Small group in Norway joins worldwide protest

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NORWAY – Four figures stood in a line on Main Street for one hour in the grim morning light and cold winter air, holding signs advocating for peace and justice and the closing of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

Although they were just four here, they were joining a worldwide protest marking the day five years ago when the U.S. prison camp received its first batch of detainees. Today there are about 395 prisoners being held at the camp in Cuba on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.

Tom Whitney, who was one of the four standing on the sidewalk, said there were similar peaceful protests being held throughout Maine.

Cindy Sheehan, who rose to the forefront of the protest movement against the war after her son was killed in Iraq, was at Guantanamo Bay Thursday marching with a small band of opponents in front of the gate leading to the U.S. Naval base and prison camp.

The camp has riled many human rights activists who have condemned the long detainment of prisoners without fair trials and the alleged torture of detainees. The new U.N. secretary-general also called on the U.S. Thursday to close the facility for terror suspects. Ban Ki-moon was echoing an appeal by his predecessor, Kofi Annan, who urged President George W. Bush’s administration last year to shut down Guantanamo as soon as possible.

“It’s just to remind everyone,” said Alison Whitney, who was part of Norway’s protest Thursday. “I think it reminds people of the war and all its attached issues. We’re protesting violence everywhere.”

Tom Whitney said, “The war itself was illegal and violated all sorts of international laws.”

After declaring that it was not a primary concern whether their protest has an effect on the situation, Tom Whitney said, “Even those who protested the Nazis, they didn’t do it with the idea of getting rid of the the regime. You have to do something.”

The Whitneys were joined by Wes Ackley and Trisha Baumhoff. They stood for one hour from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. At one point, a bearded man in a red pickup truck drove by, pointing an index finger at them.

There was some confusion as to whether he was supporting their cause or not.

“The majority of people who drive by are positive,” Baumhoff said.

When the bearded man drove by again, going the opposite way, he helped clear up his message by making a more easily-interpreted signal – the peace sign, with his hand stuck far out the window.

This was met with small smiles from the group and a general apology for not previously recognizing the man’s friendliness despite his rather rough appearance.

“We’ve only caused one accident,” Alison Whitney remarked.

Tom Whitney followed by describing the committed peace activists as “students of traffic on Main Street” who can by now recognize drivers from yards away and can also distinguish between locals and tourists without even looking at license plates.

The group invited anyone to come join them Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the same spot next to Norway Savings Bank. They have stood there every day for the past four years.

Although the group is called “Women in Black,” men are allowed, and you don’t actually have to wear black, Alison Whitney clarified.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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