(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON -- Representative James McGovern was locked up on misdemeanor charges today after demonstrating against the "crimes against humanity'' that Darfur activists blame on the Sudanese government.
After a brief series of speeches in front of the Sudanese embassy, the Massachusetts Democrat and four other members of Congress stood quietly and refused to move to the other side of yellow police tape -- a deliberate act they knew would get them arrested. After giving the small group of demonstrators three chances to move, police approached the lawmakers and activists and bound their wrists loosely behind their backs with plastic restraints.
The protestors were taken to a police station in northwest Washington, where they were expected to be fined $100 and released within a few hours.
UPDATE: McGovern was released this afternoon on a charge of crossing a police line.
McGovern -- forgoing a tie and belt, which would have been confiscated before his lock-up -- noted that he had been arrested three years ago for demonstrating for action in Darfur, where millions have died from sectarian violence and where the State Department has declared a genocide is underway.
"I don't want to be here in 2012, calling on the Sudanese government to stop the killing,'' McGovern said. "We need to care. We need to act. Every life is of equal value.''
The lawmakers -- who also included Democratic Representatives John Lewis of Georgia, Donna Edwards of Maryland, Lynn Woolsey of California, and Keith Ellison of Minnesota -- want the Sudanese government to allow international aid organizations back into Darfur to ease the escalating humanitarian crisis there. Further, the group wants President Obama to pressure the international community -- including China, which has influence in Sudan -- to force the Sudanese government into action.
Sudanese President Umar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir "has a choice," McGovern said. "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 -- crimes with which he is already charged -- and charges that will one day catch up with him and bring him down."
Jerry Fowler, head of the Save Darfur Coalition, added in a statement: "We know President Obama and members of his administration care passionately about ending the Darfur crisis and promoting peace in Sudan. 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."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.