Actor George Clooney and several members of the U.S. Congress were handcuffed and arrested Friday outside Sudan's embassy as they demanded an end to an offensive they fear will cause a humanitarian crisis.
Swarmed by flashing cameras and TV crews, Clooney led more than one dozen prominent campaigners to the steps of Sudan's mission in Washington's Embassy Row, ignoring several warnings by police to leave the premises.
Officers escorted the "Descendants" star and the other campaigners in plastic handcuffs to police vans. Hundreds of supporters chanted slogans nearby against Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and waved banners reading, "Sudan: Stop Using Food as a Weapon."
Clooney, a longtime activist for human rights in Sudan, met Thursday with U.S. President Barack Obama after paying a clandestine visit to South Kordofan, where aid groups say 250,000 people are at risk of imminent food shortages.
"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.
"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," he said.
"Stop raping them, and stop starving them. That's all we ask," he said.
Speaking earlier before the U.S. Congress, Clooney said he saw hundreds of people fleeing in terror to the hills and into caves in South Kordofan due to the constant buzzing of planes dropping bombs meant for insurgents but which frequently kill and maim civilians.
The conflict has severely impeded agriculture in the mountainous region, leading to fears of hunger. The United States has demanded that Sudan let in outside food shipments, but Khartoum is deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions.
The protest was orderly, with some campaigners waiting patiently for police to bring another van. Inside Sudan's embassy, one woman could be seen snapping a photo from the window before the Hollywood heartthrob was taken away.
Four members of the House of Representatives -- Al Green, Jim McGovern, Jim Moran and John Olver -- were also arrested at the protest, along with human rights activists and religious leaders.
McGovern, a member of Obama's Democratic Party from Massachusetts and co-chair of a congressional commission on human rights, said that the rally was "to make sure that the government knows that the world is watching."
"We will be here again and again and again and again until this government stops using food as a weapon and until this government stops the slaughter of men, women and children," McGovern told the rally.
Ben Jealous, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the leading African-American civil rights organization, said that the protest showed to Bashir "what the beginning of the end looks like."
"We kept coming back to the South African offices here until apartheid stopped. We will keep coming back to the offices of Sudan until this killing stops," Jealous said before his arrest.
The violence in South Kordofan -- like the separate conflict in Sudan's Darfur region -- has a racial dimension, with residents and activists accusing Khartoum's largely Arab forces of targeting the black population.
South Sudan became independent in July under a peace deal that ended two decades of war that left over two million dead, initially raising hopes overseas for a peaceful resolution to the country's long-running conflicts.
But fresh violence broke out soon afterward in South Kordofan as the government fights insurgents tied to the former rebels who now rule South Sudan.
Bashir's government has accused Western powers of seeking anew to divide the country, even though it accepted South Sudan's secession.
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