Ciaron | 12.01.2007 22:18 | London
The callout for nonviolent direct action in DC was joined by War Resisters League, Code Pink and other nvda groups. Solidarity and anti-Gitmo vigils were held throughout the world at U.S. embassies and sites of significance.
Meanwhile, a delegation including a former British Guantanamo inmate, a mother of a present inmate, relatives of U.S. soldiers lost in Bush's war in Iraq and citizen's who died in the 911 NYC attack travelled to Guantanamo Bay on January 11th.
The London vigil was conducted in silence with violin accompaniment by Karen. It was conducted at a time when folks would be carrying out nonviolent direct action in Washington DC.
Martin and Scott took turns kneeling in full Gitmo sensory deprivation kit. The vigil opened and closed with a circle, we heard from Caoimhe recently returned from living and working in recently bombed Southern Lebanon, Ciaron recently acquitted of nonviolent disarmament of a U.S. war plane in ireland www.peaceontrial.com , Scott formerly of the U.S. Air Force, people with experiences of nonviolent resistance to the "War on Terror", work with refugees fleeing war and incarceration and detention.
Meanwhile in Washington DC a procession of hundreds of orange prison uniformed and hooded figures reached the U.S. Supreme Court and Federal Court. The Federal Court was nonviolently occupied, at time of writing 90 friends were reported arrested for refusing to vacate the building....further DC reporting on...... http://www.witnesstorture.org/node/571
The Senator wasn't even there. How would he even know if a constituent dressed as a Guantanamo detainee showed up to sit-in at his office? Well, that's what staff assistants do. They relate constituent letters and opinions to the Senator so that he can get a feel of how the home state folks really feel about issues. So, when I entered the office and explained to his staff assistant that I was presenting a habeas corpus petition as a symbolic act in solidarity with other activists around the world, on behalf of those detainees who have been denied their basic human rights at Guantanamo; at that point he probably had no reason to think we might be spending the rest of the afternoon together. He promised to get the info to the Senators office in D.C. along with the letter to the Senator expressing shame on him for voting to allow torture of detainees. That usually concludes business with constituents who wish to complain about a Senators vote. Your chances of actually visiting with a Senator are remote unless you're a wealthy lobbyist or entreprenuir. Most Senators wouldn't know an average American if they ran over one in their limousine. So, if you want to make a long lasting impression on a US Senator half a continent away you might have to do something more dramatic than writing a letter or signing a petition, in order to get his attention.
Now, I've never dressed up as a detainee in the war on terror before but the thought did occur to me that it might make for an awkward social situation; what with a man who has been the object of American cruelty and torture suddenly appearing in the office of Senator who often bloviates how America is a nation that champions liberty. So, I sensed a bit of awkwardness, though I must admit that Josh, one of the Senators staff assistants was very polite as was Derick who took the habeas corpus petition and the letter to the Senator and faxed it to the national office. I reassured Josh that I believe in non-violence and would not be doing anything to endanger him or the property in the office. I told him that I would be staying until I got a promise from Senator Bond that he would publicly renounce his vote against a torture ban and would promise to work to close Guantanamo and the other secret run CIA prisons. I told him of my intention to wait beyond the closing time of 5 pm and that I would only be leaving if arrested but that I would not resist arrest. I saw a nice chair next to an American flag and thought that would be an appropriate place to sit, hoping that my symbolic attire as a victim of American cruelty and incompetence would contrast nicely with the flag which, to many, still symbolizes fairness and liberty. I sensed some tension in Josh because a reporter from the Tribune and a photographer followed me into the office and Josh asked them to leave. I was surprised when they held their ground. After all, a citizen has a right to address grievances to government officials and the press has a right to cover those citizens doing that. It says so, right in the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. I couldn't see any tense body language because I had a bag over my head (actutually a pillow case). I imagine pillow cases are much easier to breathe through than those sandbags covering real detainees. So, I can only imagine the expressions of the office workers faces as they looked at a "detainee" sitting in the modern comfort of a Senators office lobby, far removed from the concrete and steel and barbed wire of Guantanamo with it's unending sameness, day after day for five years going on eternity.
Josh asked me to sign in the office log and wanted to be sure to have my name to pass on. After I signed it and resumed my hooded attire he asked if I was in fact Steve Jacobs and I said, "Yes, but for the time being I'm Ali Abdullah Ahmed, or at least his ghost". You see he was one of the three detainees who killed himself on June 10th, last year. A Navy admiral dismissed it as an act of "asymetrical warfare". I always thought warfare was when you tried to kill the other guy; not yourself. Maybe the good admiral was using "asymetrical logic"; the kind that only makes sense to the good guys. If you don't get it, you're not on the team and probably a terrorist or a terrorist sympathizer. It's from the "You're-either-with-us-or-you're-against-us" school of logic.
At one point, Josh offered me some water which I politely declined. I thought to myself, "Nice try Josh. And when I develop the urge to urinate I'd have to leave the building because you won't let me use the office bathroom will you? And as soon as I left to go you'd simply lock the door which you had to unlock to let me inside in the first place." I remember feeling pleased that I had limited myself to one cup of tea that morning so I wouldn't have to abandon my strategic position and leave the contest in order to go pee. As it was, I was not so sure I would be able to remain continent beyond closing time. It's foolish enough to sit in an orange jumpsuit with a bag over your head but one would imagine the compounded foolishness of doing so with a urine soaked jumpsuit. "None of us wants that", I thought.
Derick came out of his office and shook my hand, announced that he would fax my letter and info to the D.C. office. I thanked him for doing so. Then I sat alone under my headbag trying to imagine what reactions the Senators aides in D.C. would have. I felt good that at least someone in Bond's office would come to grapple with the fact that this little melodrama might turn out badly for their team should the press note Bond's pro-torture vote. It made me smile to think of it. After all, embarrassment is a great teacher. It's certainly taught me a thing or two.
And Columbia's mayor just happened to come in for a meeting that afternoon too. What serendipitous fortune. Mayor Hindman was greeted by Derick and was ushered in to a meeting in the inner sanctum after passing the picket signs held by supporters near the office entrance, decrying "Shame on Bond; Missouri's pro-torture Senator" and "Close Down Guantanamo". I didn't get to see the expression on the mayor's face, nor any shrugging gestures by Derick as if to say, "Oh, that guy over there? We get these detainees all the time at the office". I only heard Derick say, "Come on in" as they closed the door behind them. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in there but being a garrish symbol of oppression in bright orange under an American flag was just as good. It was like being the elephant in the room that everyone was trying to ignore. The more I thought about what others were thinking of me, the less foolish I felt. In fact, I felt serenity. I felt that this was were I was meant to be at that particular moment in time. I live for moments like that.
At ten minutes till 5, Derick came out and informed me again that he had sent on my information to Bond in D.C. and that they would be closing at 5 pm and I'd have to leave. I again told him I intended to stay until I got public renunciation of the torture vote etc and it was all very polite. He went back in the office and called the police. Two officers arrived right at 5 pm and asked me to leave and I explained that I would only if arrested but would not resist arrest. I took off my hood to speak to them. They told me I was arrested and as I was leaving in handcuffs and I thanked the office staff for their patience as I was led out the door.
Officer Casteel took me to the police station and he seemed genuinely interested in why I was willing to go to jail for the issue. I explained about Guantanamo and he told me that he understood Arab sensibilities because his family is from Egypt. What a surprise. We had a very convivial talk throughout the booking process. He even asked me about last springs pre-emptive invasion and occupation of our local recruiting station and when I blocked President Clinton's motorcade to protest the deadly sanctions against Iraq that ended up killing about a million innocent civilians.
Then it was off to the county jail where ironicly, I was booked in by Carol Parker a fellow St. Francis Catholic Worker who works there. She mentioned it was a little awkward to be in the position of booking a fellow Catholic Worker, but I reassured her that it was all a part of God's Cosmic plan; or maybe God was watching it as another episode of God's Cosmic Sit-Com. Sometimes it's a comedy and sometimes a tragedy. Sometimes it's both.
Anyway, I was released after about 24 hours and have been summoned to appear in court January 26 at 1:30 pm. I'm thinking of pleading guilty of wanting torture to end so badly that I felt I must commit a small crime in order to bring attention to a greater crime.
By Steve Jacobs
e-mail: St Francis Catholic Worker
WASHINGTON D.C. (go to http://www.witnesstorture.org/ for pictures and click
on -Video: Mike Flugennock http://sinkers.org/washdcJan1107.mp4 - for
a very good film of the day)
NEWS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
In Colombia, MO, Steve Jacobs was arrested in an orange jumpsuit and
hood at Sen. Kit Bond's office.
In Boise, Idaho, over 50 folks gathered for a vigil on the State
Cities holding vigils and demonstrations included London, England;
Warsaw, Poland; Melbourne, Australia; Ithaca, NY, Phoenix, AZ;
Montclair, NJ; Budapest, Hungary; Tel Aviv, Israel, and over 100
Over 500 gathered, with 200 in orange jumpsuits and hoods. A
procession went from Upper Senate Park to the Supreme Court and then
to the Federal District Court. Upon arrival at the Federal Court, 40
"prisoners" willing to risk arrest attempted to enter the building for
their day in court. They were refused entrance and sat at the doors
as the crowd gathered and chanted "Let them in!" (an image that was
carried around the world by the press who were there) 89 people,
delivering Habeas Corpus Petitions and wearing orange Shut Down
Guantanamo t-shirts, were arrested in the atrium of the Federal Court.
Many of those arrested withheld their identification and took the
names of men at Guantanamo.
All were released by 7:30pm with two charges of Disorderly Conduct and
April 18th court dates. Many release tickets have the named of
Guantanamo prisoners on them!
There were photos and articles in the NYTimes, The Washington Post and
Articles, reports, and/or photos appeared on NBC, the CBS evening
news, CNN, PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Time Magazine, Reuters,
Yahoo, AP, Al Jazeera, Voice of America, and hundreds of other places!
Over 100 groups from around the country and around the world signed on
to endorse the
Campaign to Shut Down Guantanamo. The groups ranged from the Sisters
of the Precious
Blood in Dayton Ohio to Iraq Veterans Against the War to the The Board
of San Miguel County Colorado (see http://www.witnesstorture.org/ for the
January 27th - Washington DC
UFPJ National Demonstration - possible "Guantanamo Prisoner contingent"
April 18th - Washington DC
Federal Court Press Conference and Court date for those arrested in DC
on January 11th
Writing to Prisoners - Families
www.cageprisoners.com for more information on how to be in contact
with prisoners and their families
And we'll be in touch as the campaign to Shut Down Guantanamo
on behalf of Witness Against Torture
A MESSAGE FROM MICHAEL RATNER,
PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS
The Washington protest was among the most moving I have ever
witnessed. As the hooded orange jump suited detainees made their way
from the Supreme Court to the Federal District Court, we all had tears
in our eyes and shock at what our country is doing to human beings. A
remarkable demonstration and I am proud to know and work with all of
President Center for Constitutional Rights
pervasive during the January 11th D.C. witness to close Guantanamo.
From the "Prisoners Procession" where over 200 people dressed in
orange jump suits and black hoods did a solemn walk from the unSupreme
Court to the U.S. District Court, to the action inside the atrium of
the court house, everyone who was part of this nonviolent witness
sought to give voice to the Guantanamo prisoners who have been so
On the day of our action, the Fifth Anniversary of the first prisoners
arriving at Guantanamo, we received news that at least 14 prisoners
have resumed a hunger strike. As we acted, we were keenly aware that
these prisoners are being violently forced-fed in special restraint
chairs. We also remembered in a special way the three prisoners who
died on June 10 in Guantanamo. The U.S. military stated that these
deaths were suicides, but there still has not been an independent
investigation done to establish the exact cause of death.
Some 500 people participated in the January 11th witness in D.C. and
89 were arrested inside the U.S District Court. Outside the court
house another 40 people were risking arrest in orange jump suits, but
police sealed off entrances to the court house and people were not
allowed in. Several people in our group delivered a legal brief and
Habeas Corpus motions on behalf of the Guantanamo prisoners to Judge
Hogan's office, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court House.
Others filed motions on behalf of prisoners at the court clerk's
office. For those of you who don't know, this is the court house where
several cases are pending for Guantanamo prisoners. Recently, a judge
of the U.S. District Court in D.C. ruled that a Guantanamo prisoner,
due to the Military Commissions Act, has no legal standing to be heard
before a U.S. court.
During our witness in the atrium, we wore our orange "Shut Down
Guantanamo" t-shirts and several banners were displayed. We offered
the Muslim Call to prayer, read from the scriptures, recited names of
the Guantanamo prisoners, read accounts of the tortured prisoners, and
read an excerpt from the legal brief we submitted on behalf of the
prisoners. We also read from the Center for Constitutional Rights
report which cited recent declassified government accounts of torture
committed at Guantanamo. The chief U.S. Marshall ordered us to put
away our banners and take off our t-shirts because, he said," no
political messages are allowed in the court house." We continued with
our prayer service to give voice to the prisoners who have been held
five years without charges, who have been tortured, and who have been
stripped of their humanity. As it became apparent the U.S. marshals
were preparing to arrest us, most of us knelt or sat down. When the
arrests began, we started singing Peace, Salaam, Shalom.
For some great photos of this action see www.witnesstorture.org.
Following our arrest we were held in several large cells in the
basement of the court house as the powers that be decided what to do
with us. After five hours we were informed that we would be given a
citation release. During processing most of us, who decided beforehand
not to carry ID with us, declared that we were there on behalf of a
specific Guantanamo prisoner and gave the name of that prisoner. We
refused all other info, including our own names. Our photo's were
taken and we were given a ticket saying that we were John or Jane Doe,
that we were charged with disorderly conduct, and that we have to
appear in court on April 18.
I am so grateful to have been part of this action. I am grateful, too,
for all who did actions in their local communities and who supported
us in any way. We keep our eyes on the prize and hold on!!!
With love, hope and gratitude,
Homepage: http://Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Washington DC
People found out about the event from the Socialist Alliance email discussion list, postings of which were forwarded widely. We also had an announcement in The Newcastle Herald in the week before as well as a few posters and leaflets.
It was good to see the turnout of SA members and supporters, as well as a number of Greens, including
Newcastle Councilor Keith Parsons, Quakers and others.
SA decided to organize the rally in response to an
International appeal by the US based group www.witnesstorture.org. OZ actions were also held
in Sydney and Melbourne.
It was also encouraging to see the number of people prepared to speak on the open mike. One of the most striking points made, was the hypocrisy of the US
invading and trying to impose its idea of democracy on another nation, at the same time that it flouts the very concept of justice. There were some 40 people present, at least 30 of whom signed a petition, as well as a card to
be sent to David, c/o Major Michael Mori. $50 in donations was collected which have been deposited in the national ‘Fair Go For David’ fund account.
Unfortunately, when I explained that no evidence had yet been tabled in Hick's case, I did not learn until later that day, that Federal Attorney-General Ruddock had never asked to see the brief of evidence. He explained this was because "I did not feel it was my role, as I was not prosecuting him". Isn't that puzzling, given his statements that Hicks is charged with "serious" crimes and that the Australian government would like to see him prosecuted by the US Military Commission?
Several people inquired about the film "Road to Guantanamo". A re-screening of this film is being rearranged, and we will shortly be in touch with
those on the contact list. We will also get some Close Guantanmo & Bring David Home T-shirts as suggested, & try to get hold of Terry Hick's film "Hicks vs. the President".
A number of people put their name down on the No War Collective email list. There is a proposal for a rally on Saturday 17 march - to commemorate the beginning of the Iraq war, four years ago. One suggestion for a speaker is a representative of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties
addressing the issues of the war and International law, & habeas corpus.
Thanks for your support, In solidarity, Niko Leka
Newcastle NoWAR Collective,
Convener Socialist Alliance (Ncsle Branch).
PS Here is the Major's address, in case you missed out on getting copies of it:
Major Michael Dante Mori
1931 Jefferson Davis Highway,
Arlington VA 22202, USA
At a news conference in front of the US Federal Courthouse Jean Athey, co-coordinator of the Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture, stated, "The Military Commissions Act is an attack on basic American and religious values and the Constitution." She quoted a line from the Statement of Conscience of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture: "Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions hold dear. It degrades everyone involved - policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation's most cherished ideals."
"This is the most dangerous law ever passed in the U.S. in my lifetime," Athey said. "As a patriot and person of faith, it is my obligation to do everything in my power to get this law rescinded. It deeply shames our country."
Art Laffin of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, another defendant, said, "The Military Commissions Act is an affront to God's command to love one another, an assault on human rights, and a blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Conventions. The real crime here is not the nonviolent action of the 16 people who were arrested at the White House for protesting the signing of this act into law by Mr. Bush, but rather the Bush Administration's policies of prohibiting due process and ordering torture."
The charge carried a maximum penalty of six months in jail, a fine of an unknown amount, plus court costs.
Organizations sponsoring the October protest and supporting the defendants include: The Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture ( www.wrrcat.org), in coordination with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Torture Abolition Survivor Support Coalition, DC Anti-War Network, Witness Against Torture, and PeaceAction Montgomery. Those arrested on October 17, 2006 and whose charges were dismissed on Wednesday January 17, 2007 were:
Herb Ettel, Jean Athey, Susan Crane, Matt Daloisio, Pete Perry, Eve Tetaz, Art Laffin, Malachy Kilbride, Harold Nelson, Tom Feagley, Gary Mummert, Steve Lane, Eleanor Lewis, Nancy Gowan, Bill Streit, Pat Saloman