We speak with New York Congressman Charles Rangel who was arrested in front of the Sudanese Embassy as he took part in a demonstration calling for an end to what is being described as a genocide in the country’s western Darfur region. [includes rush transcript]
New York Congressman Charles Rangel was arrested yesterday in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington DC. He was taking part in a demonstration calling for an end to what he and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus say is genocide in the country’s western Darfur region.
Government-backed Arab militias have killed tens of thousands of black Africans in Darfur and made more than a million people homeless in the past 15 months alone.
Congressman Rangel was among 50 protesters who marched in front of the Embassy demanding the Sudanese government end its support of the militias. The campaign is calling for sanctions against Sudan by the United Nations Security Council and for suspension of its membership in the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
Rangel walked up the embassy steps, crossed his arms, and stood in front of the embassy doors, facing the crowd. The Secret Service handcuffed the New York congressman and took him in a police van to the Third District Police Station. Rangel was charged with disorderly conduct, was released about an hour later after paying a $50 fine.
- Rep. Charles Rangel, (D-NY).
AMY GOODMAN: Just before the program today, we spoke with congress member Rangel and asked him to tell us why he got arrested.
REP. CHARLES RANGEL: Well, I wanted to help bring attention to an outrageous situation, which seldom happens in our lifetime, butt it does happen, and that is when tens of thousands of people are deliberately being killed. And after these types of incidents that people say they didn’t know it was happening or someone should have done something or what we often times hear is 'never again'. So, we can’t do much about the Jews that were killed by the Germans and we can’t bring back the lives of those people in Rwanda that were murdered in genocide, but here we see the same pattern of hatred, racism, and anti-Muslimism as we find tens of thousands of people raped, starved and in needing medicine and water. And humankind has an opportunity to say never again, we’re not going to do this. And not with standing the fact that the United Nations is negotiating whether it’s ethnic cleansing or whether it’s genocide. The clock is really ticking because the rainy season is coming and no matter what good intent the U.N. may have, if there are no roads, you can’t get the food to the people that need it and we have a million people that have been displaced. I just know in my small way that if I can focus attention on this tragic situation, that perhaps religious leaders, at least in the Washington area, could say that maybe their church, their mosque, their synagogue could speak out and I am thoroughly convinced if the voices of good Americans are around our great country, that would send a signal to those terrorists in Sudan to stop this terrible plundering of people.
AMY GOODMAN: Secretary of State General Colin Powell went to the Sudan, met with the government. What is your response to what he accomplished?
REP. CHARLES RANGEL: Well, as I spoke with Secretary Powell yesterday as well as President Bush, they are waiting for a response from this monster government as to whether or not they’re going to remove the deterrents they’ve had to get the food to these people. And so even as we talk, we are negotiating an arms meeting that if we can take a pre-emptive strike against Iraq, even when there is no evidence, then our country is in danger. Certainly we could send a multinational force with food and medicine before the rains come to save a million people so that we have a lot of great people that are trying to do people. Certainly it’s met by — it’s led by the Congressman Don Payne of the Congressional Black Caucus. Senator Brownback has been terrific. We have a lot of people that are trying to negotiate with the government. But I just try to wonder how I would feel if I was dying and my family and my kids and my grandkids and I asked what is being done and they said they couldn’t tell me because it is being negotiated by diplomats and the politicians at the United Nations, that’s not only painful, but in my opinion, that’s sinful.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you support sanctions? Does the U.S. government support sanctions, the Bush administration?
REP. CHARLES RANGEL: I’m sorry. What did you say?
AMY GOODMAN: Do you support sanctions? And does the bush administration support sanctions?
REP. CHARLES RANGEL: Yes. But they’re waiting until adjudication is made as to whether this is genocide or whether it’s ethnic cleansing. Sanctions are a penalty you pay for doing the wrong thing. And so you can cripple a country so, even if I wanted to do something, economically it was not in the position to do it. Right now, I think we’re really going beyond the question of sanctions because people are dying even before the rains, while the roads are open people are dying because they refuse to allow humanitarian assistance to get to these people that they’re raping and killing. We have to break that logger jam. But while we’re doing that, we have to make certain that we do it in a timely way because if we win this, if diplomatically we win the cooperation of the people of the Sudan or, two, we do it by force with a multinational force, we still have the rain to fight and that is one of the most dangerous things because Israeli hope I made it clear that in addition to medicine, in addition to food and water, in addition to disease that is plagued this area, these people have —
AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Rangel, we have to leave it there. Democracy Now!