Why This Activist Hacker Is Launching A Hunger Strike In Jail

Martin Gottesfeld has two demands.

Martin Gottesfeld, an activist jailed on charges stemming from a politically motivated cyberattack on Boston Children’s Hospital, said he’ll begin a hunger strike on Oct. 3 to bring attention to what he says is widespread mistreatment of children.

In a message published exclusively on HuffPost last week, Gottesfeld said he took out the hospital’s internet in the spring of 2014 to protest the controversial treatment of teenager Justina Pelletier and to protest the “troubled teen industry” more broadly.

Gottesfeld is among those who criticize the hospital for separating Pelletier from her parents after they sought medical treatment for her. The hospital and state of Massachusetts claimed the parents had abused her with unnecessary and harmful medical treatments. (Check here for more information on Pelletier’s controversial case, and here for a primer on Gottesfeld’s involvement as part of the hacker collective Anonymous. And read this Huffington Post investigation into the industry.)

Gottesfeld, jailed since his arrest in February, says in a new statement that he has decided to go on hunger strike to renew attention on the troubled teen industry.

He says he’ll begin his strike on October third and continue it unless two conditions are met: all of the presidential candidates must promise to work toward ensuring American children are spared the kind of mistreatment he says has victimized Pelletier. And the office of Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, which is prosecuting Gottesfeld, must end its “political,” over-aggressive style of prosecution. (HuffPost catalogued Ortiz’s controversial record of targeting progressives in a July report that caused a political dust-up in Massachusetts.)

Ortiz’s office declined to comment on Gottesfeld’s hunger strike or his demands.

Here is Gottesfeld’s full statement on his hunger strike:

American children, marched to death, starved, put into stress positions and solitary confinement. Forced to eat their own vomit and trade sexual favors for food. Made to endure simulated executions and being denied life-saving medical care.

Before I was an advocate for Justina Pelletier, when I first encountered these and so many additional horror stories told by other survivors of institutionalized child abuse, they sounded too horrible to be true in modern America. I was stunned to find it all documented by Congressional hearings, Government Accountability reports, and a PBS documentary aptly entitled, Who’s Watching the Kids?

How could this be happening, and how could it all be happening so quietly? Retired Congressman George Miller referred to these human rights violations as “an open secret” and worked tirelessly for decades to end this torture of America’s youth. He held hearings, sponsored legislation year after year, and implored the Justice Department to investigate. Though eye opening, the hearings remain obscure. The legislation never passed and the Justice Department declined Miller’s urgent request for action to protect these kids and hold the guilty accountable for past abuses.

Unfortunately in these cases, even when children died, law enforcement agencies rarely take meaningful action. For example, across the eight preventable deaths of institutionalized children examined in one of the GAO’s reports, there were only two criminal prosecutions, leading to a total of one month of jail time.

Despite clear moral duty, as well as our nation’s obligation under the Convention Against Torture, sadly such insufficient action is par for this very disheartening course. Knowing that there is no one else to protect these kids from this life altering, and too often life ending abuse, some advocates are compelled to act in the defense of these innocent children. In so doing, they can find themselves targeted by the same law enforcement agencies they had previously begged to safeguard the youth.

In a gross perversion of American jurisprudence, as well as an abject disregard for our nation’s human rights obligations, the abusers are protected instead of the abused, and torture continues with impunity in the United States. This results in activists being scared out of the community, and potential advocates being chased away before they can author their first petition, organize their first protest, or even send their first tweet.

I’ve seen survivors of institutional abuse silenced by threats of both civil and criminal prosecution, and the damage to reputation those entail. This must stop if there is ever to be justice for the kids.

So I ask my fellow citizens to join my wife and I in demanding a pledge from every presidential candidate to both work with legislators and to direct executive law enforcement action to protect our nation’s most vulnerable and frequently marginalized youth, so that no future child ever has to endure the torture that Justina Pelletier and countless thousands of others have, in most cases, suffered in silence.

I humbly beg journalists from around the world to look into these matters and shine the bright spotlight which is desperately needed, and which they are uniquely suited to provide. My wife and I welcome opportunities to work with the media to raise awareness, and can be reached at FreeMartyG@gmail.com.

We encourage any members of the media who have previously inquired elsewhere, to contact us there now. We welcome the opportunity to speak with you.

Finally, having exhausted all other avenues to protect and raise awareness for these kids and their advocates, I’m announcing that absent the required pledges from our candidates, as well as an immediate change of course away from the political prosecution the Boston U.S. Attorney’s Office has sadly become well known for, I will begin a hunger strike the night of Monday, October 3.

For news, updates, to speak out, or hear those who do, please follow @FreeMartyG and/or like the Facebook page. We’re also seeking volunteers. There is a lot to do.

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