George Clooney, leading rights activists, congressmen arrested at protest demanding end to government-led violence in Sudan

Annie Calloway of the Enough Project reports on the arrest of George Clooney, rights activists and congressmen at a Sudan protest today. This piece was originally published on the Enough Project’s Enough Said blog.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — “Al-Bashir to the ICC! Al-Bashir to the ICC!” The call-and-response rang out this morning as hundreds of people marched towards the Sudanese embassy to stand in solidarity with the people of Sudan and demand that its government abandon their weapons of mass starvation.

In the culminating event for the national day of action for Sudan, actor and activist George Clooney was joined by his father, Nick Clooney, Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast, Martin Luther King III, Omer Ismail, Sudanese Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), Congressman John Olver (D-MA), Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA), Congressman Al Green (D-TX), Tom Andrews of United to End Genocide, Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Ben Jealous of the NAACP, Fred Kramer of Jewish World Watch, Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center, Ian Schwab of American Jewish World Service, and civil rights activist Dick Gregory. The group made a series of speeches, blockaded the entrance to the embassy, and were subsequently arrested in support of the people of Sudan.

With a throng of media jostling to capture the moment, each of these prominent upstanders took the podium in succession to tell the world that we cannot and will not sit idly by as the Sudanese government—led by a man wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity—murders its own people. Congressman Jim Moran proclaimed, “We who are born into lives of peace and prosperity” must continue to fight for those who are being oppressed, tortured, and killed simply because of the world they were born into. Speakers unanimously demanded that the U.S. government take immediate action to impose sanctions, provide aid, and stop the slaughter of innocent civilians in Sudan.

Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, called on Sudan to “stop starving people on purpose” and said he wanted to send the message to Bashir that “this is what the beginning of the end looks like”—the world will no longer tolerate his policy of terror. Dick Gregory, legendary defender of civil rights, reiterated this message, saying that it was “nice to see all of the ‘usual suspects’ who understand the power that we have” to create change. Gregory took one step further to show his solidarity with persecuted people in Sudan by announcing that he will stop eating solid foods until the blockade on food and humanitarian aid in the Nuba Mountains is lifted, to show “a bunch of thugs who eat every day that I know what hunger feels like.”

As the final speakers, George Clooney and his father Nick took the podium to make very clear what the protest demands of the Sudanese government and the international community. “We are here really today to ask two very simple questions,” began George.

The first is something immediate: Immediately we need humanitarian aid to be allowed into the Sudan before it becomes the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Immediately. 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. Stop raping them, and stop starving them. That’s all we ask.

Once the speeches concluded, the group proceeded to mount the stairs and create a barricade, blocking the entrance to the embassy. Surrounded by police and members of the Secret Service, they were issued three warnings to leave the premises. When they refused, they were handcuffed and led into police vans with Enough’s John Prendergast leading the way. Enough captured a video of the arrest and other key moments of the protest in our live blog.

“If we are who we think we are,” Nick Clooney said, “we should all be standing here. If we are who we have always said we are as Americans, we should be standing here, together. Because what we know is that there are people who are in danger now. We will stand with them as long as they are in danger.”

Though the national day of action may be over, we cannot let the fight stop here. Take action now to demand the Bashir’s regime be brought to justice and the suffering of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians be brought to an end:

Email your member of Congress and ask them to support the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2012, H.R. 4169. This bill calls for a comprehensive approach to end serious human rights abuses and promotes democratic transformation in Sudan.

Text “Sudan” to 30644 to join our mobile rapid response team for Sudan.

Photo: George Clooney arrested in front of Sudanese embassy in Washington, D.C. (Enough / Sasha Lezhnev)