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US Congress members arrested at Sudan protest

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April 28, 2006 (WASHINGTON) — Five Congress members were willingly 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.

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Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., center, is escorted to a police vehicle by members of the Uniform Division of the Secret Services after his arrest during a demonstration outside the Sudanese Embassy (AP)

"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.

"We must hold the Sudanese government accountable for the attacks they have supported on their own citizens in Darfur," Olver said.

Dozens of demonstrators carried signs, some reading "Stop the slaughter" and "Women of Darfur suffer multiple gang rapes," in front of the embassy Friday morning.

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.

President Bush has voiced support for a stronger international presence in Darfur, and 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, including on Washington’s National Mall on Sunday.

(ST/AP)

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