Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bringing Guantanamo to the White House


On April 18, 2007 at 9:30 AM, around fifty anti-torture activists, including Baltimore's Max Obuszewski and Joy First from Madison, Wisconsin, went to U.S. District Court, 333 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. for trial to face a charge of disorderly conduct as a result of a January 11 arrest in the atrium of the same courthouse. Courthouse officials, though,
seemed surprised that the defendants appeared in Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson's courtroom.

After the Jan. 11 arrest, most of those in custody refused to provide any identification and simply gave the name of a Guantanamo Bay detainee. Presumably, the government did not expect any of the eighty-nine individuals
arrested to appear for trial as they were released with John and Jane Doe citations. While the prosecutors, Judge Robinson and the marshals deliberated behind closed doors, the defendants began reading names and stories of the men being illegally detained at the Guantanamo gulag.

Since the government was unprepared for a trial, a large majority of the defendants decided to leave the courthouse at 10:15 AM in order to march through the city and call for the closure of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Once outside, they donned the infamous orange jump suits and black hoods which are worn by those illegally interned in Cuba. At 11 AM, those defendants who remained in court were informed that the government would dismiss all eighty-nine cases.

The orange-clad anti-torture advocates marched to the Rayburn House Office Building, the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice and finally the White House. At each site, the advocates demanded justice and due process for the detainees. At the White House, to emphasize the dire conditions faced by the detainees, fourteen of the demonstrators locked themselves to the White House fence on Pennsylvania Ave. After about an hour, the U.S. Park Police brought out bolt cutters to sever the locks and took the resisters into custody.

During the White House demonstration, there were large numbers of tourists and students on spring break who witnessed the action. Coincidentally, representatives of Code Pink came to the White House to chant antiwar slogans as George W. Bush was to meet with Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid to discuss supplemental funding of the war in Iraq. Cindy Sheehan and her sister Dede Miller joined with Code Pink to enthusiastically support the demonstration demanding the closure of Guantanamo Bay.

After the prisoners were taken to the Park Police jail in Anacostia, those not arrested renewed their commitment to condemn the government's use of torture and its denial of due process rights to "enemy combatants." Nonviolent civil resistance will continue as a number of anti-torture events are being planned and organized.

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