The Cable

Fire at State Department day care building

A fire hit the State Department building that houses the day care center early Tuesday morning, but no injuries were reported.

"A fire early this morning in SA-1 (State Annex 1) Low Rise has caused significant water damage to the 5th floor and below," read a notice from the office of emergency management. "The entire Low Rise is closed today, including the child care center. The Hi Rise should be open at 9:00 AM today. Underground parking will be available at that time."

A State Department official told The Cable that the cause of the fire appeared to be electrical, and the sprinkler system extinguished it. The investigation and damage assessment is ongoing, and there's a lot of water from the sprinklers all over the building.

Federal News Radio reported that the fire was extinguished by 7:30 AM, and it was not clear if anyone was inside the building at the time. The building is part of the Columbia Plaza complex, adjacent to the campus of the George Washington University.

The Low Rise may be opened up for a short period of time later today so employees can retrieve personal items, the OEM notice said. But the day care center will remain closed.

"Among other things, the (SA-1) Low Rise houses Diplo-tots, our day care center for employee kids, so we have some little visitors at Main State today unexpectedly helping out moms and dads," the State Department official said.

The Cable

Moran on being arrested with George Clooney

Fourteen people were arrested last Friday on the walkway outside the Sudanese embassy. While George Clooney stole all the headlines, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) was also arrested and recounted the experience in an interview with The Cable.

"Sometimes no matter how serious the issue, unless you keep the public focused on it, really bad things can keep happening and even get worse," Moran said about what he called an act of "civil disobedience" to protest the Khartoum government's violence against innocent civilians in the Nuba Mountain and Blue Nile regions of Sudan.

"The North has conducted a scorched earth strategy. They've wiped out all their fields, they've forced them up into the mountains. They've got no food," Moran said. "And once the rainy season starts, which will be in about a month, that will be it, because you won't be able to get any convoys in. So they will starve to death. And that is kind of the idea."

Moran said the plan was always to get arrested, and the group alerted the DC metro police of their plan ahead of time. First, Clooney and others made speeches in front of the embassy. Then they proceeded up the walkway, which constituted trespassing. After refusing three police instructions to leave the embassy grounds, those who were willing to be arrested held their ground.

"We're just trying to say, look, these are hundreds of thousands of innocent people who should not be forced to suffer and die because of an irresponsible ruler and because of a world that looks away from it, that refuses to get engaged," Moran said.  "I think it was the right thing to do, to try to bring the world's attention to a serious situation."

Along with Clooney, nine activists and four Congressmen were arrested. That group included Moran, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Rep.  John Olver (D-MA), Rep. Al Green (D-TX), Martin Luther King III, former head of the NAACP Ben Chavis, NAACP President Ben Jealous, Nick Clooney, activist Dick Gregory, former congressman and leader of United to End Genocide Tom Andrews, and Director of the Religious Action Center Rabbi David Saperstein, Moran said.

They were carted off in paddy wagons, processed and fingerprinted, stripped of their personal belongings, and put in a cell together for about 5 hours. They all pleaded guilty to trespassing, disturbing the peace, and refusing to obey a police order. They each paid a $100 fine and were released.

"We needed to get arrested in front of the Sudanese embassy, and since George was willing to do that we knew we would get some media coverage," Moran said.

That was the first time Clooney had been arrested, but Moran was arrested once before protesting on behalf of the people of Darfur, he said. Overall, he considered the mission a success.

"I think it worked," he said. "If we can get some attention focused on this real humanitarian crisis, then spending a few hours in jail and coming up with $100 in cash to bail ourselves out was well worth it."

So what do four congressmen, five activists, and a Hollywood star do in prison for 5 hours?

"We enjoyed talking about everything," Moran said. "There's nothing to read, so we talked, and we all got to know each other pretty well."

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