On Saturday 7 January, the weekend before the tenth anniversary of the opening of the illegal prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, over 200 people from London and other parts of the UK converged outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square to mark this unfortunate day in history and to stand in solidarity with the 171 prisoners who remain there. Organised by the London Guantánamo Campaign (LGC), the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign (SSAC), the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)Read more >>
A recent flurry of activity by the London Guantanamo Campaign (LGC) and its supporters sought to capitalise on President Obama's UK state visit (24-26 May) and the Royal Wedding (29 April) to press home two of their key demands:
1. The return of two men with ties to the UK still being held in Guantanamo indefinitely without charge, namely former British residents Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha;
2. The closure of Guantanamo, Bagram and other illegal US detention facilities.
The group's activities included two living statues actions on box plinths in Parliament Square, a petition hand-delivered to 10 Downing Street, a protest outside Buckingham Palace and a statement signed by prominent individuals and organisations.
Pre-Royal Wedding Statues in Parliament Square - 27-28 April
Individuals associated with LGC and Peace Strike, dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods, posed for several hours atop Peace Strikes’s boxes-cum-plinths in Parliament Square in the days leading up to the Royal Wedding, catching the attention of hordes of visitors and photographers.
Obama State Visit - 24-26 May
Downing Street Petition - Monday 23 May
On the day before Obama's arrival in the UK from his trip to Ireland, Maria Gallastegui from Peace Strike delivered a petition by hand to 10 Downing Street calling on the Prime Minister to raise the cases of Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha and demand the closure of Guantánamo during his talks with the US President.
Buckingham Palace - Tuesday 24 May Several LGC supporters joined a protest outside Buckingham Palace organised by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign as Obama banqueted with the Queen. The demonstration took place alongside those of the Stop the War coalition and others. Among the orange-suited protesters were a pair wearing Obama and Cameron masks, which caught the attention of the multitude of photographers and reporters who were present, including those of the *Associated Press, who reported the following:
"Just beyond the palace's black-and-gold gates, about a dozen orange-jumpsuit clad demonstrators were rallying for the freedom of Guantamano [sic] Bay detainee Shaker Aamer, a former British resident who had been held without charge for some nine years. One man wore plastic shackles and an Obama mask."
Parliament Square Statues Mk II - Wednesday 25 May
On the second day of Obama’s state visit, the London Guantánamo Campaign and Peace Strike held a day-long vigil in Parliament Square. Three LGC supporters, dressed once again in orange jumpsuits, one wearing an Obama mask (and sometimes a Cameron mask) and shackles and the other two wearing black hoods, posed for six hours straight atop Peace Strikes's boxes-cum-plinths as Obama addressed the two houses inside the Palace of Westminster. The protesters would have been visible to the President and his entourage as the motorcade drove out of the gates.
Finally, the LGC put out a short statement addressed to the Prime Minister, signed by nearly 50 prominent campaigners, politicians, human rights lawyers, former Guantánamo prisoners and others. Amongst the signatories were journalists John Pilger and Andy Worthington; actress Kika Markham; John McDonnell MP; Jean Lambert MEP, Sarah Ludford MEP; and CND's Kate Hudson. The letter called upon David Cameron to use the occasion of President Obama's visit to press for the closure of Guantánamo Bay and the return to the UK of Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha. It was sent to the Guardian and Independent newspapers, but not published by either.
You can view the text of the letter and the full list of signatories here: http://londonguantanamocampaign.blogspot.com/2011/05/unpublished-letters-from-obamas-visit.html
LGC also issued a press release ahead of Obama's arrival in the UK: http://londonguantanamocampaign.blogspot.com/2011/05/press-release-campaigners-urge-prime.html
In addition, Aisha Maniar from the LGC had a comment piece published on the Open Democracy website: http://www.opendemocracy.org.uk/ourkingdom/aisha-maniar/guantanamo-bay-shadow-cast-over-special-relationship
Upcoming LGC events:
Shut Down Guantánamo monthly demonstration
The LGC’s monthly demonstrations continue, with the next one taking place on Friday, 3 June:
12 - 1pm - US Embassy, Grosvenor Square (opposite main entrance)
1.15 - 2.15pm - Speaker's Corner, Hyde Park (on pavement outside)
Rally to mark International Day in Support of Victims of Torture - Sunday 26 June, Trafalgar Square
This rally is being organised with Kingston Peace Council. Confirmed speakers include: Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files and co-director of Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo; Maya Evans from Justice Not Vengeance; Ilyas Townsend from the Justice for Aafia Coalition; Naomi Colvin from UK Friends of Bradley Manning; and Maria Gallastegui from Peace Strike.
Other actions you can take:
Add your name to the LGC’s open letter to President Obama regarding Shaker Aamer: http://londonguantanamocampaign.blogspot.com/2011/03/sign-our-open-letter-to-president-obama.html
Ask your MP to sign EDM 1093 on Guantánamo Bay: http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-11/1093
London Guantánamo Campaign
Andy Worthington’s blog
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