Thousands in the US and many more around the world demanded that the Bush administration SHUT DOWN Guantanamo and END torture. (The first photo above is from Belgium. The other two are from the U.S.) Initial reports show a wide range of people wearing orange everywhere in a variety of actions.
January 11 at the Supreme Court
Amnesty International and Witness Against Torture Demand SHUT DOWN Guantanamo - World Can't Wait.
150 people aged 15 to 80 walked silently, wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods across the rainy mall near the White House, and around the US Capitol. Their “handlers” in military fatigues kept them two by two, then lined them up in neat rows kneeling before the steps of the Supreme Court. A few were roughly yanked out of the line by stern men and women in black representing the civilian contractors and CIA who carry out the “enhanced interrogation methods.” These prisoners knelt holding signs saying “habeas corpus = fair trial” and “no torture”. Two rows of the prisoners marched slowly up the steps, with more civilians holding “SHUT DOWN Guantanamo” signs. Police stopped them, and they 35 were taken into custody.
Meanwhile, 41 people had entered the Supreme Court. According to Witness Against Torture, “a member of Witness Against Torture delivered a letter to the nine Supreme Court justices regarding Al Odah v. United States and Boumediene v. Bush, the two cases brought by Guantánamo detainees that they are now considering, along with a writ of habeas corpus for each of the 275 current detainees. Other activists attempted to unfurl a banner inside the Court building but were prevented from doing so by police, who began arresting them and shut the front doors to the building. Another group then started reading the names of the Guantánamo prisoners, but were prevented, whereupon they sat down and started chanting, “Shut It Down!” prior to being arrested.
Marchers came from across the U.S. to demand the closure of Guantanamo as the most notorious of US detention camps, but their minds were on ending the whole US torture state. They held signs against torture, secret detention, and the Military Commissions Act. They read poems written by detainees in Guantanamo, and demonstrated waterboarding. “We want the rest of the world to know that, even though George Bush is lying when he says the US does not torture, we are not a nation of torturers. It must stop now, with our actions,” said a college student who was being arrested in civil disobedience. High school student tourists were prevented by their teacher from watching for long, but proudly showed off their “no war” t shirts, and bought orange “no torture” stickers from World Can’t Wait. The action was part of a sustained worldwide effort by Amnesty International to shut down Guantanamo, and according to their website, there were similar actions in 83 places in 30 countries.
Quotes from Friday Jan 11 protest at the Supreme Court:
Amanda Daloisio, of Witness Against Torture, told how the group started in 2005, without professional skills, but knowing they must “bring hope to people held and abused in secret a mere 90 miles from our shores, but seemingly far outside the reach of our courts. Stories of the prisoners haunt and compel us. These accounts are brutal, vicious, difficult to hear, and almost impossible to comprehend. Stories too of families left behind, mothers pacing the floor, waiting for their babies to be returned, boys who are taken at 12, 13, 14 years of age. Parents weeping for their children, fathers wrenched from their families, and year after year, for six years, missing births and deaths, missing out on life.”
Jill Flores, from Psychologists for Social Responsibility, who traveled from Texas for the protest, said “I think that I represent lots of people who would like to be here today, but who are here in spirit, psychologists from all across the country that are withholding their dues from the American Psychological Association [for allowing their members to participate in US government interrogations], taking action, communicating what psychological torture is and educating people. I’m just one person out of many, a growing number of us. Psychological torture is different from physical torture. By design, it’s hidden and insidious in its effects. When we talk to victims of torture, they say that the psychological torture has such long lasting effects. The physical torture is something that’s identifiable and painful to outsiders. Psychological torture, on the other hand, leaves no marks and has much longer hidden effects that are trauma-ridden.”
David Swanson, AfterDowningStreet.org said, “The US detention camp at Guantanamo needs to be shut down, not modified, tweaked, nor improved. The majority of the prisoners there are known to be innocent. Many of them were purchased for $5,000 in Afghanistan, as if you wouldn’t get the wrong people that way. They are being denied any hope of exit, of judicial process, of contact with the outside world. They are going on hunger strikes or killing themselves, and our government, when they kill themselves, says, ‘that’s an unfair act of war against us.’ These are people committing suicide because of what we’ve done to them.”
Press release from Witness Against Torture:
DIRECT ACTION TODAY DEMANDED SHUT-DOWN OF GUANTANAMO AND AN END TO TORTURE AND INDEFINITE DETENTION
WASHINGTON, DC – Early this afternoon, 70 activists organized by Witness Against Torture delivered a message to the U.S. Supreme Court demanding the shut-down of the U.S. prison at Guantánamo and justice for those detained there. 35 activists were arrested inside the Court building and another 35 on the steps. The arrests followed a solemn march from the National Mall of 400 persons that included a procession of activists dressed like the Guantánamo prisoners in orange jumpsuits and black hoods – part of an International Day of Action that was endorsed by over 100 groups and that included 83 events around the world.
Inside, a member of Witness Against Torture delivered a letter to the nine Supreme Court justices regarding Al Odah v. United States and Boumediene v. Bush, the two cases brought by Guantánamo detainees that they are now considering, along with a writ of habeas corpus for each of the 275 current detainees. Other activists attempted to unfurl a banner inside the Court building but were prevented from doing so by police, who began arresting them and shut the front doors to the building. Another group then started reading the names of the Guantánamo prisoners, but were prevented, whereupon they sat down and started chanting, “Shut It Down!” prior to being arrested.
At approximately the same time, activists dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods representing the men imprisoned at Guantánamo, knelt on the steps of the Court building and eight others unfurled a banner on the steps. They were arrested as well. Each arrestee had previously surrendered his or her ID, and was taken into custody under the name of one of the Guantánamo prisoners.
“This group brought the names of the victims of Guantánamo right to the Supremem Court,” said Elizabeth McAlister, a member of the Jonah House community in Baltimore and the mother of one of the persons arrested inside the Court. “The Court has listened and listened to the views of the imprisoned, but has not heard them.”
Outside the Court, advocates read testimonies and names of prisoners, performed street theater, and handed out information. One performance was a simulation of waterboarding, one of the most controversial torture tactics used at Guantánamo and in other U.S. detention centers.
January 11, 2008 marks six years of detention without hope of release for nearly 300 men at Guantánamo. “Lawyers are working hard to bring the cases of the prisoners into the courts,”said Susan Crane of the Jonah House Community, who participated in today's action. “But lawyers can only do so much. These prisoners, who have been illegally detained, tortured, abused, and kept from their families for years, are not even able to communicate openly with their lawyers. Thats why we were here today to appeal to the Supreme Court justices to stand up now and end this abuse.”
Witness Against Torture is calling on the U.S. government to:
* Repeal the Military Commissions Act and restore Habeas Corpus;
* Charge and try or release all detainees;
* Clearly and unequivocally forbid torture and all other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, by the military, the CIA, prison guards, civilian contractors, or anyone else;
* Pay reparations to current and former detainees and their families for violations of their human rights; and
* Shut down Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and all secret CIA detention facilities.
About Witness Against Torture
Tomorrow's action is the latest by Witness Against Torture, which came into being in December 2005 when a group of 24 friends walked to Guantánamo to visit the prisoners – an action following the nonviolent tradition of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker. Upon returning to the U.S., they continued the work with public education and community outreach, networking and resource sharing, and acts of nonviolent civil resistance to draw attention to the plight of prisoners in Guantánamo and victims of the war on terrorism everywhere.
The International Day of Action launches a concerted campaign to Shut Down Guantánamo. For more information, please visit www.witnesstorture.org.
In an action called by World Can’t Wait, about 50 people from many organizations and perspectives came together Friday night in the heart of Waikiki holding signs and banners against torture and calling for Guantanimo to be shut down. New people whom we in World Can't Wait had never met before stepped forward to demonstrate and some of them donned orange detainee jumpsuits and black hoods and kneeled in front of the passing throngs. Participants ranged from people in their eighties to punkers in their teens. Several people from Friends of Sabeel (a pro Palestinian group), including a Muslim man were there, along with Amnesty International and a supportive off duty cop.
On one corner of the street, hula dancers entertained crowds of tourists. On the other corner, three hooded "prisoners" dressed in orange kneeled in front of a brilliant orange "Stop Torture" banner, flanked by protesters holding signs.
One of the wonderful things about Waikiki is that everyone is carrying a camera, video or cell phone, and you get the sense that your message is being instantly beamed around the world. Tonight was no exception, and the message was clear: "Stop Torture!", “Shut Down Guantanamo," "WaterBoarding is Torture."
The response from those who passed was mixed. Many, many stopped to thank us. Hundreds took leaflets and nodded agreement. But a surprisingly large number openly defended torture and made ugly and threatening comments. Organizers estimated about 60% of the passersby were against torture, and 40% seemed to be for it or think it was necessary.
Greensboro was back out on the streets for the nationwide SHUT DOWN GUANTANAMO actions, with large orange banners, orange jumpsuits, and a harrowing waterboarding demonstration. About 35 people took part in the downtown street corner demonstration, including students from UNC-Greensboro and Guilford Tech Community College, amongst whom were several international students. Also on hand were people from the
Greensboro chapter of World Can't Wait, Chapel Hill's Grass Roots Impeachment Movement (a.k.a. GRIM), the Winston-Salem Green Party and various others.
The response from passing cars was very positive, with lots of honks and thumbs up in support. There was also a pretty large contingent of cops gathered for the size of the crowd demonstrating, including the one demonstrators call "Taze" who tasered a non-violent protester exactly one year ago at this same intersection during a civil isobedience against the "troop surge." This time the cops caused no problems.
We were proud to be in the company of people like Witness Against Torture, who that day committed a brave act of civil disobedience at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC and others around the country (and the world!) who refuse to let the next generation inherit the US as a torture state.
On Thursday, January 10th in Los Angeles, seventy people gathered at the Echo Park United Methodist Church to hear Michael Rapkin, an ACLU lawyer who represents a Guantanamo detainee, Dennis Loo PhD. who is a member of the World Can't Wait national steering committee, Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution newspaper and member of the World Can't Wait advisory board, and John Heard, a noted actor and activist, speak about the horrors of codified torture and why we must all act to put an end to it and the Bush program that seeks to justify the unjustifiable.
Michael Rapkin shared his profoundly disturbing first-hand experiences in coming face to face with atrocities visited on detainees as they languish in inhumane conditions at the prison in Guantanamo, and have little legal recourse or hope toward a day of release and return to their homes and families. The depth of the cruelty that he has uncovered toward detainees as he has worked tirelessly for their release left the audience breathless with horror at times.
John Heard's reading of a poem selected from the recent compilation of writings of detainees, Poems of Guantanamo, was intensely delivered. People in the audience were visibly moved and some fought back tears as he finished and read the bio of the author: Al Anazi, a humanitarian worker who had been arrested by bounty hunters on his hospital bed after undergoing a leg amputation, who is forced to walk painfully on ill-fitting prosthetics held together with duct tape and has been suffering in that prison since 2002, with no hope of release.
Sunsara Taylor spoke about the importance of understanding this critical period in our history, finding opportunities to break through the din of the electoral process that immobilizes people, and pointed to the necessity of sharply truthful discussions throughout society about mobilizing a mass movement from below to break out and demand an end to all of this.
Dennis Loo PhD discussed the pivotal importance of 2008 (as the year in which either the monstrous acts of the Bush regime are codified or millions rise to the occasion and repudiate everything this despicable regime represents), the nature of group dynamics in the face of the abdication of moral leadership, and gave examples of the difference that even one individual can make in dramatically altering "pluralistic ignorance." He painted a picture of what "a scene seen by all" would look like, with orange evident everywhere, and counterposed traditional ways of looking at political organizing to the endemic change that DIN/333 reflect.
UCLA Campus: At noon on Jan. 11 at UCLA, the everyday rush between classes was pierced by the sharp shouts of two men, as they grabbed a student and accused him of being a terrorist. Despite his repeated insistence that he knew nothing of what they were talking about, and as a crowd gathered around, the men quickly forced him to wear an orange jumpsuit and threw the student onto a reclining board. To the crowd's shock, they then proceeded to pour water onto his face, causing him to choke and feel as if he were drowning.
This was, of course, a simulated waterboarding, conducted by 3 students from a nearby arts college. A local radio station covered the enactment, and reported it in the afternoon. The reporter asked students what they thought about the demonstration; the majority talked about how disturbing it was to see, adding that this was torture. While some students hurried past without missing a beat, others stopped to watch, and some took orange, and a few signed up. A German student thanked us for doing this, and was to get involved. A high school student who met us during IFAW Week came in orange tights and an orange scarf, and made plans to work toward Jan. 31.
Incredible black & bright orange stenciled pictures of a kneeling Guantanamo prisoner were seen around campus on banners hung from stairwells and buildings, on posters that read "Stop Torture" taped on walls, and on butcher paper on the sidewalk. Plans are being made to produce many more of these to transform the scene.
At 4:45 PM, a high-energy, yet somber “silent procession” of orange jumpsuits, starting from the steps of the Federal Courthouse – many in chains and wearing black hoods – began marching through downtown San Francisco as the commute traffic swelled.
This action was called for by Act Against Torture and supported/mobilized for by many others: the ACLU, Amnesty International, a number of religious groups, Code Pink, 911 Truth Alliance, and World Can’t Wait. This march was impressive, numbering about 200 at the start with over half wearing orange jumpsuits and our numbers grew along the way. Our demonstration down Market Street, in a fluid and diverse procession, 50
yards long, standing 5 abreast, was remarkably intense in spirit. We were of many backgrounds and all ages, carrying many homemade banners and signs.
At first, the procession was silent and very dramatic, as was the plan for the entire march. The energy coming from the folks in our demonstration was strong, and we sensed that we commanded the attention of the vast majority of onlookers. There were a lot of youth in the procession and some could not resist seizing this opportunity to make their stand against torture unmistakably clear. One young man with a bull horn was able to cite Act, after Act, after Act, by name and number, what rights have been obliterated, what dangers result, and that only us, the people, can set it straight. A few blocks later, some chanting began. By midway, the march was together in full blown chain-rattling chants, mainly “ACT AGAINST TORTURE, SHUT DOWN GUANTANAMO!” and “HEY-HEY, HOHO, GUANTANAMO HAS GOT TO GO!” Every so often the procession paused and “prisoners” staged a tableau, with c ostumed “guards and interrogators” holding cardboard cut-out military “weapons” to their heads.
As we made our way down Market, the busiest and most important street in San Francisco, we got bigger. Many passersby simply joined in -- freely walking and chanting along with us. There were ordinary shoppers and office workers, as well as some very well-dressed people. Suddenly, a stranger you’d never seen at this, or any other march was walking next to you, chanting as loudly as the organizers. There were other people who stopped, saw, and began to applaud, or to say thanks for doing this.
Of course, there was also some negative reaction, people complaining about traffic disruption, or bad mouthing the antiwar protestors. However, today, positive vibes far outstripped the insignificant. It was very exciting to see people’s startled faces as they caught sight of the 100 bright orange jumpsuits, their eyes and smiles lit up, their busy agendas just forgotten -- imagine the possible impact of 500!
Some of us were leafleting for World Can’t Wait, getting out several hundred flyers with the January 2008 Statement and a pitch for January 31. Also, another 100 original Calls went out as we talked to lots of new people in and alongside the procession. We heard some businessmen saying “Thank God somebody is saying this!” Passersby asked us, “Why orange?” “Where is Guantanamo?” “What is waterboarding, anyway? It’s on the news, yet they don’t say what it is . . .” This “Act Against Torture/Shut Down Guantanamo” march was so compelling, that every time we crossed a street, it snarled traffic. Many of our detainees were chained together, which necessitated crossing as a single unit. At four-way crosswalks, the prisoners would occupy all four streets - soon detainees were morosely walking in every direction. The patrolling police got increasingly antsy about this. There was a lot of honking, much of it positive, some negative, it wasn’t difficult to tell the difference. Some youth in jumpsuits would sit down or kneel in the middle of these intersections several times in this way, and the whole procession would stop traveling for ten or fifteen minutes. There were no arrests, as eventually everyone would move on to the next stop. The procession ended on the Embarcadero, at the foot of Market Street, with a final one of these “stops.”
Other related January 11 events:
1) High school outreach – at two or three schools, WCW student/youth organizers were distributing orange - we don’t have full reports from them yet. The biggest news was successful new organizing at one San Francisco high school, where one teenaged WCW organizer worked with teachers and students to organize an assembly two days before January 11. About 60 students came together from four teachers’ classes. They heard a presentation by author/journalist Larry Everest, breaking down the issue of torture and what is actually happening, and the importance of January 11. WCW brought jumpsuits and student volunteers tried them on as the discussion dug deeply into why the waterboarding, the detentions, and the torture are so wrong.
Many of the students had known little or nothing about all this before our program. By the end of the session: (1) when the question was posed: Do you think Americans’ lives are more important than the lives of other people? The answer was nearly unanimously NO. And (2) a whole lot of them asked their OWN question of us: “What can I do about this?”
On Friday at this high school, fifty students wore orange to school, all day. And seven of them made their way to the Market Street procession after school, and marched with the “prisoners.”
2) Right after the procession, World Can’t Wait had an organizing meeting at a nearby arts f acility. A good number of people came for their first time at a WCW program – again, very diverse and all ages. We screened an excerpt of the Bush Crimes Commission DVD, and the 2007 Nickelodeon News segment featuring high school World Can’t Wait activism against torture and the whole Bush trajectory. There was a good brainstorm over the new 2008 WCW plans for January thru March, and a lot of enthusiasm for joining into and building a movement to “bring all this to a halt,” both from new friends who have been politically active in their past, and others for whom this is a first.
In San Diego World Can’t Wait joined the Witness Against Torture rally held in front of the federal courthouse in downtown San Diego. Representing the spectrum of participants is a California organizer for Dennis Kucinich, activists from Vets for Peace, S.D. Peace Resource Center and S.D. Coalition for Peace and Justice and an organizer of a chapter of SDS at S.D. State University.
Around 60 people at the height gathered with banners and orange jump suits at a busy intersection uptown Minneapolis. Highly visible banners were an orange one calling for the US to close Guantanamo and a one from Iraq Veterans Against the War. People had smaller signs saying “No Torture. About 10 people were in orange jumpsuits. This action was organized jointly by the ACLU and Impeach for Peace/Minneapolis WCW.
NEW YORK CITY
Actors from several off-Broadway theater groups, including Subjective Theater, LAByrinth Theater and Artists Network, joined with World Can’t Wait to stage an exhibition right on Broadway in Times Square. The victim, hooded and in an orange jump suit, was dragged in by black-suited “private contractors”, who demanded “Give us the names!”
In spite of a steady rain, a crowd quickly gathered as the screaming victim was forced onto the board, a towel thrown over his face and the water began to flow. The graphic demonstration made clear once again that waterboarding is not “enhanced interrogation”;it is torture.The action was covered by Reuters, Associated Press,and Agence France-Presse.
The actors enthusiastically took this up, all with a maximum of 48 hours notice, clearing schedules and urging others to join in. They applied their skills to working out how to do the demonstration in the most powerful way possible. Afterwards, they talked about how the intensity and inhumanity of torture, even though acting it, greatly effected them. They volunteered to do this again and want to remain in touch with WCW for its future plans.
In Atlanta on January 11, there was a small protest of about 20 people to say No to Torture and Shut Down Guantanamo. The ACLU partnered with a weekly anti-war vigil that has a presence outside a high rise in midtown every Friday at noon. World Can’t Wait Atlanta participated in and helped promote the protest.
Since the protest was held at noon, we were able to talk with many of the hundreds of people that walked by during the course of their lunch hour and were visible to the traffic passing by. The ACLU brought out orange armbands, Shut Down Guantanamo T-shirts and fact sheets. WCW brought orange jumpsuits, flyers, orange ribbons, and bracelets. We had four people dressed in the orange jumpsuits, always a provocative action. And we had a very large banner that said, ”Stop Torture Wear Orange on Jan. 11, worldcantwait.org”. This was intermixed with the regulars who came out with anti-war signs, and a couple regulars had Impeach Bush for War Crimes posters.
The crowd that walked by was very mixed. About 25% took flyers, and about ¾ of them took orange ribbons to wear, many of them attaching the ribbon to their clothes immediately, and about 2% were openly for torture. Several people we talked with were torn and wanted to know what will stop the terrorists from hurting Americans, many people didn’t know what Guantanamo was(!), and almost everyone did not know that the U.S. has made torture legal with the Military Commissions Act.
The most disturbing element of the day was that most of the people did not want to engage at all. They would rush by us, so they wouldn’t have to deal with it. We tried to do some agitation, because we had a captive audience when there was a crowd waiting for the light to turn so they could walk across the street, about living in a torture state and is that ok with everyone, don’t you think we should be debating this everywhere we go, what kind of world do we want to live in. This did provoke more people to take flyers and the pro war and torture side to speak out too. One guy asked us what to do with the terrorists, when he was asked if he thought everyone in Guantanamo was a terrorist, he replied that he didn’t know who was in Guantanamo. We pointed out that this was one of the problems with Guantanamo, and he said that he trusts the elected representatives to make sure there are not mistakes. We suggested that he do some research.
Even though it was small we were able to talk with lots of people in a short amount of time, confront them with the reality of the world we live in and break into their isolated lives if only for a few minutes.
The Seattle Chapter of World Can't Wait Jan 11th WE WON'T LIVE IN A TORTURE STATE event was attended by many organizations and about 150 people. Most people saw that torture was a shameful aspect of the Bush regime, that the Bush regime should be held criminally accountable, they should be driven out, and that the elections will not solve the problems we face because there has been no accountability. All agreed it is a moral imperative that the practice of torture needs to stop now, today.
The crowd was almost silent while the "waterboarding" demonstration was being enacted. The press was leaning in close for the best picture. People were very affected by this demonstration and their faces showed a variety of emotions: shock, shame, and sadness even though everyone knew that this was a demonstration only. The crowd listened intently as James Yee, former US Army Muslim Chaplain at Guantanamo Bay, and author of "For God and Country" spoke about the deplorable conditions at Guantanamo Bay. Many other speakers spoke out loudly against torture including: Representatives from Amnesty International, World Can’t Wait, Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture, State Senator Eric Oemig, Judith Shadduck from Progressive Democrats of America*, Washington State NLG Chapters and Congressman Jim McDermott. Seattle WCW was joined by: Amnesty International, ACLU Close Guantanamo, Washington for Impeachment, EFOR, Neighbors for Peace, The Backbone Campaign, United for Peace of Pierce County, Witness Against Torture, Center for Constitutional Rights, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the Peace Corps and many others.