D.C. Rally

 

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PICTURES 1-5 Left to Right:

1. "Never again!" a slogan which originally referred to the Holocaust, was again in force the Washington D.C. demonstration calling for an end to genocide in the Sudan. (AP)

2. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, at the Washington rally against genocide in Sudan, with actor George Clooney and his father, former journalist Nick Clooney. (AP)

3. Demonstrators faced the U.S. Capitol Sunday, April 30, 2006, as they called on President Bush and Congress to use their political clout to help stop atrocities in Darfur (AP)

4. Five members of Congress (above, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, in a squad car) were arrested Friday outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington. (AP)

5. Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., is handcuffed as he and four other members of Congress were arrested while demonstrating Friday outside the Sudanese Embassy. (AP)
 

 

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The Sudan Takes Center Stage

 

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2006

(CBS/AP) They came from many corners of the U.S. - from many different points of view - but when they gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Sunday, they had one voice.

"Not on our watch," the crowd chanted, as a parade of speakers took turns on the stage - exhorting the world to speak out against the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, and calling on the Bush administration and Congress to use their political clout to stop it.

The rally's organizers – a diverse coalition including celebrities Jewish groups, Sudanese immigrants, black Americans, evangelical Christians, Catholics, and gay rights groups – say they bused people in from 41 states and estimated the crowd at between 10,000 and 15,000.

The police made no official estimate of the size of the crowd.

"The personal motivation for a lot of us is the Holocaust," said Boston-based Rabbi Or Rose of Jewish Seminarians for Justice. "Given our history and experience, we feel an obligation to stand up and speak out."

Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel told the crowd, "for the sake of our humanity, save Darfur," CBSNews.com's Amy Sara Clark reports.

Wiesel said while families are being uprooted and starved and children tormented and slaughtered, the world is "indifferent to their plight."

He said he won't remain silent because "silence helps the killer, never his victims."

The D.C. rally, which was peaceful with no arrests, was one of several events in U.S. cities over the weekend over what the United Nations has termed the world's worst humanitarian disaster.

"It is the social responsible, good conscience thing to do," said Ron Fisher, who took a pre-dawn bus from Cleveland with his 15-year-old daughter Jordyn to attend the demonstration. "It's an opportunity to show my daughter what people do when they care about something."

CBSNews.com's Clark reported from the rally that marchers wore orange stickers with numbers, each signifying a Darfur victim. Some carried banners and signs with slogans including "Never again" and "Save Darfur."

The event attracted high-profile speakers from the worlds of screen, athletics, religion and politics: actor George Clooney, just back from a trip to Africa; Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.; House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California; Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel; Olympic speedskating champion Joey Cheek, who donated his bonus money to projects in war-torn Darfur; and Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington.

"If we care, the world will care," Obama said. "If we act, then the world will follow." Pelosi said Democrats for once agree with Mr. Bush: "This genocide must stop."

Clooney and his father, Nick, a former television anchorman, interviewed families in Sudanese refugee camps. The elder Clooney described their role as reporters. "It's our job to tell you what we saw," he said. "Thousands of people hanging on by the most gossamer of threads."

George Clooney - who stepped into a more activist role last year as a creative force behind the films "Good Night and Good Luck" and "Syriana" - was the big draw of Sunday's rally. He said the policies of the United States and the United Nations are failing and citizens must raise their voices to demand change.


"This is in fact the first genocide of the 21st century, but there is hope: all of you," the actor said. "Every one of you speaking with one voice, every one of you."

Many of the demonstrators arrived by bus early in the morning. Nine-year-old twins Alexandra and Maya Silver, who came from Princeton, New Jersey with their mother Reza Green, were carrying a homemade banner that read, "If we're not part of the solution, we're part of the problem."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a broadcast interview, noted developments Sunday in Nigeria, where Sudan's government said it is ready to sign a
peace agreement to end the bloodshed. Rebels, however, expressed reservations and pressed for an extension to talks with a deadline from the African Union looming.

"Obviously a peace agreement would be a very important step forward in getting this done," Rice said on ABC's "This Week."

"I don't know if they will extend, but there clearly has been some progress, and the United States has been one of the most active states in doing this," she said.

Sudan has indicated it might accept a U.N. force in Darfur to aid African Union troops if a peace treaty is signed, but Sudanese rebels have
rejected the draft agreement.

Years of fighting between ethnic groups and Arab militias in western Sudan have left at least 180,000 people dead and about 2 million homeless. Amid the talks, the plight of 3 million refugees in Darfur has worsened. The U.N. World Food Program said Friday that it was cutting rations in half, citing a lack of funds.

President Bush met with Darfur advocates at the White House on Friday and lent his support to the weekend rallies. "For those of you who are going out to march for justice, you represent the best of our country," Mr. Bush said.



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The Associated Press contributed to this report.