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Report from Guantanamo Protests in DC

January 12, the second day of our actions in DC to close Guantanamo started with a panel discussion of the situation at Guantanamo and prospects for improving it. The speakers were Andy Worthington, who directed the movie Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo, Juan Mendez, the UN rapporteur on torture and Leili Kashani, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights. The panel began with an excerpt from the film Outside the Law and then Andy Worthington spoke. He described the three detainees who are shown in his movie, in great contrast to what the world has been led to believe about who was and is there and told their stories. To see info about the film and to order it, see http://www.spectacle.co.uk/projects_page.php?id=140. Next Juan Mendez described the troubles he is having as UN special rapporteur on torture getting access to Guantanamo under conditions that he can accept. He said that our task now is to prosecute those responsible for the torture and indefinite detention. Leila Kashani, from the CCR talked about the lack of accountability for the crimes at Guantanamo, etc. and the shameful efforts of the Bush administration to derail the investigation and prosecution of American officials for torture. She also noted the very troubling information that's come out about the 3 supposed suicides at Guantanamo in 2006, who were instead shown to have been tortured to death.

We then went to the Justice Department, circled it three times and then settled into a vigil outside. We handed out a lot of fliers about why we were there. One of the police officers who was out there with us, got a public affairs officer to come out and take a letter that Witness Against Torture has sent and gotten no response to, asking for a follow-up meeting to one they had months ago on the subject of closing Guantanamo, etc.

On Thursday, the third day of our actions, we rallied outside the courthouse where the ACLU was arguing the case Ali vs Rumsfeld, in which 9 victims of torture are protesting their treatment in Iraq and Afghanistan, and asking that Rumsfeld and 3 other officials who ordered the torture be held personally responsible. A few of us were allowed inside the courtroom, but most of us were kept out. (This is a whole injustice of its own.) But we rallied outside, not as close to the building as we would have liked, but anyone coming in to the building could see us very clearly. We had about 15 people in jump suits and another few holding signs with us. We marched around in front of the courthouse and tried to rmake the detainees real to the people seeing us. Hand warmers were distributed which added to the comfort of the protesters. We are getting used to marching around to orders from our leader and to being lovingly guided through each difficult spot, since our visibility is weak with our hoods down. "Two steps up here, a little incline coming up," etc.

When arguments were over, the ACLU lawyer came out and spoke to us. She promised to let her clients know that we were there at the trial and said it was a real morale booster for her to have us outside. She said the panel of 3 judges was pretty hostile and they felt that a precedent had been set in a previous case, so that it would have been hard for them to let the detainees have their way. She stressed the importance of keeping the pressure up to hold officials accountable for their actions in office.

From the panel we went back to the Justice Department to remind them that we're still unhappy about the detention and torture of so many people. We plan to keep a presence there every day during the eleven days that many of us (not including me) are fasting. 

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