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Guest column: protesting to make a point

The local papers recently gave me my "15 minutes of fame." On Labor Day I was arrested for silently walking around the NY State Fair in an orange jump suit, black hood and shackles. A sign on my chest read: CLOSE GUANTANAMO.

Guantanamo had vexed me for years. Since it opened on Jan. 11, 2002 in a US-leased enclave in Cuba, the existence of this Nazi-like internment camp has trashed our standing throughout the world. During their campaigns, declaring the illegal confinement and torture practiced there reprehensible, the top three presidential candidates had already agreed that, if elected, they would close the US Army-run camp.

On Jan. 11, 2008, the beginning of the camp's seventh year, dozens of us from Witness Against Torture (witnesstorture.org) sought to do a liturgy in the august entry hall of the US Supreme Court (SC). Our decorous group was symbolically providing the hundreds of Guantanamo prisoners, past and present, their day in US court.

Realizing that this public building had been infiltrated, SC security panicked. They not so gently dragged us out of the hall. The upshot was that we spent about 30 hours in booking. At the trial some weeks later the judge refused to let me finish reading aloud my brief sentencing statement. US Marshals soon transported us to the DC Detention Center to serve out a week of our 10-day sentence.

Neither at the SC nor at the Fair was I doing "civil disobedience": I had no intention to break the law. At the SC we wanted to be heard; at the Fair I just wanted to be seen. Because the hood impaired my view, my friend Rae Kramer, led me around the Fair. We even visited some of the military recruiting tents. (In one -- at the family-friendly Fair -- there were automatic weapons lying on a counter available to the public for hands-on fondling. We chose not to play.)

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