President Obama heckled about Guantanamo Bay by protester Medea Benjamin during press conference
A very loud woman stole the show several times as President Obama addressed a crowd of journalists during a press conference this afternoon. The apparent protester interrupted Obama repeatedly, yelling inaudibly about the future of Guantanamo Bay.
After the second interruption, Obama said, “Part of free speech is you being able to speak, but also me being able to speak. And you listening,” to which the crowd applauded.
Moments later, the woman ranted for a good couple of minutes before the President responded saying, “That woman’s voice is worth listening to.”
The woman has been identified as Medea Benjamin, a long-time protester and founder of the social justice movement CODEPINK. She was eventually removed by security. (Read our interview with Medea Benjamin on what it’s like to yell at the President)
“Since President Obama was elected in 2008, he has been talking the talk and making promises, but at CODEPINK, we are ready to hold him accountable,” CODEPINK spokesperson Alli McCracken told Metro after the press conference. “Similar to our drone policy, the existence of the Guantanamo Bay Prison is making us hated around the world.”
“Thanks to our very own @medeabenjamin for standing up and speaking the truth to @BarackObama!” CODEPINK tweeted moments after the conference. “@medeabenjamin just asked @BarackObama to release #shakeraamer #closegitmo.”
Shaker Aamer is a Saudi Arabian citizen and former U.K. resident who has been held at GitMo since 2002. He was taken into custody in Afghanistan, though he has never been charged. He was cleared for release six years ago, according to The Guardian, but he remains in prison.
President Obama did outline a plan today on closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison. He has thus far been unable to carry out a 2008 campaign pledge to close the prison. 103 of the 166 detainees recently staged a hunger strike.
“There is no justification beyond politics for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should never have been opened,” Obama said.
Obama lifted a moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen out of respect for that country’s reforming government, he said. He asked Congress to lift restrictions on the transfer of terrorism suspects from Guantanamo and directed the Defense Department to identify a site to hold military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees.
“Where appropriate, we will bring terrorists to justice in our courts and military justice system,” he said.