Locals host protest of Guantánamo

Vigil held on 12th anniversary of center's opening


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Photos



  • Sussex County citizens calling for the close of the Guantanamo Detention Center on its 12th anniversary. At the right is Susan Pironti of Sparta, a member of the Sparta United Methodist Church's Church and Society Committee.




  • Photos by Thomas Bias Mike Aloi of Sparta, president of Local Chapter 1004 of Amnesty International




  • Robert Brennan (right) of Andover signing a petition to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. At left is Mike Aloi of Sparta, the president of the local Amnesty International chapter.




  • About a dozen Sussex County citizens standing vigil at the Newton Green, calling on the President to close the Guantanamo Detention Center on its 12th anniversary.



Fast facts

Since its opening in 2002, 779 prisoners have been detained there.
155 are in custody now.
Of those 155 in custody, 76 have been cleared for release but remain in custody because there is no agreement on where they should go.
Nine prisoners have died at the detention center.
President Obama has ordered the release of 11 prisoners since August of this year.

“We believe that everyone deserves a fair trial. Justice, fairness, and the dignity of every human being are important values of our country and of our faith.”
— Litsa Binder, speaking for the Church and Society Committee of the Sparta United Methodist Church.

Marking the 12th anniversary of the opening of the detention center at Guantánamo Bay's naval base — Sunday, Jan. 12 — locals gathered in front of the Gazebo on the Newton Green to call on President Obama to keep the promise he made while still a presidential candidate — to close Guantánamo.

Guantánamo Bay
On Jan. 11, 2002, the United States government opened the detention center at the Guantánamo Bay naval base on the island of Cuba. The country was still in shock from the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Centers in New York City and damaged the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., four months earlier. American forces had gone into Afghanistan to capture those responsible and to remove from power a government, which was thought to be sheltering those who had attacked the United States. Prisoners that American troops captured in the course of military action in Afghanistan and other countries were imprisoned at the new detention center.

Guantánamo was controversial from the beginning, and in 2008 Senator Barack Obama, as a candidate for the presidency, promised that he would close it if he was elected President. To date, that promise has not been kept. Some citizens of Sussex County believe that keeping people in prison — some cleared for release, and most of the rest not charged with a crime or convicted — is unacceptable.

The event was sponsored by four organizations: Local Chapter 1004 of Amnesty International, the Church and Society Committee of the Sparta United Methodist Church, the Social Action Committee of the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Sussex County, and New Jersey Peace Action. Mike Aloi, the President of the Amnesty International local chapter explained why the group was organizing the vigil: “Among the basic rights guaranteed in our country is trial by jury with the presumption of innocence. Our country has turned a blind eye to the detainees at Guantánamo. All have faced time away from their families, mental abuse, and solitary confinement, with no end in sight.”

Vigil
Some Americans, including some members of Congress, are concerned that closing Guantánamo would endanger the safety of the American people, especially if suspected terrorists are released on American soil.

Litsa Binder, speaking for the Church and Society Committee of the Sparta United Methodist Church, counters, “We believe that everyone deserves a fair trial. Justice, fairness, and the dignity of every human being are important values of our country and of our faith.”

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