On April 18, 2007, anti-torture activists, including Baltimore's Max
Obuszewski and Joy First from Madison, Wisconsin, will gather in
Washington, D.C. outside U.S. District Court, 333 Constitution Ave. NW
at 8:30 AM before going inside for trial to face a charge of
disorderly conduct after being arrested on January 11.
Eighty-nine individuals, wearing anti-torture tee shirts, were
arrested in the atrium inside the federal courthouse while reading
names and stories of the men being illegally detained at Guantánamo.
Each activist in the atrium was representing a particular detainee.
Earlier that day, habeas corpus petitions were filed in the clerk's
office to request that the court hear the cases of the detainees.
A delegation attempted to meet with Chief Judge Thomas Hogan to
discuss the habeas corpus petitions and to urge him to take judicial
action against the detention center at Guantánamo Bay. When the
anti-torture advocates gathered in the atrium, federal marshals
informed them that Judge Hogan said the atrium was a free-speech zone.
However, the advocates were asked to remove their tee shirts and
signs. This seemed a contradiction from Hogan's perspective, so this
order was refused and those remaining in the atrium were taken into
custody. It is believed that this was the first mass arrest ever in
this federal courthouse.
When arrested, the protesters refused to provide any identification
stating they were there on behalf of the detainees. Surprisingly, the
arrestees were released with either Jane or John Doe written on their
citations, charged with disorderly conduct, and given a court date of
April 18. It is unprecedented that the police would release
individuals without proper ID or any address.
It is not clear whether the court, on April 18, will listen to the
grievances of the protesters regarding the conditions at Guantánamo.
If the court refuses to hear the protesters, they will take their
message to the streets of Washington, DC, processing to several key
locations in orange jumpsuits and black hoods, representing the
prisoners at Guantánamo.
The horrors of the government's actions at Guantánamo must never be
forgotten. On January 11th 2002, twenty hooded and shackled men
shuffled off a plane from Afghanistan arriving at the U.S. prison at
Guantánamo. In an attempt to sidestep the Geneva Convention
protections for prisoners of war, the Bush administration created a
new category of "enemy combatant" for these men captured in the "war
Since that time, more than 1000 men and boys have been imprisoned at
Guantánamo. Accounts of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment have
been condemned by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and other
reputable bodies. The prisoners have resorted to hunger strikes as a
way of protesting their treatment. Many have attempted suicide; three
men killed themselves on June 10, 2006. Desperation, fear and
frustration mark their confinement. Five years later, only one
prisoner, David Hicks, has been convicted.
However, his hearing failed to meet basic legal norms. Many
prisoners have been released because no evidence has been found
against them, but close to 400 men remain in indefinite detention
without the hope of release. The United States has abandoned law and
The action on January 11 was endorsed by many peace and human rights
organizations including Witness Against Torture, Center for
Constitutional Rights, Code Pink, Pax Christi USA, United for Peace
and Justice, the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, School
of Americas Watch, Declaration of Peace and War Resisters League.
The action followed the principles and guidelines of nonviolent civil
resistance from Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.