From the Archive
Anti-Torture Activists Shut Down Two Entrances to the Department of Justice
Activists Reach Hundreds of Employees with News of the Fast for Justice and Our invitation for Dialogue
WASHINGTON, DC — 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 Guantánamo, 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 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 of Guantánamo.