Demonstrators take to streets of Northampton, Greenfield to demand Guantanamo be shut down

View Photo Gallery
  • Members and supporters of No More Guantanamos and Witness Against Torture march on Main Street in Northampton on Monday to denounce the 19th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Members and supporters of No More Guantanamos and Witness Against Torture march on Main Street in Northampton on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, to denounce the 19th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Sherrill Hogen, left, of Charlemont, with Witness Against Torture, and Claudia Lefko of Northampton take part in a demonstration in Northampton on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, to denounce the 19th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Nancy Talanian of Whately and other members and supporters of No More Guantanamos and Witness Against Torture march on Main Street in Northampton on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Nancy Talanian of Whately, with No More Guantanamos, talks about the 19th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba during a demonstration on Main Street in Northampton on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Published: 1/11/2021 6:42:04 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Dressed in orange jumpsuits, some with hoods pulled over their heads, local demonstrators took to downtown Northampton and Greenfield on Monday to bring attention to the 19th anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Their goal? To convince the U.S. government to shutter the prison in Cuba and to make sure that Americans do not forget about the 40 prisoners who remain there, most of whom are being detained without charges or a trial.

“We want the prison closed,” Nancy Talanian, of Whately, said while protesting in Northampton, adding that it is a “bad precedent” for the government to imprison people and “throw away the key.”

Talanian, a member of a group called No More Guantanamos, organized Monday’s demonstration with Sherrill Hogen. The two have attended demonstrations in Washington, D.C. to speak out against the detention camp every Jan. 11 for the past 13 years.

Talanian believes those being held at Guantanamo who have been charged with crimes should be tried in a U.S. federal court, and those who have not been charged with crimes should be released.

“We need to speak out and make sure Americans know what their government has done,” she said. While some Americans take pride in their country’s justice system, Talanian said, “in the case of Guantanamo, it does not exist.”

Each year, Hogen participates in demonstrations and protests with the national group Witness Against Torture, but the usual crowd did not gather in D.C. this year because of the pandemic. She wanted to continue to protest the detention camp on its founding day and stir up local support for the issue. She was surprised Monday morning in Greenfield by the arrival of Matt Daloisio, one of the founders of Witness Against Torture, who stayed to participate in the demonstration.

Witness Against Torture formed in 2005 when Daloisio and 24 other Americans went to Guantánamo Bay and attempted to visit the detention facility. Daloisio and others made a second trip to the detention facility in 2015.

“In 2005, (President) George W. Bush said that if anyone was concerned about Guantánamo, they should go see it for themselves, so myself and a group of 24 others took him up on that offer,” Daloisio said.

They flew down to Cuba and traveled to the detention center, but they were not let inside. He said the members of the group stayed in Cuba, fasting as demonstration and praying for those held in the center for the past three years.

“When we were there, we were closer to the people in prison than their families had been in that time,” Daloisio said.

According to Witness Against Torture’s website, it was 2007 when members marked Jan. 11 — the date that the first “war on terror” prisoners arrived at Guantánamo Bay in 2002 — as a “day of national shame” and began organizing major demonstrations at sites in Washington, D.C. and around the country. At the time of the organization’s founding, 400 people were being held at Guantanamo Bay.

Guantánamo Bay was established in January 2002 as a military prison for people considered to be extraordinarily dangerous. Political appointees of Bush argued that the camp 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.

At the start of his presidency, President Barack Obama promised to close 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 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. Today, 40 people remain imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.

“We’re trying to keep these men in people’s awareness,” Hogen said. “Some people don’t even know that Guantanamo is still open.”

With Democratic Presidential-Elect Joe Biden getting ready to take office Jan. 20 and a Democratic control of the Senate, Daloisio seemed hopeful more action could be taken to close the detention center completely under the new administration.

“I think it should close, not in the first 100 days, but in the first 100 hours,” Daloisio said.

Northampton resident the Rev. Peter Kakos, formerly a minister at Edwards Church, also expressed hopes that “under President Biden, there will be renewed effort to close the base once and for all.

“It’s a shameful, shameful base,” Kakos said, and an “immoral vestige of the immoral invasion of Iraq in 2003, and Afghanistan.”

Claudio Lefko of Northampton, joined the protest as a reminder that “there are a lot of wrongs that still need to be righted in this world,” she said. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Lefko said it can be “easy to forget that there’s all this misery lingering in the world.

“I think it’s good to remember that people are suffering” due to actions by the U.S. government, she added.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com. Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2020 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy