(WASHINGTON) — A Code Pink protester, calling attention to the detainees at Guantanamo, was arrested Wednesday afternoon on the grounds of the White House for jumping the fence. Several others were also arrested outside the grounds.
Diane Wilson was immediately arrested, according to the Secret Service. She was with a group wearing orange jumpsuits calling for the Guantanamo Bay detention camp to be shut down.
Wilson was charged with unlawful entry and several of her fellow protesters, some also wearing black hoods, were arrested shortly afterward by the U.S. Park Police. One was dragged from the front of the White House to a waiting police vehicle, while most of the others went peacefully into the waiting police van.
The sidewalk in front of the White House was shut down during the incident.
The Park Police were not immediately available to provide final arrest numbers.
Fellow Code Pink protesters, also dressed in orange jumpsuits made to look like those worn by detainees at the prison, stayed across the street waving signs and chanting, “Close Gitmo Now!” and “Obama, close Gitmo!” on the sweltering day in the nation’s capital.
Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin, who heckled the president last month at his speech at the National Defense University, was across the street from the White House. She said they decided to stage the protest Wednesday because she just got back from a visit to Yemen, where she “met with a lot of families who have their loved ones in Guantanamo.”
“I heard just the saddest stories about how they’re giving up hope, about how their sons and their husbands haven’t eaten in months, about their sunken eyes and their shallow-looking faces, and that’s the sense of despair that these are men who have been cleared for release now for several years,” Benjamin told ABC News.
Benjamin said that Wilson, who jumped the White House fence, had been on a “water-only hunger strike” for 57 days in support of the hunger strike some detainees in the prison are on.
“She was arrested but she was determined to go over the fence,” Benjamin said of Wilson.
President Obama has said consistently he too wants to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, mentioning it just last week when he spoke in Berlin.
“Even as we remain vigilant about the threat of terrorism, we must move beyond the mindset of perpetual war, and in America that means redoubling our efforts to close the prison at Guantanamo,” Obama said.
But, Benjamin said, “we don’t really believe him.”
“He likes to blame Congress but really as commander-in-chief he has a lot of authority that he’s not using,” Benjamin said.
Throughout the protests, tourists that came to get a glimpse of the White House continued to take photographs with their families outside the famous address. After the incident, the Park Police took down the yellow tape and once again opened the sidewalk and those tourists hurried across the street to get a better look.
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