For Immediate Release
Anti-Torture Activists Shut Down Two Entrances to Department of Justice
Reach Hundred of Employees with News of Fast for Justice and Our Invitation for Dialogue
WASHINGTON - After a four hour presence
at the Department of Justice this afternoon, Witness Against Torture
finished its day of action by establishing an overnight vigil that will
continue until 8am tomorrow morning, January 20, 2011.
The group expected twenty-two arrests
after a ceremony inviting Attorney General Eric Holder to break bread
and enter dialogue with the group of fasters. At the Constitution Avenue
entrance to the building, anti-torture activists read accounts of torture,
sang songs and knelt in front of the entrance, effectively blockading
it with orange clad bodies.
After two hours, the group marched
around the 9th Street carport entrance, seeking to impede
the departure of high level officials within the Department of Justice.
“If they cannot act on behalf of men unjustly and indefinitely detained
in Guantanamo, who have been cleared for release, then they are not
working hard enough,” said Jerica Arents, a faster from Chicago. “And
so we decided that they should take a little extra time today and devote
themselves to the actual practice of justice.” The entrance was shut
down and any vehicles coming and going must have been turned away or
diverted to channels.
Each of the activists blocking the
entrance spoke to why they were fasting and risking arrest. “I am
here for Abdul Razak,”
said Christine Gaunt from Des Moines, Iowa. “He has been detained
at Guantanamo for more than eight years. Judge Ian Urbina ordered him
released into his court room more than two years ago and he is still
detained. It makes me sick.” Tom Chadwick, a faster from Bethlehem,
Pennsylvania remembered the men who are on hunger strike, “and
are being force fed in horrible and torturous ways.”
By 6pm, despite unrolling crime scene
tape and bringing in extra police officers, no arrests were made. The
activists marched back to Constitution Avenue and established an all
night vigil. “Throughout the night, we will stand in front of the
Department of Justice. A few of us will be there all night long, seeking
to dramatize the impact of sleep deprivation. Others will vigil in shifts
through the night, praying, witnessing until 8 in the morning.
“At that time, we will all join the
overnight vigilers for an hour of demonstration to begin Day Ten of
the Fast for Justice,” says Martha Hennessy, a member of Witness Against
Torture from Vermont.
The fast continues through Saturday,
January 22 and involves more than 100 people around the country. For
more on the fast and daily anti-torture protests, go to: www.witnesstorture.org.
Who We Are: In December 2005, Witness Against Torture drew international attention when its members
walked to Guantánamo Bay to protest at the prison. Since its return,
the group has organized vigils, marches, nonviolent direct actions,
and educational events opposing torture and calling for the closure
Witness Against Torture is a grassroots movement that came into being in December 2005 when 24 activists walked to Guantanamo to visit the prisoners and condemn torture policies. Since then, it has engaged in public education, community outreach, and non-violent direct action. For the first 100 days of the Obama administration, the group held a daily vigil at the White House, encouraging the new President to uphold his commitments to shut down Guantanamo.