Clooney out of jail after arrest in Washington protest
Published Friday, March 16, 2012 10:58PM EDT
George Clooney was released from custody Friday afternoon after being arrested in Washington during a protest in front of the Sudanese embassy.
The protesters accuse Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, of provoking a humanitarian crisis by blocking food aid from entering the Nuba Mountains, which is in the crucial border region near South Sudan.
Speaking to reporters after his release, Clooney said the world needs to pay attention to the simmering humanitarian crisis in the region.
"There really is a ticking clock on this, and we need to get moving," he said.
Clooney was joined by his father Nick and several activist colleagues including: Rep. Jim Moran, NAACP president Ben Jealous, Enough Project's John Prendergast and Martin Luther King III.
In a moment of levity, Clooney joked that the group got a chance to spend some quality time together while in custody.
"We were all in a cell together, it was nice," he said, adding that it was his first arrest and "hopefully, my last."
The civil disobedience was designed to attract media attention. Clooney has long championed the Sudanese cause and has worked to draw attention to the humanitarian issues there.
Before the arrest, police issued three verbal warnings to move off the private property.
When those warnings were ignored, the activists were taken away in handcuffs and placed in a Secret Service van.
A day earlier, Clooney met with U.S. President Barack Obama for 15 minutes about the issue.
He came away from that meeting saying he was encouraged there was high-level interest in doing more to help the region. He added the world needed to move swiftly to open a humanitarian corridor to those in need in South Sudan.
"When the rainy season starts, it is impossible to get through," Clooney told reporters after his meeting with the president. "There is a very, very great possibility of a lot of people starving in the next few months."
He added that he felt his role is to shine a light on the situation, not to solve it.
"I don't make policy," Clooney said. "All I really can do is amplify the situation and help to bring a spotlight to it."
Earlier in the week, Clooney argued before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and called on the Senate to help toughen sanctions on the Khartoum government, which he said is committing "war crimes" against civilians.
Last week, Clooney returned from a trip to the violent border region in the Nuba Mountains between Sudan and South Sudan, where he observed the aftermath of a Sudanese bombing campaign targetting villagers.
Clooney showed the Senate committee a short video he helped shoot of villagers being forced to dwell in caves, out of a "constant drip of fear" from aerial attacks.
"We found children filled with shrapnel, including a 9-year-old boy who had both of his hands blown off," Clooney said. "It is a campaign of murder and fear and displacement and starvation."
Clooney said the attacks were orchestrated by al-Bashir, government official Ahmad Harun and Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein -- the same three men, he said, who orchestrated attacks in Darfur.
During the meeting with Obama Thursday, Clooney added that he had raised the issue of China's role in Sudan.
"This is a moment where we have a chance to do something because if we don't, in the next three to four months, there's going to be a real humanitarian disaster," Clooney told The Associated Press just before his arrest Friday.
"It's such a silly thought to think you're actually succeeding in any of this," he said. "But if it's loud enough and you keep making it loud enough at the very least people will know about it, and you can't say we didn't know. That's the first step."