Actor George Clooney — along with NAACP President Ben Jealous, U.S. Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), actor and activist Dick Gregory and Martin Luther King III — were arrested on Friday during a protest at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. They were released the same afternoon.
Joining in on the National Day of Action for Sudan, organized by the Enough Project, the protesters (arrested for civil disobedience after stepping over a police line set by the Secret Service) sought to raise awareness of a mounting humanitarian crisis. They accused Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir of blocking food and aid from entering the border region between Sudan and South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan in 2011.
"We need humanitarian aid to be allowed into the Sudan before it becomes the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, immediately," Clooney said before the arrest. "The second thing we are here to ask — it's a very simple thing — is for the government in Khartoum to stop randomly killing its own innocent men, women and children."
Clooney, who recently returned from an eight-day trip to Sudan, also testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and met with President Obama this week about the conflicts engulfing the region. According to the Enough Project, which works to end genocide and crimes against humanity:
South Sudan seceded from Sudan following a self-determination referendum in January 2011, and independence day on July 9, 2011. However, the two new states continue to face insecurity within their borders. Shortly before southern secession, the Sudanese government took aggressive military action against its civilians in the border areas of Abyei and South Kordofan, displacing close to 200,000 civilians combined. The violence in South Kordofan and Darfur continues, and the country's president, Omar Al-Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
At Wednesday's congressional hearing, Princeton Lyman, U.S. special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, encouraged efforts to peaceably resolve the disputes, as well as pressure from the international community to pressure the Sudanese government to allow humanitarian relief into conflict zones. Earlier this month Rep. McGovern introduced the Sudan Peace, Security and Accountability Act of 2012, which would require the Obama administration to create a plan of action for ending human rights violations and promoting democratic reform.
Feeling that the issue is not getting enough attention, however, Clooney and others headed to the Sudanese Embassy on Friday. "There is a moral imperative for those of us who, but for the luck of birth, benefit every day from peace and prosperity to speak out for those who face the atrocities of starvation and oppression," said Rep. Moran at the protest. "Today we walk up to the doorway of Omar al-Bashir's embassy and say loud and clear: Enough."
Cynthia Gordy is The Root's Washington reporter.