More Than 100 Arrested in Series of Demonstrations

By Theola Labbé-DeBose and John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More than 100 people were arrested during a series of demonstrations in Washington yesterday, including five members of Congress who were part of a group that gathered outside the Sudanese Embassy to condemn the expulsion of aid agencies from Darfur.

All told, police squared off with demonstrators at three unrelated protests that began in the morning and continued into the afternoon. Eight people were arrested outside the embassy, seven Greenpeace activists were arrested near the State Department, and 91 others were arrested during a demonstration by disability rights advocates outside the White House.

The activities followed a weekend of other protests connected to the meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Yesterday began with a show of civil disobedience that snarled rush-hour traffic as seven Greenpeace activists scaled a construction crane at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue NW, near the State Department, and unfurled a huge banner to call attention to global warming. The crane was on the site of a future institute for peace.

Some protesters dangled from the crane 140 feet above the ground, prompting officials to dispatch rescue squad trucks and other emergency equipment to stand by, further clogging traffic. The protesters were arrested, and no one was hurt. The banner was in place for about three hours.

Environmental leaders from 17 countries were meeting at the State Department to discuss global warming and other issues. The protest was to help send a message to them, said activists, who included Phil Radford, the new executive director of Greenpeace USA.

A few miles away, a group of politicians and activists were protesting Sudan's decision to expel 16 aid agencies from Darfur. The group gathered at the embassy in the 2200 block of Massachusetts Avenue NW.

Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.) was among five members of Congress arrested on civil disobedience charges. The others were Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), John Lewis (D-Ga.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.). They were charged with crossing a police line, a misdemeanor, and released.

"I thought it was pretty important to join with my colleagues in saying this is not acceptable in a civil society," Edwards said in an interview afterward. "These are issues I've cared about for a long time, long before I came into Congress."

Edwards, whose district encompasses parts of Prince George's and Montgomery counties, said she was particularly proud to join with Lewis, whose civil rights history "I admire tremendously."

Sudan expelled the aid groups in response to the International Criminal Court's decision to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on charges that Bashir used the instruments of state to direct the mass murder of tens of thousands of Sudanese civilians in Darfur.

The demonstration at the White House took place in the afternoon, and created its own drama. Members of the advocacy group ADAPT gathered to raise awareness of the Community Choice Act, pending legislation that they said would allow disabled individuals to use their Medicaid payments for community-based services. ADAPT spokesman Tim Wheat said members of the group met earlier in the day with Nancy DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Care Reform, to discuss health care reform but left dissatisfied.

Some demonstrators were in wheelchairs chained to the White House fence. The group's size exceeded the statutory maximum number of people allowed to demonstrate on the White House sidewalk without a permit, said Sgt. David Schlosser, a U.S. Park Police spokesman. The 91 people arrested were accused of violating regulations for demonstrations.

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