Philadelphia lived up to its reputation as a Darfur-conscious city yesterday by hosting a rally outside City Hall that attracted hundreds of people.
The third "Drumbeat for Darfur" event, organized by the Darfur Alert Coalition, called for the United Nations to help end the genocide in the African nation by providing more protection to tribes being attacked by the Janjaweed militia group.
"It's very nice to see that Philadelphians care," said Muhdy Bahradin, a Sudan native, who immigrated to Philadelphia before the killings heightened.
"The things I saw with my own eyes were horrible," he said.
Before emigrating in 2002, Bahradin, 34, witnessed an entire village burned to the ground.
He said he counted 28 bodies afterward.
"It's a bad situation. I lost all my property. I lost a lot of my family," said Bahradin, who is also part of the Darfur Alert Coalition.
Local leaders, including Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and state Rep. Babette Josephs, called on the federal government to follow the lead of Philadelphia, which has divested its funds from companies doing business in Sudan.
An hour after the rally began at noon, the demonstrators took over the eastbound lanes of Market Street as they made their way from City Hall to the Independence National Historical Park Visitor Center on 6th Street.
Shoppers and business owners emerged from stores to gawk and take pictures of the sea of people and picket signs being led by the beat of a drum corps. Some pedestrians approached demonstrators to learn about the issue.
The group eventually filed onto the lawn outside the visitor center and more speakers called for community commitment.
Thirteen-year-old Sahar Dinar, who helped found the Children Alert Project, pleaded for help for children affected by the Darfur tragedy.
Sahar immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 5 in 1999. Her family has taken trips back to Darfur every other year, which inspired her to start the Children Alert Project.
"The living conditions are horrible," she said. "I went into this tent once, and there was a baby and all I see are his ribs. I couldn't get food for his brothers or sisters, it just saddened me."
Her group collects clothing and school supplies for Darfur children, and members speak to other students to raise awareness.
Temple University senior Azaria Carter attended the event to learn more about Darfur. She said the sunny weather was affirmation that the rally's message was meant to be delivered.