Despite the orange jumpsuits and black bags over their heads, the four people standing on the federal courthouse steps have not been branded as terrorists and detained indefinitely—yet.
The four were political activists making a point. But they could be the next people to be unlawfully held without trial by the government, said Mark Colville. That’s the danger that the Guantanamo Bay detention center presents to the country and the world, he said.
Colville (pictured) was a lead organizer for a rally held downtown Friday on the steps of the U.S. District courthouse on Church Street. A dozen demonstrators gathered there to call on President Barack Obama to shut down the detention center, which opened after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to hold “enemy combatants.”
More than a decade later, the camp is still in operation, despite a campaign promise by Obama that he would shut it down. Thursday’s protest was part of a national day of action “in solidarity with hunger strikers at Guantanamo.”
According to organizers, Gitmo still holds 166 men, more than half of whom have been cleared for release. A number of detainees are refusing to eat, in protest. They are being force fed through the nose.
Protestors gathered at noon at the federal courthouse. As some activists unfolded a large orange banner, others suited up in orange jumpsuits, the kind worn by prisoners at Guantanamo. Members of the Amistad Catholic Worker House handed out soup and crackers to passersby.
“As citizens of the United States, we’re shamed by what Guantanamo represents in this country and in the world,” Colville said. People “try to sell the story that Guantanamo is for the worst of the worst,” he said. “But Guantanamo was built for us, for law-abiding citizens like us.” If the government can hold people without charges indefinitely, “if they can do that to anybody, they can do it to everybody.”
Jim Douglass (pictured being interviewed by the Register’s Ed Stannard), an author from Alabama who’s doing research at the University of New Haven about the Bobby Kennedy assassination, suited up as a prisoner. “So long as somebody is in prison unjustly and experiencing torture, then we need to get as close to it as we can,” he said. “This is as close as I can get.”
“This feels horrible,” said 72-year-old Ioanna Gutas, also in a jumpsuit and black bag.
“Guantanamo constitutes a matrix of control,” said Allie Perry of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. “It’s not just limbo or purgatory, but a living hell.”