D.C. RALLY CONDEMNS DARFUR GENOCIDE
By Lynn Sweet Sun-Times Columnist

Chicago Sun-Times, IL
May 1 2006

Yesterday, today and tomorrow, there are, have been and will be
genocidal murders occurring in the Darfur region of Sudan. On Sunday,
thousands gathered on the National Mall to try to do something about
the horrors.

"We are here because we refuse to be silent," said Elie Wiesel,
the author and Nobel Peace Prize winner whose work is rooted in his
Holocaust experience.

"Remember, silence helps the killers, never the victims."

Thousands came together chanting "never again," the pledge born out
of the Holocaust as the genocide, which started in 2003, continues.

Clergy; lawmakers including Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), and
celebrities, such as actor George Clooney, '60s-era comic and longtime
activist Dick Gregory, and Olympic speed skater Joey Cheek, took the
stage to keep the pressure on the United States and the international
community.

WHAT SHOULD U.S. DO?

What should the United States do about the killings in Sudan's Darfur
region? E-mail [email protected] Some edited replies will
be printed.

Unlike some causes, where rallies are held for or against something,
when it comes to the killings, rapes, starvations and forced migrations
in Darfur, everyone in the United States is on the same side --
the right side.

165 groups band together

President Bush has done more than any other Western leader, though
he said when he took office that slaughters such as those that took
place in Rwanda and Burundi in the 1990s would not happen during his
tenure. He penned the words "not on my watch" on a memo, and those
words were transferred Sunday onto signs and T-shirts.

Bush was supportive of the Sunday rally and more to be held across
the country, including one in Chicago at 4:30 p.m. today on Federal
Plaza. Bush met with Darfur advocates in the White House on Friday
and said the rallies are a "march for justice" that represents "the
best of our country."

But three years after the conflict began, people are still dying
as the violence between Muslims -- ethnic Africans under siege by
Arab Janjaweed militias backed by the Sudanese government -- is
responsible for the deaths of between 200,000 and 400,000 people,
with another 2.5 million displaced.

Sunday's rally was organized by a coalition of 165 religious, human
rights and humanitarian organizations, with the American Jewish
community a driving force behind the "Save Darfur" effort. "When we
needed people to help us," Wiesel said, "nobody came."

Armenia. The Holocaust. Cambodia. Rwanda. Bosnia. Darfur. Many students
have been drawn to the Darfur cause because it is not history. It is
a current event.

A contingent of 110 students came to Washington from the University
of Illinois.

Abby Kritzler, 22, from Wilmette, a senior at American University
in northwest Washington, was on the Mall. She is writing a thesis on
genocide for her "faith, peace and justice" minor.

"It is just unacceptable for me to do nothing about it," Kritzler
said. "I just could not tolerate sitting and watching everything and
feeling bad about it and not doing anything."

'We want more; we want more'

Rabbi Amy L. Memis-Foler, from Temple Sholom at 3480 N. Lake Shore,
flew from Chicago to Washington on Sunday morning to bear witness.

She was carrying a poster board made by Temple Sholom sixth-graders
that said "History repeats itself. Stop the Genocide."

"Our presence helps spread the word to the nation, to the world,"
Memis-Foler said.

Cheryl Gutmann, a Temple Sholom member on the Mall with Memis-Foler,
said, "People are coming together to make a statement."

The House and Senate have passed the "Darfur Peace and Accountability
Act," but the two chambers have yet to agree on final language.

Obama, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been
championing the measure. He will visit Sudan during an August trip
to Africa.

Speaking before his largest crowd since becoming a senator, Obama said,
"Silence, acquiescence, paralysis in the face of genocide is wrong."

Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Jendayi Frazer had the most
difficult assignment -- speaking for the Bush administration to a
crowd that wanted Bush to do more.

Bush has been working to bolster African Union forces and to get
the United Nations to send in troops. "The strategy is working,"
said Frazer.

"We want more; we want more," the crowd chanted.

"So do I. So do I. So does your government," Frazer said. "The ghosts
of Rwanda hang over our heads."