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Quick and Dirty

Cuban Intervention

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 12/7/2005

A group of American anti-war activists, including two from Baltimore, say they plan to march 80 miles to the gate of the U.S. military base and prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba this week.

Gary Ashbeck, associated with the Jonah House group of peace activists, said last week, while still in Baltimore, that a group of about 25, mostly from fellow Catholic Worker collectives, will walk from Santiago, Cuba, on the island’s southern coast, beginning about Dec. 5, to protest U.S. policies that include indefinite detention and torture of prisoners. He said the walk would take about five days, and that the group—which had informed Cuban authorities but not U.S. authorities about its plans—would likely camp along the way. “We’re hoping that we’ll be able to stay in town squares,” Ashbeck said, adding that only one person who planned to march to Guantanamo had been to Cuba before.

The group hopes that supporters will follow the march’s progress on a web site. As of Dec. 1, the web site contained only the word “dadabanana.” Ashbeck said the group would not publicize the march in advance because they feared that U.S. authorities would try to stop them. “They can literally prevent us from getting on planes,” Ashbeck said.

The Catholic Worker movement was founded by Dorothy Day in 1933. Its adherents stand outside the church hierarchy and devote their lives to the poor. Some also specialize in nonviolent, sometimes spectacular, acts of civil disobedience, such as breaking into military installations to pour blood on nuclear weapons. Last December, Ashbeck and another man scaled a roof at the Pentagon and hung a banner from it, but avoided arrest even as other protesters were arrested. Pentagon spokespeople denied the event had occurred (“Insecurity Issue,” Quick and Dirty, Jan. 12).

Susan Crane, the other Jonah House resident who planned to march to Guantanamo Bay, spent more than a year in prison in 2000-’01 for participating in a symbolic disarmament of two A-10 Warthog aircraft at the Air National Guard base in Middle River. In the mid-’90s, she used a wooden mallet to bang on a Trident nuclear missile and poured a pint of her own blood on it as well, drawing a 10-month federal prison sentence.

Ashbeck, a Wisconsin native, says he supported the first Gulf War and that his own brother served the U.S. military in Iraq until recently. A few days before he left for Cuba, he said he was nervous about the trip, but hopeful that his group’s actions will spur more protest in the United States. “We’re going down there to visit the prisoners,” Ashbeck said. “It’s the call of the Bible, you know, visit the sick, visit the prisoners.

“There is the possibility that I won’t be coming back to Jonah House soon.”

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