An estimated 4,000 people turned out to Crissy Field on Sunday afternoon to protest the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region, joining rallies in Washington, D.C., and cities throughout the U.S.
The scale of the killings in Darfur, where more than 180,000 people have died and 2 million been displaced, has drawn international attention.
“The numbers are huge,” said San Francisco Roman Catholic Church Archbishop George Neiderauer, who called for U.S. and international aid to establish a no-fly zone over Darfur at yesterday’s event. He also called for help to equip soldiers of the African Union, the international group moderating peace talks between the rebels and the government. The rebels declined to sign a peace agreement Sunday.
The rally was organized by a coalition of religious and human rights organizations. Noah Alper, 59, of Berkeley, said he hoped by attending that he could influence others to take the issue seriously.
“I’m Jewish and it resonated with me personally … what happened to my people,” he said, referencing the Holocaust.
For Eltayeb Ibrahim, an immigrant from Sudan who now works as a security officer in The City, the rally was a forum where he could plead for immediate peacekeeping aid to Darfur. The United Nations has said it would take at least six months to take over peacekeeping from the AU, prompting some protesters to call for NATO intervention.
“My cousins and relatives live there [in Darfur]. I lost a lot of people in my family. To be honest, I lost count,” he said, adding that the survivors “are expecting any time they may get killed.”
Darfur’s current troubles began in 2003, when members of the majority black African ethnicity charge that the Arab-dominated Sudanese government began sending attack helicopters and militia groups to destroy villages, murder and rape in response to an armed rebellion. The government has denied that it is behind the militias.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has described the situation as “genocide.”