|Thousands of people poured onto the National Mall
in Washington, D.C. Sunday to show their support to end the ethnic
and political conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan.
The Rally to Stop Genocide -- with a crowd estimated by organizers
at 10,000 to 15,000 -- drew a wide range of supporters from politicians
and celebrities to students and religious groups. The prevailing
message was to urge President Bush to take stronger measures to
end the violence in Darfur.
2004, the House of Representatives approved a measure declaring
the slaughter of mostly black African Muslims by Arab militias
in Darfur "genocide." Since then, the House and Senate
have urged stronger peacekeeping missions and approved billions
of dollars in aid to Sudan and the Darfur region of the East African
But the demonstrators and speakers said more action is needed
with an estimated 200,000 people killed and 2 million displaced
from their burned villages to refugee camps.
Michael Capuano, D-Mass., told the Online NewsHour the United
States needs "to step it up a little bit with supplemental
spending, but we need to show more leadership in the international
The United States supports additional North Atlantic Treaty Organization
troops in Darfur, as well as a stronger U.N. peacekeeping force
with a robust mandate to protect civilians.
The government of Sudan denies it is currently arming the Arab
militia, called the Janjaweed, and says it is committed to peace
talks with rebel groups. The rally coincided with the original
deadline for the government and rebel groups to sign an African
Union-sponsored peace plan.
government has agreed to the terms of the deal, but rebel groups
are having trouble deciding among themselves whether to accept
the plan. The AU has extended the deadline for the groups to decide
The day of the rally began with an appeal from southern Sudanese
refugees from the group Sudanese Standing Together chanting, "No
more Janjaweed. No more killing. No more raping. No more genocide."
The refugees and others expressed their gratitude to the Bush
administration for its support in Darfur, but said U.N. sanctions
should be enacted to prevent further killings.
Peter Adam, who works with refugees from Darfur in eastern Chad,
said, "We need to stop genocide right now. We hope that the
United States government will help to compel the government of
Sudan to realize that they need to sign the peace agreement in
Another large contingent at the rally was Jewish Americans, who
said they were appalled by the conflict in the Sudan. Busloads
of Holocaust survivors, World War II veterans and Jewish youth
attended the rally. They held signs that drew parallels to the
Holocaust and how the world remained silent as Jews were killed.
Debbie Radov from the Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale,
N.Y. said she was motivated by her Rabbi Richard Jacobs who traveled
to Darfur in 2005 and was the convocation speaker at the rally.
Like many others, she urged the United Nations to send peacekeepers
into Darfur and hoped that the gathering would encourage America
to appropriate more money to stop the genocide.
want the world to listen and not to turn a deft ear. We want the
world to take economic sanctions against the Sudan so that they
can turn their head and their minds and their hearts away from
this action that they are pursuing at the moment," said Radov.
College students from across the country also came in droves.
They urged universities to disinvest from companies doing business
with Sudan, and helped organize postcard campaigns to generate
support for Darfur.
Brian Schwartz, an organizer from the University of Illinois'
student group Action Darfur which has grown into a network of
12 universities, drove 18 hours to the rally with 110 other college
students to show their support.
He said he hopes "to see a NATO presence to bridge the gap
for the United Nations to blue hat the African Union force."
His coalition partner Dominique Franco from Parkland College added,
"It would be great if we could work with the French troops
in Chad and get a no-fly zone. Helicopters are one of the ways
they are killing so many people."
The Save Darfur coalition, which hosted the rally, is an alliance
of over 160 faith-based groups including religious and secular
Jews, evangelical Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, black
churches, human rights organizations and Arab groups.
The list of speakers included Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.; Elie
Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize;
the Rev. Al Sharpton; actor George Clooney and his father Nick
Clooney, who recently traveled to Darfur and have taken up the
refugees' cause; Olympic speedskater Joey Cheek, who donated his
medal winnings to the Darfur cause; and Russell Simmons, the Founder
of Def Jam Records.