In the span of two weeks, George Clooney has been nominated for an Oscar and sat with First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House state dinner. Today, he added getting arrested to that list.
On Friday afternoon Clooney was arrested for protesting outside of Sudan’s embassy in Washington, D.C. Clooney was among activists in a large group protesting the Sudan's blockage of food and aid from entering the Nuba Mountains area of the country, as well as the government’s treatment of its people.
Props to Clooney: Here’s a guy that dates super models and lives in an Italian villa, getting arrested for something he passionately believes in. Clooney is redefining what it means to be a sympathetic activist-celebrity. Clooney’s activism should be heralded, even copied by his peers on Hollywood. Clooney isn’t just another pop culture liberal activist, promoting trendy humanitarian topics like KONY 2012, but rather an American cultural icon using his celebrity to influence an issue that many people have forgotten about, let alone care about.
Clooney’s continued activism on the issue is honorable. While Uganda might be hot in the news right now because of the efforts of Invisible Children’s viral KONY 2012 video, Sudan is still one of the top basket cases in Africa. Public interest in the country peaked in 2006, when reports of massive human rights abuses in the Western Sudanese region of Darfur captivated citizens and world leaders. As with any popular humanitarian mission (remember Haiti?) public interest in Darfur has waned. But Darfur suffers from the same issues that originally put it in the lime light.
In 2010 and 2011 Darfur saw continued large-scale attacks by government forces on rebel forces and civilians, as well as an increase in armed clashes between ethnic groups, particularly in South and West Darfur, according to Human Rights Watch. The United Nations and humanitarian agencies increasingly came under attack and were targeted for robberies, kidnappings, and killings by armed elements in Sudan's western region. An estimated half million people have died in the Darfur conflict over the last decade. The UN estimates that 2,850,000 people have been displaced during the conflict.
Clooney keeps this issue on everybody’s mind. If the multitude of celebrities who have spoken out in favor of KONY 2012 in the past weeks had the same activist passion Clooney has for Sudan, warlord Joseph Kony will be captured in no time.
Alas, the pop activist culture in Hollywood and among the wider American public is troubled by massive Attention Deficit Disorder.
Speaking before the large crowd that gathered to watch the protest, Clooney said "We need immediate humanitarian aid into Sudan before it becomes the worst humanitarian crisis in the world."
Then Clooney started to spill some colorful Hollywood rhetoric, saying that the assembled group wanted "the (Sudanese) government in Khartoum to stop randomly killing its own innocent men, women and children. Stop raping them, and stop starving them."
If that doesn’t sell you on saving Darfur, then nothing will.
Clooney’s father, journalist and former Kentucky politician Nick Clooney, was arrested with his son, as were Martin Luther King III, NAACP President Ben Jealous, Rep Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and former Rep. Tom Andrews (D-Mass.).
Because the embassy is private property, Clooney and colleagues knew that refusing to move would end in arrest. They were warned three times before police moved in to make the arrests.
Clooney has advocated for a resolution of the Darfur conflict since 2006, attending rallies to build public consensus on the issue, lobbying world leaders to intervene against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and setting up the Satellite Sentinel Project — an digital early warning system to deter mass atrocities by focusing world attention and generating rapid responses on human rights and human security concerns, especially in Sudan.
On Wednesday, Clooney attended the White House state dinner in honor of British Prime Minister David Cameron, sitting next to the First Lady Michelle Obama. On Thursday, the actor testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about what he saw in Sudan; then met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama in the Oval Office. The Washington Post later reported that Clooney said Obama promised to push China's president Hu Jintao to aid in forcing Sudan to open its southern region to relief efforts.
To use colloquial street language, George Clooney is a “G,” and an upper-case one at that. Clooney is a model celebrity-activist the rest of Hollywood should emulate.