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Rep. Keith Ellison said today’s embassy arrest necessary to call attention to Darfur situation

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After being arrested for crossing a police line at a protest at the Sudanese Embassy here today, Minnesota’s 5th District Rep. Keith Ellison and a handful of other lawmakers were taken to the city jail, where they waited in a cell for about three hours before they were released.

The Minneapolis Democrat said that he made the decision about a week ago to accompany the group to the protest and that the intent was to be arrested.

“There was a piece of yellow tape that separated the protesters from the Sudanese embassy, and the group of us deliberately went across it,” Ellison said. “Then the police warned us to leave the first time, and they let a little time go by. And my stress level went up, and then they issued a second warning, and my stress level went up, and then they gave us a third warning and I knew I was about to be arrested.”

Ellison was joined by Reps. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., John Lewis, D-Ga., Donna Edwards, D-Md., and Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., and Darfur activist leaders.

He said that while they waited in jail, the group listened to Lewis tell stories about the civil rights movement and his experiences with protests.

Ellison said that he participated in this morning’s protest to bring attention to the expulsion of aid groups from Darfur.

Sudan pushed the aid groups out after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president on charges that he directed the mass murder of tens of thousands of people living in Darfur.

The national aid agencies had been providing about 1.1 million civilians with food aid, 1.5 million with health care and more than 1 million with potable water, according to the Save Darfur Coalition.

“I thought that it was such an appalling situation that I thought I would use the real honor and prestige associated with my office to bring attention to this situation,” Ellison said.

The Republican Party of Minnesota, however, did not see it the same way. Later in the day, Chairman Ron Carey released the following statement regarding Ellison’s arrest:

“While we respect his advocacy for the cause of stopping genocide, members of Congress are offered no shortage of platforms to advocate for their passions that don’t involve crossing police lines and getting arrested. This is a publicity stunt that is unbecoming of the office he holds and the responsibility he bears as a representative of Minnesota.”

In response to the comment, Ellison said that the Republican Party “had a point.”

“Nobody should lightly violate the law under any circumstances,” said Ellison. “But, there are a narrow set of circumstances when the situation is so grave that all of us have to make a personal sacrifice to prevent it.”

And, practically speaking: “Look, if five members of Congress had sent out press releases, I don’t think we’d be making national news right now. But, we got arrested and [got in] the news cycle for the day, which is what we wanted.”

Ellison posted $100 to get out of jail.

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Comments (4)

It was grandstanding. I personally have high regard for principled civil disobedience, but this is another case of Ellison choosing the APPEARANCE of taking a bold stand as opposed to SUBSTANTIVE action that challenges the power structure. His big attention-getting move was was his trip to Gaza which turned out to be just a publicity ploy because after merely denouncing the horrible suffering and destruction, he refused to take any position to address the cause of the massacre - such as calling for immediately cutting off the US supply of weapons to Israel that were being used to murder and destroy. So what substantive action will Ellison propose for Sudan? I really hope hope for something, but won't hold my breath.

Keith Ellison has more clout than 99% of Americans, the man is a US Congressman for crying out loud....yet he chose to perform cheap street theater for the 5 O'clock news.

Glossy, lavishly illustrated, bi-folded "constituent updates" to follow.

Be so kind as to count me as singularly unimpressed, and unsurprised.

A bit more than 40 years ago I learned well the difference between a politician and a statesman. One international political-law professor must have spent a week on it, especially comparing that which was accomplished by true statesmen - not necessarily big people - and that accomplished by grandstanders.

I've been privileged to meet and work with a number of each kind. Keith Ellison's record already shows he will probably never be a statesman, just an embarassment as a politician who accomplishes little except self-aggrandizement and self-depreciation.

The following is the full text of the letter sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
by Alabama state legislator Thomas Jackson.

March 6, 2009

Hon. Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary of State

Washington, DC 20520

Madame Secretary,

I have been following the ongoing crisis in Sudan very closely. I traveled to Sudan in 1996, and spent time there as part of a delegation of elected officials that was sponsored by the Schiller Institute. I had a wonderful time on that trip, and got a chance to see the country, meet the people, and talk to officials. I do not want to see any damage done to that nation, which can easily become the breadbasket of Africa, and play a critical role in helping Africa out of its dire poverty and starvation.

The recent indictment of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is aggravating that crisis in a completely unproductive way. This legally dubious indictment was issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is subject to no oversight, and exists outside the purview of both the United States and the United Nations. The legitimacy of the court has not been recognized by many other nations. The real issue is the role of British-allied imperial forces in creating and using the ICC to further an agenda that smacks of racism and unlawful intervention into the affairs of sovereign nations.

The ICC was created by associates of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and mega-speculator George Soros. The prosecutor for the ICC, Luis Moreno Ocampo has been an ally of Soros for almost twenty years. His NGO in Argentina was funded in part by Soros, and he has been connected to Soros’ Open Society Institute.

Another key instigator of the Bashir indictment is Lord Mark Malloch Brown, who has also been a collaborator and business partner of Soros for over twenty years. Malloch Brown has been an official of the Soros hedge fund Quantum Fund, and was Vice-President of the Open Society Institute. In 2006 Malloch Brown was Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the British government, with a portfolio in Africa, Asia, and the United Nations. He helped orchestrate the provocative intervention of the nation of Georgia against South Ossetia last summer.

The indictment of al-Bashir has been instigated by these forces. It has nothing to do with the ongoing crisis in Darfur, which the government of Bashir has been working to stop. Bashir has been involved in peace agreements to bring the warring parties in the region together. Pope Benedict recently cited the goodwill declaration signed between the Sudan government and one of the leading rebel groups in Darfur as a sign that peace should be sought before legal judgments.

This indictment has been opposed by the Arab League, the African Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The chairman of the OIC, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, called for abandoning the genocide charge against President al-Bashir.

Last week, the Arab League and the African Union decided to send a joint delegation to the UN Security Council to delay the indictment.

President Obama has thus far steered clear of British-instigated operations. He put the bust of British imperial Prime Minister Winston Churchill into storage and replaced it with that implacable foe of the British empire, Abraham Lincoln. It would be important that this administration not fall into a new British trap.

Over the years I have been in touch with the movement associated with Lyndon LaRouche. Mr. LaRouche has been a friend to Africa and has been a friend of former President Clinton’s administration and to the current administration. He has also been an outspoken opponent of Mr. Soros and Mr. Blair. He warned that it was Mr. Blair who cooked up false intelligence reports on Iraq, sold them to President Bush, and got us into the war in Iraq. They are up to the same schemes with this faulty indictment of President al-Bashir. This has nothing to do with Darfur, and everything to do with overthrowing an elected head of state in Africa. My worry is that this action will lead to an endless bloodbath in Africa.

I urge you to not be drawn into this affair. The State Department should steer clear of the indictment of a sitting head of state, in this case, President al-Bashir. We should denounce it. I would be happy to assist you in any way in formulating U.S. policy on this critical subject.


Rep. Thomas Jackson