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January 11, 2015 marks the thirteenth anniversary of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, the ninth anniversary of Witness Against Torture’s January 11 presence in D.C., and our seventh liquids fast.
There are 28 fewer men in Guantanamo as we gather this year then there were the last time we gathered for the Fast for Justice in DC. 127 men remain…many of whom have been cleared for release, but remain stuck in prison cells for up to 13 years, who continue to count the days, weeks, months and years they must wait to go home.
For the next 7 days, we are fasting in Washington, DC for the men in Guantanamo.
As our community closed our circle this evening, we went around, each sharing one word that we wanted to send to the men in Guantanamo.
Hope. Solidarity. Courage. Relief. Visibility. Freedom.
Through our actions this week– fasting and vigiling– we reach out to them, and to you. We hope you will join us in any ways that you can.
Witness Against Torture
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In this e-mail you will find:
1) DAY 1 – Monday, January 5
2) Press Advisory For #WeStandWithShaker Protest at British Embassy 1/6
3) January 5, 2015 Pentagon Vigil Opening Reflection By Art Laffin
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DAY 1 – Monday January 5
Fifteen members of Witness Against Torture (WAT) joined the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker weekly vigil at the Pentagon this morning. Wearing orange jumpsuits representing prisoners at Guantanamo, we stood silently as military and civilian workers entered the building. Our signs and banners said: “Forever Prisoner;” “Forced Feeding;” “Indefinite Detention;” “Solitary Confinement;” “Is This Who We Are?”
Martha Hennessy wrote this about our vigil at the Pentagon:
It was 7:00 AM and very cold at the vigil. The sun came up, rosy pink, reflecting on the walls of this mammoth building, as employees walked in to work. Some were finishing up cigarettes or candy bars as they went. I think of my aunt Teresa Hennessy who worked her adult life there, perhaps beginning in the 1950s through the 80s. What secrets did she die with, what feelings did she have about how she spent her life, a good Catholic? The faces of folks walking by today showed stress, boredom, eagerness; two sets of couples holding hands, many uniforms, and civilian clothes that barely kept them warm from the cold morning. Some were hearing our message as Art sang, “Everyone beneath their vine and fig tree,” in his beautiful tenor voice. Our fellow citizens are trying to provide for themselves and their families by participating in the works of war. How we have bastardized our work, our resources.
It was a call for justice and humanity, a quiet appeal to conscience. For an hour, in the heart of the U.S. war industry, we maintained a visual reminder that 127 men remain in Guantanamo. These prisoners have been abused and tortured in the name of preserving U.S. national security.
Later in the day, as new participants arrived, we began our seven day fast. WAT has taken this annual action since 2006 in solidarity with those still held, many without charge or trial, at the prison camp. Seven prisoners were recently released, but 59 who have been cleared for release are still imprisoned. The remaining 68 are in “indefinite detention.” Many of the Guantanamo prisoners are now conducting a hunger strike and are suffering through a forced feeding regimen. We vigil and fast as a means of accompanying our brothers in these brutal conditions. We hope that somehow they and their loved ones will know that our action is part of a grass roots network of campaigning, worldwide, undertaken by people who long to close Guantanamo, end torture, and find real security through fair and friendly relationships with people.
In the evening, we joined the group Dancing for Justice #DCFerguson #dancingforjusice at Dupont Circle. Undaunted by the freezing temperatures, we listened to black activists; a young dancer, sockless in the cold, led us in a dance followed by a die-in enacted to remember Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and the many other black men and women killed by police violence. Then we chanted, “We can wake up because black lives matter,” as we marched around the circle. Luke and Frank from the Peace Poets sang “I still hear my brother cryin,’ “I can’t breathe,” a song that has gone viral, knitting many people together in radical, uncompromising resistance to violence.
Martha Hennessy wrote about her encounter with Dancing for Justice:
Lindsay was such a beautiful dancer with her bare hands and ankles in the thirty-degree weather. Her movements conveyed pain, grief, and oppression as we remembered the black lives lost to police use of deadly force. Black lives matter. We were led through a ten-minute die-in, lying on the cold pavement, reflecting on family members who die on the pavement every day in the United States. Lindsay shared frightful statistics. A black man is killed every 28 hours at the hands of the police, security agents, or vigilantes. Over 60% of those killed have severe mental health issues that play a role in the end result of a shooting. Those who respond to calls for people in such mental states are not appropriately trained. And so tonight we raise our voices in grief and protest over these killings that have roots in our history of slavery.
To all of us, the connection between the violence of the U.S. military and its black holes like Guantánamo and the violence of the police and its mass incarcerations against black Americans rings clear as a bell.
Press Advisory For #WeStandWithShaker Protest at British Embassy 1/6
Press Advisory- 1/6/2014
US group, Witness Against Torture, Protests at British Embassy Over Imprisonment of Shaker Aamer
On the afternoon of January 6th U.S.based group, Witness Against Torture, will protest at the British Embassy over the continued imprisonment of Shaker Aamer, British citizen currently detained at Guantanamo Bay.
Dozens of protesters dressing in orange jumpsuits and black hoods will sing, chant and display posters saying “I Stand With Shaker Aamer” along with banners depicting Aamer’s face. In solidarity with several UK based groups and Aamer’s lawyers, Witness Against Torture will demand that the British government take a stronger stance both for the immediate release of Shaker Aamer and closure of the illegal detention facility in Guantanamo Bay Cuba.
A pending legal case against the UK brought by Aamer’s lawyers has invigorated renewed interest in his release.
Mr. Aamer, who has been held for 13 years without charge or trial. US authorities approved his release in 2007, under George W. Bush, and again in 2009, under Barack Obama.
January 5, 2015 Pentagon Vigil Opening Reflection By Art Laffin
We greet all who have come to the Pentagon in a spirit of peace and nonviolence. We, members of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker and Witness Against Torture, come this morning to the Pentagon, the center of warmaking on our planet, to say YES to love and justice and NO to the lies and death-dealing policies of a national security state and warmaking empire.
The Catholic Worker began this weekly Monday vigil in 1987. Mindful that Jesus calls us to love and not to kill, we seek to embrace God’s command to renounce all war and killing and practice the way of nonviolence. We call for an end to all U.S. warmaking and military intervention in our world, for the abolition of all weapons of war–from nuclear weapons to killer drones, for an end to all U.S.-sponsored oppression and torture and justice for the poor and all victims. We seek to eradicate, what Martin Luther King. Jr. called, the triple evils of poverty, racism and militarism. We remember and pray for all victims of our warmaking empire, including the nine men who have died at Guantanamo over the past eight years.
The U.S. continues to operate with impunity as it has waged lethal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, uses deadly killer drones as part of its kill-list and assassination program in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia, and continues its criminal policy of indefinite detention and torture at Guantanamo. This reign of state-sanctioned violence and terror must end! Too many people have suffered and died! All life is sacred. We are all part of the same human family. In biblical terms, if one person suffers we all suffer. What affects one, affects all!
In the Gospel of Luke Jesus quotes the prophet of Isaiah as he begins his public ministry. Jesus, who was himself a victim of torture and state execution, declares: the spirit of Lord is upon me because he has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. This admonition to proclaim liberty to captives was not simply a directive for Jesus but also a mandate for us today. And it has taken on a critical urgency regarding the 127 detainees still being held at Guantanamo, 59 of whom have been cleared for release, most have never been charged with a crime, and many of whom have endured tortuous force-feeding as a result of a hunger strike protesting their unjust confinement.
If a member of our own blood family was imprisoned at Guantanamo, what would we want people to do to help them? We would certainly want a speedy and just resolution to their case. Yet most of these men have languished at Guantanamo for going on 13 years, not knowing their fate. We need to see the men at Guantanamo as member’s of our own blood family. And we need to act on their behalf. Thus, a major step toward making this truly a year acceptable to the Lord is to outlaw the sin and crime of torture and war, to end indefinite detention, to release those unjustly held, and to close Guantanamo. We appeal to all those in power and all people of goodwill to join with us and many others to make this a reality.
To mark and mourn the 13th year since the first detainees were taken to Guantanamo on Jan. 11th, members of WAT are conducting a “Fast for Justice” to call for justice for the Guantanamo detainees and for the immediate closing of Guantanamo. We hear the cries of the condemned and tortured, and those detainees who died, like Adnan Latif, and we will not rest until they are free and Guantanamo is closed! We demand that all those responsible for directing and carrying out the illegal abduction, torture and indefinite detention of these men, to repent for what they have done and to make reparations to all the victims.
In this New Year let us recommit ourselves to labor together to create the Beloved Community, and a world free of torture, oppression, racism, violence and war. Let us never forget that we are all part of one human family. What affects one, affects all! Close Guantanamo Now!