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Washington Diary

by Susan B. McLucas

I took the night train to Washington January 10, 2011 to be part of actions organized by Witness Against Torture and other groups aimed at shutting down Guantanamo. The protests are scheduled around the anniversaries of the opening of the detention center at Guantanamo and President Obama's announcement that he would close it within a year. January 11, 2002 was the day the first detainees arrived at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Over the years some 800 Muslim men have been held there and tortured with almost no access to justice. On January 22, 2009 President Obama promised to close Guantanamo, making many believe the nightmare was almost over. But two years later, there are no signs that Guantanamo will be closing any time soon.

Over a hundred people are fasting between Jan 11 and the 22nd.

On January 11, protesters in orange jump suits congregated at Lafayette Park, across from the White House. We heard from a number of speakers, including Frida Berrigan, about the Obama administration's continuation of the policies of indefinite detention and torture, that they had at first promised to change. Following commands from a man in military fatigues, a line of 173 people in orange jump suits, one for each detainee at Guantanamo, processed, two by two, in front of the White House and then to the Justice Department, which we closed down for over a half hour by blocking all entrances. The police decided not to arrest anyone.

At the Justice Department, we heard the names of all the detainees at Guantanamo and many at Bagram, in Afghanistan, and answered, "We remember you!" after each name. We sang "Courage, Muslim brothers. You do not walk alone. We will walk with you and sing your spirit come." The woman who introduced the song was Ruth Hooke, an 83-year old activist in Amherst, MA who told of her successful efforts to get the town of Amherst to condemn the indefinite detention of so many Muslim men and offer to take two of them in. (NoGitmos.org shows a few towns now that have done the same.) A peace poet, Luke Nephew, recited a powerful poem called "There's a Man Under the Hood." We also heard poems written by detainees at Guantanamo, which would break anyone's heart. Ray McGovern, the ex-CIA agent who is very active in the peace movement these days, and Andy Worthington, who has written extensively on the detainees in the "War on Terror" also addressed the crowd. It was cold and started snowing toward the end of our demonstration.
 

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