NEW YORK, September 18 – In preparation for President Bush’s address on Tuesday to the 61st United Nations General Assembly, more than 30,000 people gathered in Central Park on Sunday for a “Rally to Save Darfur: Voices to Stop the Genocide” to demand that the President and other world leaders press for the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force in Darfur, Sudan. As millions of people face destruction and death in Darfur, this rally was the centerpiece of a global day of action, with events in 31 states and 57 cities in 41 countries.
Former Secretary of State Madeline K. Albright addressed the packed crowd in Central Park along film actress Mira Sorvino, musician Suzanne Vega, Imam al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid (The Mosque of the Islamic Brotherhood), Rabbi Steve Gutow (executive director, Jewish Council for Public Affairs), Rabbi Rolando Matalon (Congregation B’nai Jeshurun and an AJWS board member), Reverend Gloria White-Hammond (chairwoman, Million Voices for Darfur), and other activists, celebrities and musicians. Speakers urged President Bush to use his influence and diplomatic channels to pressure the Sudanese government to allow U.N. troops to enter the country.
“The world has to act, and it has to do so now,” said Albright. “This is not about politics. This is about people. We need to get the U.N. in there. President Bush at the U.N. General Assembly has to make clear that the U.N. has to go inside.”
Commenting on the rally, American Jewish World Service’s president Ruth Messinger said, “Yesterday in New York as with the April rally in Washington, D.C., thousands of people came out to demonstrate their deep commitment to ending the genocide in Darfur. The American people are saying loudly and clearly that they want the U.S. government to do everything possible to get the U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur, and now, before it is too late.”
The “Rally to Save Darfur: Voices to Stop the Genocide” was co-sponsored by American Jewish World Service as part of the Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of over 170 faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations.
Wearing blue berets and baseball caps to symbolize the blue helmets worn by U.N. peacekeepers and holding signs saying “Never Again” and “Protect the People—U.N. Peacekeepers for Darfur,” people came to the rally from as far as California and Colorado and as near as the neighborhoods around Central Park.
A senior from Yeshiva University named Ayol Samuels said, “I’m here because I believe that every individual is important, and that as both a Jew and a human being, I personally want to add my voice against genocide.”
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David L. Marcus