Solidarity from Central Cellblock to Guantanamo – Antiwar.com Blog

On Thursday, January 11, the sixteenth anniversary of the opening of the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba was marked by a coalition of 15 human rights organizations gathered in Lafayette Park, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House in Washington, DC. An interfaith prayer service was followed by a rally featuring song and poetry and addresses by activists from the sponsoring organizations, including attorneys for some of those detained at Guantanamo, few of these charged with any crime and some cleared for release years ago. Despite his declaration that “In the dark halls of Abu Ghraib and the detention cells of Guantanamo, we have compromised our most precious values,” President Obama failed to fulfill his promise to close the prison and days before his inauguration last year, Donald Trump tweeted, “There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield.”

I participated in the day’s events as part of the Witness Against Torture community. This was our fourth day of fasting, reflection and action together and many of us wore orange jump suits and black hoods representing the 41 Muslim men still held there. After the rally, WAT performed a simple ritual, serving 41 cups of tea one at a time to “detainees” who each lifted their hood to accept their cup and take a sip before laying it down in a row on the sidewalk. The names of the men were spoken aloud and had been written on each of the styrofoam cups, remembering that drawing and writing on such cups has been one of few outlets for expression for many detainees.

photos by Matthew Daloisio

Immediately after the tea was served, five of us, Ken Jones, Manijeh Saba, Helen Schietinger, Beth Adams and I, stepped into Pennsylvania Avenue, walking toward the White House with a banner calling for the release of these 41 along with the thousands imprisoned in immigration detention centers and the millions of victims of hyper-incarceration in the US. To approach the White House, we needed to cross under yellow police line tape and were immediately arrested by uniformed Secret Service police.

I have been attending protests at the White House since Jimmy Carter lived there and with each succeeding administration, the space allowed for political discourse has been reduced and the once protected free speech of citizens increasingly criminalized there. Under Trump, half the width of the formerly public sidewalk in front of the White House is fenced off, the inner perimeter now patrolled by officers armed with automatic weapons. Pennsylvania Avenue, long ago closed to vehicular traffic, is now closed off to pedestrians at the hint of a demonstration. This public forum, a place of protest and advocacy for more than a century, the place where the vote for women and benefits for veterans were won, has been strangled to the point where no dissent is tolerated there.

The five of us were…

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