Clooney Released After Sudan Protest Arrest

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10:04pm UK, Friday March 16, 2012

George Clooney has spoken after his arrest outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington DC, saying he wants to bring attention to an “immediate danger”.

The actor, who is president of United to End Genocide, had earlier been handcuffed along with his father, Nick, and several Democrat politicians and human rights and faith leaders for civil disobedience.

They were protesting against the humanitarian emergency that is reportedly threatening the lives of 500,000 people in the war-torn African country.

George Clooney outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington DC, March 2012

George Clooney smiles as his hands are tied with a plastic cable by an officer

Clooney was released on bail after paying a $100 (£76) fine.

Speaking after his release, Clooney said he hoped his celebrity helped raise awareness of the crisis.

He said: “We are trying to bring attention to an ongoing emergency.

“Our job right now is to bring attention to it. One of those ways was apparently getting arrested.

“You never know if you are accomplishing anything. We hope that this brings attention to it.

“We hope that people understand that there really is a ticking clock on this and we really need to get moving.

“Best estimate are tens of thousands of people are going to die from starvation that is man-made.

“This isn’t a famine, this is a man-made tragedy by the government of Khartoum to get these people to leave.”

Clooney, a longtime activist for human rights in Sudan, was in South Kordofan a few days ago, where he said he saw hundreds of people fleeing in terror to the hills and into caves to escape the constant buzzing of planes dropping bombs meant for insurgents but which frequently kill and maim civilians.

He warned that roads in the region would soon be impossible to pass once the rainy season begins in six weeks – and where aid groups say at least 250,000 people are at risk of imminent food shortages.

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The conflict has severely impeded agriculture in the mountainous region, leading to fears of hunger.

Asked about his time in police custody by journalists, the 50-year-old Hollywood star said: “It was really rough.”

He said it was his first arrest and that he hoped that it would be his last.

He added his girlfriend Stacy Keibler was “probably thrilled” at his detention.

The Descendants star and around 16 to 17 other demonstrators were released after being held by police for several hours.

Hundreds of supporters gathered outside the embassy to protest and hoisted banners reading, “Sudan: Stop Using Food As A Weapon”.

Swarmed by journalists, flashing cameras and TV crews, Clooney had earlier said that he hoped to draw more attention to the issue and that if action was not taken in the next three to four months “we’re going to have a real humanitarian disaster”.

“We need humanitarian aid to be allowed into the Sudan before it becomes the worst humanitarian crisis in the world – immediately,” Clooney said to cheering supporters shortly before his arrest.

Map of Sudan and South Sudan

George Clooney visited the Nuba Mountains in Sudan to highlight the crisis

“The second thing we are here to ask is a very simple thing – it’s for the government in Khartoum to stop randomly killing its own innocent men, women and children.

“Stop raping them, and stop starving them. That’s all we ask,” he added.

Clooney, his father – a 78-year-old radio broadcaster in the US – and others, including Democratic politician Jim Moran of Virginia and civil rights leader Ben Jealous, were held after being warned three times not to cross a police line outside the embassy.

Their hands were tied with plastic cables and they were put into a US Secret Service van.

Asked about his arrest as he was led away, Clooney told a reporter: “It is a pretty humiliating thing, quite honestly.”

Earlier this week, Clooney testified about Sudan before the US Senate and discussed the issue with US President Barack Obama at the White House.

He asked Mr Obama to press China’s President Hu Jintao when they meet in Seoul later this month for action on pushing for a solution in Sudan.

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