrying signs that read "Stop the slaughter" and "Women of Darfur suffer multiple gang rapes."

    The protesters cheered as the Congress members and others were cuffed, hands behind their backs, with plastic ties and quietly led to a white police van by U.S. Secret Service uniformed officers.

    The arrests were expected. Lantos' office issued a news release about them in advance.

    The protesters called on the Sudanese government to accept a U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur and allow humanitarian relief organizations full access to victims.

    The three-year-old conflict between rebels and government-backed militias has left at least 180,000 people dead, mostly from war-related hunger and disease, and some 2 million homeless.

    The United States has authorized more than $300 million for victims of the violence and to support peace talks.

    Rallies against the violence in Darfur are planned in more than a dozen U.S. cities this weekend.

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