A Hunger for Justice

Ellen Davidson Aug 17, 2013

The hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay prison passed the six-month mark in early August, with more than 50 prisoners still participating. Meanwhile, a hunger strike at Pelican Bay Prison in California for improved conditions, including an end to long-term solitary confinement, reached one month on August 8.

At Guantánamo, nearly 40 prisoners are still being force-fed daily, a practice that the United Nations calls torture and the American Medical Association deems against medical ethics.

Organizing in solidarity with both hunger strikes has stepped up this summer. On June 26, 18 activists were arrested at the White House, including CODEPINK cofounder Diane Wilson, who capped off a 58-day water-only solidarity fast by climbing over the White House fence in order to demand that President Barack Obama make good on his campaign promise to close the prison at Guantánamo. She faces up to six months in prison for unlawful entry. Currently two people are on a long-term fast — Cynthia Papermaster of CODEPINK and Andrés Thomas Conteris of

Two others ended their hunger strikes on August 4 at a mosque in Albany, NY, joining with that community for the daily iftar meal that ends the sunrise-to-sunset fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Former Veterans For Peace President Elliott Adams and VFP board member Tarak Kauff had been taking in less than 300 calories, Adams for 80 days and Kauff for 58.

“The men at Guantánamo and Pelican Bay have undertaken a hunger strike because their situation has become so unbearable they are willing to do without one of the few things they have in life that are precious, which is food,” said Kauff.

He was among six people arrested inside the Hart Senate Building in Washington, D.C. on July 30 after a simulated force-feeding by members of CODEPINK outside the building. Seven activists carried posters with photos of prisoners from Pelican Bay and Guantánamo and spoke from the balconies overlooking the large atrium, telling prisoners’ stories in the first person and demanding freedom for the 86 men in Guantánamo who have been cleared for release and an end to all long-term solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. On any given day, some 80,000-90,000 inmates in the United States are in solitary confinement, including some as young as 13 years old.

“What is happening in this country is completely wrong,” said Margaret Flowers, an organizer with who was also arrested. “It goes against medical advice; it goes against moral advice; it goes against U.N. conventions. We should not put children into jail at all. In particular they should not be put into solitary confinement. … It ruins their lives.”

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