March 16, 2012
George Clooney and a handful of Jews head to jail, then home: ‘We hope it helps’
When I was in Kindergarten my big dream was to be a policewoman someday, and I hadn’t regretted the decision not to pursue that path until this morning, when I heard George Clooney was arrested for civil disobedience.
As I reported yesterday, Clooney was in Washington D.C. for the week to raise awareness about an endangered civilian population in Sudan’s Nuba Mountain region that has increasingly become a target of government-sponsored missile attacks. A planned protest set to take place outside the Sudanese Embassy occurred earlier this morning, where Clooney was arrested alongside a supportive cohort that included two rabbis and the L.A.-based director of Jewish World Watch, Fred Kramer.
Protesters had gathered to demand an end to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s blockade of food and humanitarian aid to the region, predicted to reach famine levels later this month. Bashir’s militia has been ceaselessly bombing fields in order to intimidate villagers and coerce an exodus from the region. In a Youtube video of his recent visit, Clooney highlights the dangers of fields littered with unexploded bombs, which prevents villagers from harvesting crops and has forced families to retreat to living in caves. In the video, Clooney visits with maimed children and stands over a dead body, lying unattended in a field.
As he was handcuffed and led away from the embassy earlier today, Clooney told reporters, “I’m just trying to raise attention.” According to The Guardian, he emphasized the plight of Sudan’s children, saying, “Stop raping them and stop starving them…That’s all that we ask.”
After Clooney’s release Friday afternoon, he also told reporters: “It’s actually a humiliating thing to be arrested no matter what you do, but I’m glad to be standing here with my father. You never know if you are accomplishing anything ... We hope it helps,” adding, according to The Guardian that this was his first arrest and “let’s hope it’s my last.”
Despite Clooney’s celebrity, the Youtube video he created has not gone viral as “Kony 2012” did, another video account of crimes committed by an African war lord, though it currently clocks an estimable 86,000 views. Like the situation with Ugandan militant leader Joseph Kony, who recruits vulnerable children into his Lord’s Resistance Army, the crimes in Sudan also appear to be, at least in part, religiously motivated. Arab leaders, including President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Defense Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, and former interior minister Ahmad Haroun (who were all also also charged with Darfur-related war crimes by the International Criminal Court, according to The Daily Beast) currently control the Sudanese government and are attempting to force Sudan’s black residents to flee.
Clooney, who has been advocating on behalf of Sudanese civilians for almost a decade, has used his celebrity to set this issue before the highest ranks of U.S. power. In Washington, he reportedly met with President Obama, Secretary Clinton and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, before the culminating protest on Friday morning. Also present at the protest were Rabbi Steve Gutow, president for the Jewish Council for Public
On Tuesday night, Clooney appeared at the Council on Foreign Relations discussing the issue, and last night, attended a White House dinner for British Prime Minister David Cameron, where he was eminently seated next to First Lady Michelle Obama.