Guantanamo Bay detention camp to be focus of demonstrations in Greenfield, Northampton

  • Demonstrators wear orange jumpsuits and black hoods in reference to Guantanamo Bay detention camp, on the Greenfield Common in 2017. People will be demonstrating on the Greenfield Common again on Monday, as well as in downtown Northampton. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 1/7/2021 9:38:40 AM
Modified: 1/7/2021 9:38:27 AM

The 19th anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp is this month — a fact that comes as a surprise to many people, says Sherrill Hogen, one of the organizers of a demonstration that will be held in Greenfield and Northampton on Monday.

Demonstrators will gather on the Greenfield Common at 11 a.m., and then outside the Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton at 1:30 p.m. In both cases, they will also walk along each city’s respective Main Street.

“Many people don’t even remember it exists,” Hogen said of the detention camp. “That’s why we’re protesting again this year in our local communities.”

The camp was established in January 2002 as a military prison for people considered to be extraordinarily dangerous. Political appointees of President George Bush argued that the camp, which is in Cuba, could be considered beyond U.S. law — which was found to be incorrect in multiple cases heard by the Supreme Court.

Yet the camp has still been used to hold prisoners indefinitely without trial and has been criticized by human rights groups for its treatment of prisoners.

President Barack Obama, at the start of his presidency, promised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. But Congress opposed his view and passed laws with bipartisan support that effectively kept the camp in operation.

The Obama Administration did still reduce the scale of the operation, freeing most detainees and transferring them to other countries. President Donald Trump, in January 2018, made an executive order to keep the camp open indefinitely. There are now 40 people imprisoned there.

“It’s not on people’s radar, and we need to keep it there,” Hogen said. “There are 40 human beings who are not being treated humanely. ... These are people who have not seen a family member or a friend for 19 years. If they were housed in a U.S. facility, at least there might be some possibility of that connection.”

Hogen has participated with a national group called Witness Against Torture, which typically organizes a large demonstration in Washington D.C. at this time of year. Because of the pandemic, she said that isn’t happening this year.

Demonstrations in Greenfield have appeared in past years, too. Some participants wear orange jumpsuits and black hoods, referring to the conditions of Guantanamo Bay prisoners, said Nancy Talanian, another organizer of the demonstrations.

People passing by usually seem supportive, Talanian said. Pamphlets have been handed out at past demonstrations, but likely not this year to encourage social distancing.


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