On Wednesday, June 26th, 140 days into the hunger strike and forced feedings at Guantanamo, members of Witness Against Torture – in orange jumpsuits and black hoods – gathered with CODEPINK and human rights activists in front of the White House under a sweltering sun. We were calling on President Obama to honor his May 23rd statement in which he promised the closure of Guantanamo prison and the clearance and transfer of the 86 men being held there.
Hundreds of citizens from across the country joined in the hunger strikes as “rolling fasts.”
In front of the White House we held up the names of the 86 men still being held there for more than 11 years. Other activities followed. CODEPINK staged a dramatization of a forced feeding followed by the arrest of Medea Benjamin and two activists who tried to scale the White House fence. Throughout the witness we prayerfully sang:
Courage, Muslim brothers
We seek your liberty
We will stand with you
Until we all are free.
We agree with President Obama that “GTMO has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law. “ We ask the President to end indefinite detention and close Guantanamo.
“He must renounce the unprecedented, illegitimate, and increasingly discredited Military Commissions as an unacceptable substitute for true duce process; and he must reject any policy of indefinite detention without charge or trial, and commit to bring credible suspects within a proper judicial system,” said WAT’s Matt Daloisio, a third year law student.
During our witness -- in a voice for all to hear – I shouted out the deeply touching poems written by some of the Guantanamo prisoners. We sang “Ubi Caritas” and “The Prayer of St. Francis.” As the police gathered to arrest us, I read the names of the prisoners. Then, we women who remained danced in a circle singing joyful songs of peace. A total of 23 activists were arrested during the witness. As we were being handcuffed and taken to the Anacostia Police Station we carried the hope that our brothers in Guantanamo would learn that they were remembered.
At the police station we were ordered to sit on the curb and several of us women had to be helped by the police officers to do so as we were still in our highly constricting handcuffs. However, the officers showed compassion by holding a cup to our lips and giving us water as we were thirsty from the heat. We were padded down and placed five or six in a cell with an open toilet, processed and released. We all chose to go to trial rather than pay a fine. This way we might have the chance to publicly speak to the judge about how Guantanamo is a violation of human rights and our Constitution.
|Janice Sevre-Duszynska, ARCWP prepares to join White House Demonstration by Jusitce Advocates Against Torture |