George Clooney’s week in Washington

March 16, 2012

A good way to close out a hectic week in Washington: Orchestrate your own arrest. For a good cause, of course.

On Friday morning, George Clooney was led away from the Sudanese Embassy wearing a pair of plastic handcuffs, having participated in an act of planned civil disobedience to protest the nation’s president, Omar al-Bashir, and his government’s blockade of food and humanitarian aid to people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

Backed by a rogues’ gallery of do-gooders — including his father, Nick, civil rights scion Martin Luther King III and congressman James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) — Clooney stepped onto the embassy’s lawn, was told to leave three times and declined to do so. Secret Service officers were waiting with a pair of wrist restraints.

Normally, there would be a bit of shock and awe in watching a former Batman get tossed into a paddywagon on Massachusetts Avenue. But the wow factor was toned down because (1) the protest, including Clooney’s arrest, was announced in advance Thursday, and (2) the immaculately tanned actor has been in town all week, eating up the limelight.

On Wednesday morning, Clooney, fresh from a visit to South Sudan, testified at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing regarding the nation’s burgeoning humanitarian crisis. That night, he scored a spot at the first family’s dinner table during the state dinner with British Prime Minister David Cameron. On Thursday, he paid a visit to the Oval Office, addressed reporters in front of the White House and stopped by the Willard Hotel for a glass of iced tea. Finally, Friday’s act of planned civil disobedience.

Here, at least, he was upstaged a bit by comedian and activist Dick Gregory, who announced that he would undertake a hunger strike for the cause. “I, Dick Gregory, will not eat no more solid food until the blockade is broken,” he told the crowd of protesters, shortly before Clooney’s speech. “And we will break the blockade.” Hearing that, Clooney’s eyes widened a little. “That’ll raise the bar on us,” he joked.

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