George Clooney

George Clooney released after arrest at Sudanese embassy

March 16, 2012 at 10:59 AM ET

UPDATE, 2:30 p.m. ET: George Clooney, his father, Nick, and other activists who were arrested at the Sudanese embassy in Washington on Friday were released from jail the same afternoon.

Clooney spoke to reporters about the arrest, saying, "You never know if you are accomplishing anything. ... We hope it helps."

He went on to say, "There really is a ticking clock on (the situation)," and expressed hope that food and aid would come to the starving people of Sudan before their devastating rainy season begins.

Asked about the conditions in jail, the actor joked, "It was rough, you can imagine." He said the men were all put in the same cell and paid a fine before being released.

The actor said the incident was his first-ever arrest. "Let's hope it's my last," he added.

One reporter asked how Clooney's girlfriend, actress and former pro wrestler Stacy Keibler, would react to the arrest. "She's probably thrilled," Clooney deadpanned.

ORIGINAL STORY: No, it wasn't for a movie. Actor George Clooney, long a political activist, was arrested and handcuffed outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington for protesting the country's blockage of food and aid to its own starving people.

Clooney's father, journalist Nick Clooney, 78, was with him and was also arrested, as were Martin Luther King III, NAACP President Ben Jealous, comedian and activist Dick Gregory, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.), Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) and former Rep. Tom Andrews (D-Mass.). The group was restrained with plastic handcuffs and taken away by police. 

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."

He went on to say that the 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."

Half a million people in Sudan's Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions risk starvation due to the blockage of supplies, and the coming rainy season will only make it worse, the actor told the crowd.

"It’s about to start raining, and once it starts raining there, thousands of people are going to die," Clooney said.

Before his arrest, Clooney told NBC's Andrea Mitchell, "It's actually a humiliating thing to be arrested no matter what you do, but I'm proud to be standing here with my father."

He went on to say, "When people ask you, 'Where were you and where did you stand?' I want to say I was standing on the right side of history."

King, the eldest son of civil-rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said the protest and arrests reminded him of his father's experiences in the 1960s. He said, "The issue is to raise the consciousness of the world. When the world speaks, then (Sudanese) President (Omar al-) Bashir has to listen."

NAACP president Jealous said the group's message was simple. "We need to stop using rape and food as weapons in Sudan," he told Mitchell. "We are here to show President Bashir that this is what the end looks like."

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. Mitchell noted that she, too, was asked by police if she intended to be arrested, and told to move off the embassy steps if not.

The group held a sign that read "Sudan: Stop Weapons of Mass Starvation."

On Thursday, the actor testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about what he saw in Sudan, then met with Secretary Hillary Clinton and President Obama in the Oval Office. The Washington Post later reported that Clooney said Obama promised to push China's president to aid in forcing Sudan to open its southern region to relief efforts.

He later told reporters that "people turn on the news and see an awful lot of bad stories," but added that the United States "is still the most generous country in the world and truly the most compassionate."

On Wednesday, Clooney appeared on TODAY with Ann Curry and discussed how he came under rocket fire in the Sudan on a recent trip there.

He also attended Wednesday night's White House State Dinner for British Prime Minister David Cameron.

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