George Clooney, Martin Luther King III, several members of Congress and other activists were arrested by the U.S. Secret Service and taken away in plastic handcuffs outside the Sudan embassy on Massachusetts Avenue Friday morning.
The group was protesting the Sudanese hunger crisis, accusing President Omar al-Bashir of blocking food and humanitarian assistance from reaching hundreds of thousands of Sudanese.
The protest, Clooney’s appearance, and eventual arrest had been all been orchestrated in advance. Plans for the nonviolent protest had been announced Thursday in a statement by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who was also arrested during the demonstration.
At 10 AM a crowd of roughly 100 protesters marched from nearby Sheridan circle and positioned themselves next to the embassy’s front lawn. Minutes later, they were joined by Clooney and his colleagues, who had walked up from a separate meeting place at the Religious Action Center a few blocks away. Standing on the embassy steps, the actor and his fellow activists took turns delivering brief remarks condemning al-Bashir.
Update: As of late afternoon Friday, Clooney has been released from custody.
“Our destinies are tied together,” King said to those assembled. “This crisis is beyond epidemic proportions.”
Civil rights activist Dick Gregory, a last minute addition to the protest lineup, upstaged the other speakers a little bit, promising to undertake a hunger strike. “I have fasted over 500 times. I know what hunger feels like,” he told the crowd. “I, Dick Gregory, will not eat no more solid food until the blockade is broken. And we will break the blockade.” Upon hearing Gregory’s announcement, Clooney’s eyes widened a little bit. “That’ll raise the bar on us,” Clooney mumbled to his father, joking.
In his speech, he was a little less jovial.
“I have just returned from the Nuba Mountains. I saw first hand what the effect is of a government in Khartoum that is using starvation as a weapon of war,” said Clooney. “This government used that tactic in its war with the South and two and a quarter million people died. If we don’t stand united as an international community, there will be thousands and thousands more fresh in those graves.”
The speakers then made their way to the embassy lawn, where Secret Service officers told them that they must leave or face arrest. After the third warning, officers told the group they were under arrest, and the protesters lined up to be handcuffed and led into a waiting van.
Clooney, dressed in jeans and zip-up sweater, seemed in good spirits and at ease throughout the arrest, which was over pretty quickly.
From the scene: