Commit to Maintaining a 92-hour Vigil Until January 11, Tenth Anniversary of Guantanamo
WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–January 9, 2012. The specter of an orange clad, black hooded human being cowering behind iron bars is drawing a lot of attention at the White House this week. On Saturday, January 7, members of Witness Against Torture carried a reproduction of a Guantanamo cell over barricades surrounding Lafayette Park and deployed it in front of the White House.
“We plan on being here, in the cage, twenty-four hours a day, until January 11,” said Beth Brockman, a human rights advocate and mother of two from Durham, North Carolina. “We have dubbed January 11 a Day of National Shame. Ten years ago on this date, the first plane load of twenty men arrived at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. And this new architecture of torture, abuse and indefinite detention that is now known as GITMO began. We are here– as we have been for the last six years– to say no with our voices, our bodies and our hearts.”
The 92-hour vigil in front of the White House comes little over a week after President Barak Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which essentially makes Guantanamo permanent by barring the transfer of detainees to the United States, severely restricting transfer to third-party countries, and potentially grants the Executive the power to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens.
“President Barack Obama promised to shut down Guantanamo within a year almost three years. His signature on the NDAA annihilates that already faded promise,” says Brian Terrell, a human rights advocate from Maloy, Iowa. “Three years later, 171 Muslim men still remain in indefinite detention at Guantanamo. Ironically, most have been cleared for release and should be free to go. But they remain behind bars. We want to remind the President and people who visit the White House of Obama’s Guantanamo and Bagram detention regimes. It is easy to forget that Bagram held 600 prisoners when Obama took office. It now holds 3,000 and is being enlarged to hold more than 5,000,” Terrell concluded.
Witness Against Torture, a grassroots movement to shut down Guantanamo, initiated the “Hungering for Justice” liquids-only fast on January 2 and will break it ten days later on Thursday, January 12. About one hundred people—in DC and around the country– are participating in the fast and engaging in daily actions in front of the White House, and elsewhere to call attention to the terrible injustice that is Guantanamo, Bagram, and secret prisons.
The campaign will culminate in a “Ten Years Too Many: National Day of Action to Shut Down Guantanamo” mass mobilization at noon on Wednesday, January 11 in Lafayette Park, across from the White House. The protest is organized by a coalition of groups that includes Amnesty International, Center for Constitutional Rights, and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Last week, four Witness Against Torture activists were found guilty of “unlawful conduct” and “disruption of Congress” stemming from an anti-torture action in June 2011 at the House of Representatives. Charges against another nine activists were dropped and one was acquitted.
Witness Against Torture is a grassroots movement that came into being in December 2005 when 24 activists walked to Guantanamo to visit the prisoners and condemn torture policies. Since then, it has engaged in public education, community outreach, and non-violent direct action. For the first 100 days of the Obama administration, the group held a daily vigil at the White House, encouraging the new President to uphold his commitments to shut down Guantanamo.