Protest supports 140-day hunger strike by Guantanamo prisoners
By: Deborah Dupre
June 26, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. Wearing orange jumpsuits, dozens of human rights defenders were arrested in front of the White House today at a rally where their message to Barack Obama was loud and clear, “Close Guantanamo or have blood on your hands.”
Following police scuffles and first arrests during today’s Close Guatanamo Bay Prison rally at the White House, the number of arrests grew to dozens, according to CODEPINK’s tweet.
“Dozens of activists arrested in front of the White House now, demanding @BarackObama #CLOSEGITMO or the prisoners’ blood is on his hands!” tweeted CODEPINK, one of the groups collaborating with others for the rally.
Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin, who heckled Obama last month at his speech at the National Defense University, was violently thrown to the ground during the rally.
Today, June 26, is International Day for Survivors of Torture.
Benjamin said they decided to stage the protest today because she just returned from a visit to Yemen, where she “met with a lot of families who have their loved ones in Guantanamo,” she told ABC News.
“I heard just the saddest stories about how they’re giving up hope, about how their sons and their husbands haven’t eaten in months, about their sunken eyes and their shallow-looking faces, and that’s the sense of despair that these are men who have been cleared for release now for several years.”
The Guantanamo Bay prisoners of war have been on a hunger strike for 140 days.
Diane Wilson, who jumped the White House fence and was immediately arrested, has been on a water-only hunger strike for 57 days in support of the detainees’ hunger strike.
She was arrested by a Secret Service swat team armed with automatic weapons and a german shephard.
Soon after Wilson’s arrest, about 20 more activists were arrested in front of the White House. According to CODEPINK’s tweet, that number rose to dozens.
Activist Kevin Zeese gave an analysis of the demonstration, saying that he holds Barack Obama responsible for Guantanamo and labeling him “a torturer-in-chief.”
CODEPINK and other rights groups participated in Wednesday’s rally to draw attention to the plight of 104 hunger striking Guantanamo detainees, most held without charges and most being tortured daily through force-feeding.
“(Obama) likes to blame Congress but really, as commander-in-chief, he has a lot of authority that he’s not using,” Benjamin said.