For Immediate Release
42 Arrested at U.S. Capitol in Day of Action to Denounce Obama's Broken Promises on Guantanamo, America's Broken Laws, and the Breaking of Lives by Torture
In a dramatic protest, 42 activists with Witness
Against Torture were arrested this afternoon at the U.S. Capitol. The
protest comes on the eve of the since-voided deadline President Obama
had set for closing the prison camp at Guantanamo.
Those arrested on the Capitol steps held banners reading "Broken
Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives." Inside the Capitol, 14
activists performed a "memorial service" for the three men whose
deaths at Guantanamo in 2006 were initially reported as suicides and
callously described as "acts of asymmetrical warfare" by military
officials. New reports provide strong evidence that the men may have
been tortured to death at a CIA secret prison in Guantanamo.
The ceremony brought the names of the men-- Salah Ahmed Al-Salami,
Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani-- into the Capitol
Rotunda, where deceased presidents have lay in state. "We perform this
ceremony to recognize the humanity of those whose lives have been
broken by our government's policies of torture and indefinite
detention," says Jerica Arents of Chicago, Illinois, one of those
arrested in the Capitol.
Witness Against Torture has called for an immediate, independent
investigation of the deaths, as it has called for the criminal
investigation of all those who allegedly designed, executed, and
carried out torture policies.
Most of the 42 arrested at the Capitol did not carry identification,
taking instead the names of men at Guantanamo through arrest and
processing. "Taking the name of Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif is a
necessary and real way of bringing his story to Congress," says Joshua
Brollier, a co-coordinator with Voices for Creative Nonviolence in
Chicago, Illinois. "Adnan was tortured and continues to be held after
eight years without charge or trial. It boggles the mind and breaks
the heart. It's time for Congress and the Obama administration to make
and fulfill a plan for his release." Brollier and others from Voices
will continue in Washington through February 2, participating in the
Peaceable Assembly Campaign to pressure Obama administration and
Congress to explore alternatives to U.S. militarism.
The actions at the Capitol followed a march of "Guantanamo prisoners"
dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods that began at the White
House and stopped at the Supreme Court before going to Capitol
grounds, home to the U.S. Congress. "Congress has played a horrible
role in refusing to check the power of the president and in supporting
torture," commented Matt Daloisio of New York City, a Witness Against
Torture organizer. "But it was important to pass by all of the
government institutions that have failed to uphold justice and protect
the rule of law."
Members of Witness Against Torture began a Fast for Justice on Monday,
January 11-- the date in 2002 when the first men were brought to
Guantanamo under the Bush administration's "war on terror."
One-hundred fifty people from around the country joined the 12 day
fast, which will end on Friday, January 22, the promised day for
"We were so hopeful last year," says Christine Gaunt, a grandmother
and third generation farmer from Grinnell, Iowa, who was arrested at
the Capitol. "But Obama has broken his promise to close Guantanamo.
I am acting today because I am horrified and ashamed that this illegal
prison continues to exist, and that those responsible for torture have
not been held to account. I am using my body to demand that my
government stop the insanity of torture and illegal detention."
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.