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The parents of an American detained in Russia are protesting outside the White House

Joey and Paula Reed protest in Lafayette Park near the White House on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Their son, Trevor Reed, just started a second hunger strike to protest his treatment in a Russian prison.
Anna Moneymaker
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Joey and Paula Reed protest in Lafayette Park near the White House on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Their son, Trevor Reed, just started a second hunger strike to protest his treatment in a Russian prison.

Updated March 30, 2022 at 2:01 PM ET

The parents of Trevor Reed, a U.S. Marine veteran imprisoned in Russia, are staging a protest outside of the White House on Wednesday to raise awareness about his case as he embarks on his second hunger strike in recent months.

Reed has been detained in Russia since August 2019, when he was arrested during a trip to visit his girlfriend and study the language. The Texas native was convicted in 2020 on charges of assaulting a police officer, and sentenced to nine years in jail — a sentence that was upheld after he lost an appeal last June.

Reed has said he was drunk the night of the event and doesn't remember it, while his family has accused Russian officials of fabricating the charges to use him as a bargaining chip with the U.S.

He is one of several U.S. citizens currently being held in Russia, including Paul Whelan and WNBA star Brittney Griner.

Reed's family said they spoke with him earlier this month for the first time in over 200 days, the Fort Worth Star-Telegramreports, adding that he sounded sick, tired and hopeless and spoke of feeling forgotten.

His parents, Joey and Paula Reed, said in a statement on Tuesday that he was sick with possible tuberculosis, and had begun another hunger strike to protest his treatment by Russian authorities. (He refused food for six days back in November, to protest his incarceration and alleged violations of his human rights.)

Reed spent 10 days in what his parents called a prison "hospital," reportedly without receiving any tests or medical care beyond an X-ray that they said was performed incorrectly. After returning to the prison, he asked to return to the hospital but was placed in solitary confinement instead.

"While we are in awe of our son's integrity and strength of character, as his parents, there aren't words to express how concerned we are about our son's health," they wrote.

Joey Reed told CNN that his son has all the symptoms of active tuberculosis, including coughing up blood, as well as "some sort of injury where he thinks he might have broken a rib" — but is only being given aspirin.

While Reed is protesting in Russia, his parents are planning to campaign outside the White House to raise awareness about his situation and press for an in-person meeting with President Biden.

They have long pleaded publicly for help from the U.S. government, and spoke with the president by phone during his trip to their hometown of Fort Worth earlier this month.

The Reeds say that Biden told them on the call he was sorry he couldn't visit them in person, and that his staff would schedule a meeting with the family at the White House soon. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on March 8 that "we are working on a time for the President to meet with his family over the short term," without specifying a timeline.

After exactly three weeks of waiting, the Reeds have evidently decided to pay a visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. themselves. They told CNN that they are scheduled to stay until Friday, but are willing to extend their visit if needed.

"I'm going to see if I can get to see them," Biden told reporters when asked about the Reeds on Wednesday. "They're good people. We're trying to work that out."

The Reeds wrote in their statement that they believe Biden — who they said they voted for — is the only person who can save their son's life, and urged his administration to "stop deliberating and start acting."

They fear that he will become the next Otto Warmbier, referencing the American college student who was imprisoned in North Korea in 2016 and died a year later after being released in a vegetative state.

"The time is now to bring home Trevor, Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner," they wrote. "As we have said for more than a year, we continue to worry escalating tensions, or rhetoric, could lead to Russian authorities inventing additional false charges against Trevor."

This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.
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