Sean Penn offering free COVID-19 tests at protests: 'Testing and protesting are essentials right now'

Raechal Shewfelt
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
Sean Penn also talked about the time he met the late John Belushi on The Howard Stern Show. (Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

Actor and activist Sean Penn fully supports the nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality that have gripped the country since the May 25 death of George Floyd. But he has an idea for making them even better.

“How much more powerful a picture that would be and how much larger a footprint they would have if they just distanced six feet with a mask on?,” Penn said Tuesday on SiriusXM’s The Howard Stern Show.

Penn’s non-profit CORE, which stands for Community Organized Relief Effort, wants to help stop the spread of the coronavirus by providing free COVID-19 testing at protests. They’re already offering the tests at several sites in California and a handful of other states across the country.

“We’re gonna be going into Washington, D.C. working with Mayor [Muriel] Bowser’s office, I believe next week, to start a mobile testing of protestors,” he told Stern. “I just hope that, you know, whatever little effect we can have, encouragement we can have to just start moving things in that direction. I don’t sense that the protests are gonna stop soon.”

And Penn doesn’t want them to, anyway.

“I think that they are a fundamental part of us moving forward. It’s an existential moment,” Penn said. “If we don't see it as that, if we think that that’s a hyperbolic comment, just wait and see.”

As the actor and activist sees it, both “testing and protesting are essentials right now. We can’t lose this moment.”

Of course, Penn made that statement with passion and intensity — qualities that, as Stern pointed out, have contributed to his reputation of being difficult.

“I sometimes think that I’d have a great love affair with humanity but [I’m] not too good about humans,” Penn admitted.

At one point during the interview, Penn recalled something that happened when his daughter Dylan, who’s now 29 and whose mother is Robin Wright, accompanied him as he visited Cuba in another one of his outside interests.

“She was about 14, and she confronted [former Cuban leader Fidel Castro],” Penn said. “She had in her head all of the facts, all of the history of oppression of homosexuals. She just went through the whole list and sort of went on the attack. I must say I was very proud of her.”

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