Mitch Snyder, the radical Christian activist now in the 10th day of an announced total fast of protest against Holy Trinity Roman Catholic church in Georgetown, was removed by comrades yesterday to a secret location after a physician attempted to have him committed to a hospital.
Members of the Community for Creative Non-Violence at 1345 Euclid St. NW where Snyder has been staying whisked Snyder away after the doctor arrived yesterday afternoon accompanied by a D.C. Police officer.
The doctor, a psychiatrist, attempted to serve a civil commitment paper on Snyder, but CCNV members refused to accept it. The doctor, three police scout cars and an ambulance brought to the scene then left.
The doctor, who lives and practices in upper Northwest Washington and asked not to be identified, said he was acting on his own initiative and not on behlf of Holy Trinity Church. He said he is not a member of the church.
He said any licensed physician can sign a civil commitment paper on his own initiative, but it cannot be enforced if it is resisted. The effort to serve the paper was "only my wishing as a private individual to save that man's life," he said.
But his arrival, along with that of the police officer, prematurely triggered a standby plan by CCNV to remove Snyder to an undisclosed location to prevent authorities from intervening in what Snyder says may be a fast to the death in his effort to get Holy Trinity give more money and other resources to the poor. CCNV members said they originally planned to remove him to a secret location only if he lapsed into unconsciousness from the effects of the fast.
Yesterday's developments came on Euclid Street as embattled parish leaders at Holy Trinity across town reportedly planned to meet today in emergency session on Snyder's demands.
Leaders had attempted to assemble the 17-member parish council last night, but were unable to get a quorum, a church spokesman said, apparently because several members were out of town during the New Year holiday period. 'They're trying again to get a meeting for (today)" the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, Snyder's condition continued to deteriorate, according to a physician and members of the Community for Creative Non-Violence at 1345 Euclid St. NW where Snyder lives.
He has been without food or liquid since Dec. 24, they say. As of yesterday, he had lost 23 pounds of his original weight of 176 pounds and his body temperature had fallen to about 97.5 degrees, according to CCNV spokesman Mark Lee. He experiences periodic dizziness and nausea, Lee said.
A reporter visited Snyder yesterday before he left the Euclid Street address and found him looking noticeably weaker and speaking only a few words.
Lee Randol, a Baltimore physician who has volunteered to monitor Snyder's condition, said blood tests "suggest dehyration and some destruction of body cells which you live on while you're starving."
Snyder and other CCNV members said they had had difficulty finding a doctor willing to monitor -- but not treat -- Snyder during the fast. Snyder's personal physician reportedly declined to act in that limited capacity. CCNV members said they wanted a doctor available to give professional interpretations of Snyder's condition to the public and to conduct research in the little-known area of human starvation.
Snyder started his fast on Christmas Eve, declaring he would die if Holy Trinity Church "did not focus more of its corporate resources on the poor." So far, there has been no official response from the church. If one comes, the 10 CCNV members living in the Euclid Street house, and not just Snyder alone, will consider whether it is acceptable, members said.
Medical authorities say Snyder could live 12 to 20 days without food or liquid.
The fast is the latest in a series of pressure tactics by CCNV against Holy Trinity since early last year. After an assistant pastor at the church had suggested in a sermon that parishioners give to the poor through CCNV, a brief informal alliance bloomed between the church and CCNV.
When the parish council announced a $400,000 building improvement program for the aging church, however, CCNV conterded that some of the improvements were not essential and an unspecified amount of money should be diverted to mere immediate needs of homeless and starving people.
Snyder and a dozen others conducted a 42-day liquid-only fast during the summer. It stopped when the parish council agreed to reconsider its building program. The council voted later, however, to maintain the full $400,000 renovation program, saying the improvements were essential to physical safety, maintenance and "appropriate worship."
After that, Snyder vowed to fast to the death if necessary to make the church change its mind.
Church members have condemned Snyder's fast variously as "blackmail" and an "act of arrogance." Snyder says the fast is an act of conscience and calls attention to the starvation caused by Holy Trinity's failure to give to the poor when it has resources available. Church leaders say parishioners, many of whom are prominent political and financial figures in the city, already give amply to the poor through other channels.