Veterans Arrested At White House Guantanamo Protest
Vietnam Veteran Diane Wilson Goes Over White House Fence
A dynamic protest outside the While House against the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba came to a climax Wednesday when Vietnam veteran Diane Wilson climbed over the White House fence. Suddenly, there she was standing on the White House lawn like an apparition in her orange prison jumpsuit. Wilson was quickly surrounded by heavily armed Secret Service agents and a menacing police dog. She was arrested, charged with unlawful entry and turned over to police in Washington, DC, where she was being held in jail as of Wednesday night.
Diane Wilson, a former Army medic and member of Veterans For Peace, is on Day 57 of a water-only fast in solidarity with the hunger striking prisoners at Guantanamo. Shortly before going over the White House fence, Wilson explained “I decided to take drastic action because in this situation time is of the essence. If President Obama doesn’t hear our message and act soon, the blood of the men on hunger strike in Guantanamo will be on his hands.”
Over twenty other protesters, including two members of Veterans For Peace, were subsequently arrested when they refused to leave the sidewalk in front of the White House, where they were reading the names of 86 prisoners who have been cleared for release yet remain imprisoned at Guantanamo.
Elliott Adams, a former president of Veterans For Peace, was arrested as he attempted to chain himself to the White House fence. Surprisingly, he was released without charge, perhaps after the police learned he was on Day 41 of an open-ended hunger strike. “I just can’t sit and enjoy my life when my country is doing such terrible things to these people,” said Adams.
Veterans For Peace member Helen Jaccard was also arrested and carted off to jail by the Park Police, along with nearly 20 other protesters, including several women from Code Pink. They were released after several hours, charged with disobeying a lawful order, and given a court date of Tuesday, July 16. “I had never been arrested before,” said Jaccard, “but if you really care about justice, there comes a time when you have to be willing to cross that line. Today was that time for me.”
The US is holding 168 prisoners at Guantanamo, over 100 of whom have been carrying on a long term hunger strike to protest indefinite detention and inhuman conditions. The US Army is force-feeding over 40 prisoners with painfully invasive metal-tipped tubes forced through their nose and into their stomachs, a procedure that is widely considered to be torture. Several prisoners are in the hospital in critical condition.
Tarak Kauff, who serves on the Board of Directors of Veterans For Peace, has fasted for 19 days. “The conditions at Guantanamo continue to be horrifying and barbaric,” said Kauff. “President Obama, who once said ‘under my administration the United States does not torture,’ could stop this with one phone call – immediately. Instead, the President, the U.S. military establishment, and Congress display more inhumanity, more cruelty and indifference to human suffering with each passing day.”