42 arrested at Capitol while calling for closing Guantanamo prison

A campaign to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, escalated Jan. 21 with the arrest of 42 people at the U.S. Capitol.

The protesters, members of the group Witness Against Torture, were calling attention to the lapsed one-year deadline that President Barack Obama had imposed on closing the controversial prison.

Fourteen people were arrested in the Capitol Rotunda as they conducted a memorial service for three men who died at the prison in 2006. The U.S. Army reported the deaths as suicides at the time; however, a recent Harper’s Magazine report revealed that the men may have died during interrogation at Guantanamo Bay.

The remaining 28 arrestees were taken into custody on the Capitol steps while holding banners reading “Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives.”

Prior to the nonviolent protest, the protesters, many in orange jumpsuits similar to those worn by the detainees, processed silently from the White House, past the Justice Department and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Matt Daloisio, a member of the New York Catholic Worker and an organizer of the group, told Catholic News Service that the route was designed to draw “connections to all the branches of government that have failed to close Guantanamo.”

Many of the demonstrators took the name of a detainee when they were booked on charges of unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct.

Trials for the 42 defendants are expected in May.

The demonstration came as an 11-day fast by about 100 members of the group neared an end Jan. 22.

Witness Against Torture was established in 2005 with the goal of closing the prison housing suspected terrorists.

The government has cleared 116 of the remaining detainees, but has yet to release them.

The White House has said the president remains committed to closing the detention facility while working toward the purchase and upgrading of the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois for detainees in the war on terror. The plan, a spokesman said, is to make the Illinois facility as secure as possible while working toward the prosecution of detainees charged with crimes before military commissions.