Posts Tagged protest
President Obama will give a major speech Thursday at the National Defense University in Washington, reportedly about drones and Guantanamo. The Washington Post reports that
“Obama was prepared to deliver the speech earlier this month, but it was put off amid mounting concerns over a prisoner hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay and more recently the Justice Department leaks investigation — both of which the revised speech may address.”
The Post also reports that an anonymous White House official says the President
“…will discuss the policy and legal framework under which we take action against terrorist threats, including the use of drones. And he will review our detention policy and efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.”
World Can’t Wait has been pondering hard on what more we can do to create a political situation where Obama has to back down, release at least some of the men at Guantanamo, and be forced into closing the prison. The use of indefinite detention and targeted killing is an affront to generally recognized precepts of international law. Usually, the administration answers, as Eric Holder did last year, makes a claim that “we can do whatever we want,” essentially, when “national security” is at stake.
Obama promised to close Guantanamo more than four years ago. We have been led to expect, over the last four years, that it’s really not that important to him to do so.
But along comes the prisoners’ hunger strike — a dynamic factor neither Obama’s people, nor the millions of us outraged at Guantanamo’s continued existence expected. Their action could bring a possible change in the administration’s plans to maintain indefinite detention, at least for some of the men in Guantanamo.
A major missing ingredient in this moment, though, has been the collective voices of artists, intellectuals, politicians, religious and cultural figures who are respected and beloved for being voices of conscience, speaking as one to demand that the torture of Guantanamo be ended. It’s time and past time, as more than 100 days of the prisoners’ hunger strike have passed, that we provide a way for them to speak out together, and for that message to be seen.
Dennis Loo of Cal Poly Pomona drafted a message which will run this week as a full page ad in The New York Times this week which could serve as such a vehicle. Demanding “Close Guantanamo,” it has been signed by 1100, including John Cusack, Alice Walker, Wallace Shawn, Junot Diaz, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Eve Ensler, Kara Walker, Dave Eggers, Glenn Greenwald, Paul Haggis, Bianca Jagger, Ariel Dorfman, Erica Jong, Michael Moore, Ron Kovic, Tom Morello, Mark Ruffalo, Coco Fusco, Peter Selz, James Schamus, Carl Dix, Oliver Stone, Cindy Sheehan, and Cornel West, joined by attorneys for the Guantanamo prisoners, law professors, clergy and academics.
The message powerfully challenges us to look at Guantanamo as “part of larger, alarming developments” including the NDAA, targeted killing by executive order, and the prosecution of whistle-blowers, “most flagrantly in the torture, slander and draconian legal charges against Bradley Manning.”
It says, “It is up to people to stand up for principle and morality when their institutions and public officials refuse to do so. The fates of those who are maimed or killed by our government’s policies are inextricably intertwined with our own: we must listen and respond to their cry for justice. We demand the release of the cleared Guantanamo prisoners now, and an end to indefinite detention without charge for the others, before they lose their lives.”
My friend Stephen Phelps, Senior Minister at The Riverside Church, signed The New York Times ad on closing Guantanamo we plan to publish next week, and sent a note saying he would “begin to send the hope around to some others.” This hit me strongly. For the last four+ years, since Obama promised to close it, nothing hopeful has come out of Guantanamo.
It’s only the courageous, and desperate, actions of the prisoners which provide hope now, and which are enlivening the rest of the world with the idea that now Obama must, as Lynn Feinerman put it in Tikkun Daily, “Close Guantánamo. Repatriate and rehabilitate those destroyed by it.”
25 former Guantanamo prisoners just wrote Obama demanding he close the prison. They say that force-feeding (for which even more “medical” personnel have been brought in recently) “demonstrates the absence of any morals and principles the US administration may claim to have regarding these men,” and cite:
- The abuse of the prisoners’ religious rights, such as the desecration of the Qur’an
- The use of chemical sprays and rubber bullets to “quell unrest”
- Regular and humiliating strip searches
- Extremely long periods in total isolation
- Interference in privileged client/attorney relationships
- Lack of meaningful communication with relatives
- Arbitrary imprisonment without charge or trial
Ahmed Rachidi, a former prisoner released to Morocco, said recently:
The Obama Administration claims they are on a hunger strike because they want better treatment or better food. But that is not true. They are on a hunger strike because they want justice. They want freedom. They want to go home to their families. And this time they will not quit.
I hope we don’t fail to see how horrific a hunger strike is. Rachidi goes on:
This will be the last hunger strike. To stop eating is the only way prisoners can exert any control when they are powerless. But this time Shaker and the other prisoners don’t have the same strength, the same energy they used to have. Mentally and physically they are very weak. I am worried that something can go wrong, that someone will lose his life… Guantanamo is a concern to every human being who believes in democracy, who believes in human rights, who believes in the rule of law. We don’t have a lot of time. We need to come together to force President Obama to restore the rule of law and put an end to this disgrace.
In the thirty-six hours since we debuted the ad text, and began asking people to sign on, circulate it, and donate for its publication, I’ve been very heartened by the comments and donations, from $5 to $1,000. The lawyers who represent prisoners are a group with every reason to have given up in defeat, since they are barely allowed to get to Guantanamo, and now their clients are visibly weakened, some unable to converse. They are signing on, and helping raise funds.
Activists, artists, academics, lawyers, elected officials: this is an urgent call to you. Unite your voices together to support justice for the prisoners in the “newspaper of record” on the 100th day of the hunger strike.
Publishing this ad will resonate in a way other actions don’t, and could help create a situation where the Obama administration is forced to respond. Let’s get into the streets around the world on May 17-19 as part of taking hold of the moment where how a society is measured comes down to closing Guantanamo, and gives hope that the war crimes this country has perpetrated can be addressed.
The April month of protest against US drone warfare and surveillance ended very strongly in Syracuse Sunday with a protest of hundreds of us at Hancock Air Force Base, where drones — unmanned aerial vehicles — are piloted over Pakistan, Afghanistan, and perhaps Yemen, Somalia and other countries. Picture the starkness of the political clash:
- On the empire’s side, the richest, strongest, most dangerously armed military in world history. A worldwide network of perhaps 1,100 bases and hundreds of thousands of troops with the most sophisticated weapons of mass destruction, extending from space; networks of surveillance, secret operations, indefinite detention, with political cover of compliant politicians justifying more and more. At Hancock, this power was expressed through police forces arrayed around us, photographing from every angle, threatening arrest and prison terms for stepping over an arbitrary line on the street.
- On the side of humanity, in opposition to the war OF terror, a few hundred people, many with white hair, deploying the means of song, speech, costumes, music, symbolism, and appealing for justice, at pains to recycle and not harm the grass. The protesters carried the names and photographs of people actually killed by the drones, reading their names aloud, and symbolically dying on the street. Their weapons, the truth that the war on terror is illegitimately destroying whole countries and people.
The serious and dignified march of people wearing black, carrying mock coffins representing the countries attacked by the U.S. was staged to dramatize the gap between what the U.S. promises — “democracy” — and what it delivers: domination and destruction. As a press release from the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and Stop the Wars said:
People who participated in the demonstration, including some who were arrested, came from all over the country to raise an outcry against the proliferation of drone strikes abroad, including countries with whom the US is not at war. Drone use violates the US Constitution, Article 6, and International Law, which the U.S. has signed on to. Demonstrators also object to the militarization of the police and the growing domestic use of drones.
For crossing the arbitrary police line in the street by the base, 31 people were arrested and charged mostly with Obstructing Government Administration, a Class A misdemeanor often used against protesters, which carries 12 months in jail, and with Disorderly Conduct, another catch-all anti-protest charge. Almost all were given bail, up to $3500, and forced to sign “order of protection” which disallows them from returning to the base. Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, shared the content of the order that protesters:
“refrain from assault, stalking, harassment, aggravated harassment, menacing, reckless endangerment, strangulation, criminal obstruction of breathing or circulation, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, forcible touching, intimidation, threats or any criminal offense or interference with the victim or victims of, or designated witnesses to, the alleged offense and such members of the family or household of such victim(s) or witness(es) as shall be specifically named Greg Semmel.”
Greg Semmel is commander of Hancock AFB.
AS IF the Air Force needs the same type of protection from peaceful political protest that a battered woman needs from her abuser(!)
What does the US military and the government fear from political protest at the gates of the base, such that people engaged in non-violent speech and actions would be banned from being on the street near it? Likely, they fear that thousands will come with the same message. But nothing they do can make the US war on terror, with its drones and concentration camps, legitimate, just, or moral.
One way to support the protest is to contribute to the bail fund from wherever you are:
The thirty-one arrestees were arraigned in De Witt Town Court before Judges Benack, Gideon, and Jokl, who imposed bails ranging from $500 – $3500, totaling $34,000. Some of the defendants were released with appearance tickets Others are refusing to post bail and will be held in jail until the next court date of May 7th & 8th. Donations may be sent to the Syracuse Peace Council, with checks made out to Syracuse Peace Council, note: Upstate Drone Action Bail Fund. 2013 E. Genessee St., Syracuse, NY 13210.
Saturday was the first time it felt like spring in NYC, and crowds of people filled Union Square Park watching jugglers and musicians, and just hanging out. It was so heartbreakingly pleasant, one felt bad bearing the news to tourists that out of many things wrong in this class-divided world, we were about to challenge them to take notice of one very important thing.
Ten of us put on orange jumpsuits to mark the 51st day of the potentially deadly hunger strike by men imprisoned by the U.S. at Guantanamo. Witness Against Torture activists have been fasting for a week in solidarity; this was a public way and place to end the fast, and have visual impact. Often I am doing public relations at events like this. Today I wanted to experience the time under the hood, and be able to listen for peoples’ comments.
90% of those seeing us walked on by. Hundreds took flyers. Many took photos, though oddly, most didn’t really stop to find out much. Several said “thank you” to those of us in jumpsuits. Comments ran from “they should burn that place down with everyone in it,” to “they should free all those guys, and then burn it down!” A few people ranted that “they” were all terrorists. One said, “the prisoners are lucky; they could of all just been shot.” Some people were just confused, saying Obama had closed down the prison. Memorably, one hipster told another, “I think they’re monks, protesting Easter.”
One of the people flyering commented that all the Black people who stopped for a flyer “got it,” recognized what the problem is, and expressed compassion. A people who has suffered oppression is maybe most able to empathize, notwithstanding that the current President and Attorney General are responsible for no prisoners leaving Guantanamo in the last 18 months alive.
At this point, so far into the fast, we hear men are suffering terribly, possibly being deprived of water they see as safe to drink, some force-fed and some hospitalized. Clive Stafford-Smith, attorney for Shaker Amer, tweeted “90mins on phone with Shaker Aamer today; 130 detainees on hunger strike; situation in
#Gitmo as dire as General ‘Miller Time’” referencing Geoffrey Miller, who ran Guantanamo in 2004, and then went to Abu Ghraib, running torture at both.
How do we close Guantanamo and save the lives of the prisoners? Without the men taking this action, the White House would not have been finally forced to acknowledge the hunger strike, and major media would not be now covering Guantanamo. Their action is decisive, and desperate, as their attorneys report. There is no way out of Guantanamo now, absent a mass demand that it be finally closed and the prisoners charged and tried, or released, as most of them have been already cleared for.
But our action is decisive also. Find out what you can do where you are.
Support World Can’t Wait’s work to make Guantanamo visible in the U.S. Materials (flyers, signs); websites, travel cost $$. Our work is 100% supported by direct donations from individuals. Donate now.
Six anti-war activists and leaders, aged 30 through 75 were sentenced on March 19 to eight hours “community service,” and $125 court costs for a disorderly conduct conviction arising from a protest 300 people made December 1, 2009, when Obama announced, inside the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a huge expansion of US troops to Afghanistan.
Elaine Brower, Matthis Chiroux, Tarak Kauff, Alison Beth Levy, and Richie Marini agreed to serve the time, washing Highland Falls, NY, ambulances and police cars, and pay the fee. Beverly Rice asked that she be able to send funds instead to the National Lawyers Guild, and when that was denied, she took jail time, on the basis of conscience. Her sentence was ten days at the Orange County jail, where she was taken immediately. The sheriff says Bev, 75, will be released early.
The case had gone on for more than 3 years. After one of two disorderly conduct convictions was overturned on a pro se appeal, a new judge delayed sentencing because court records were “lost” in Hurricane Irene. He then forced the defendants to appear two more times with an attorney before sentencing. The courtroom in Highland Falls was packed with mostly young people charged with traffic and other violations, at least one in an Army uniform. Everyone listened quietly as most of the defendants made pre-sentence statements to the judge.
Elaine Brower said she had been outside the gate at West Point to “petition my government” to stop the war. “My son did ten years in the Marine Corps, two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He has done horrible things” as part of the U.S. war on those countries. She said “I am seeing that injustice in the eyes of my son who is emotionally wounded.”
Elaine went on to say that “we have no recourse” to get the government’s attention except our legally permitted right to assemble. “They keep sending young men and women to kill. We protested at West Point when Bush was president, and we had to be there when Obama expanded the war on Afghanistan. And we’ll be here when the next president invades a sovereign nation. Humanity and the planet come first. Crimes are crimes, no matter who does them.”
Richie Marini’s statement included:
The United States has an incredibly violent history as we stand here today on land acquired through Genocidal means and can claim title to the only country to ever use an atomic weapon of mass destruction against another. The United States government continues down this trajectory of violence today with it’s use of torture, extraordinary rendition and drones that murder innocent civilians every day. It commits these violent acts to sustain itself by creating new markets, obtaining resources and enslaving people into it’s system in order to prevent itself from collapsing at the expense of innocent lives abroad…
Despite the penalties imposed upon me here today I will continue to work effortlessly to organize the citizens of Highland Falls and elsewhere to put stop the crimes of this government. As an Humanitarian, this is the greatest service that I can do for the citizens of Highland Falls, the United States, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere… Read more
Bev Rice said she would not apologize for the protest:
A total of 2177 American soldiers have been killed during the eleven years we have been fighting in Afghanistan.
1230 have been killed since we were arrested three years ago? How many more have been wounded? How many more have been sent home suffering emotional and mental illnesses? Consider, 22 veterans commit suicide each day! Consider also the sorrowful loss for the family and friends of our dead and wounded soldiers. I consider these each and every day.
I am proud to have been involved in the protest, and to have participated in the defense of the West Point Six. We need more people willing to speak the truth, and put themselves on the line to stop the crimes of our government.
A NATO helicopter killed two children herding cattle. The Wall Street Journal reported:
Toor Jan, 11 years old, and Andul Wodood, 12, had been walking behind their donkeys in Oruzgan Province when the helicopter fired on them, Afghan officials said. The two donkeys were also killed.
General Dunford said that coalition forces thought they were firing on insurgent forces, and killed the boys by accident.
More “collateral murder,” not mediated by a NATO apology.
The response of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, reported by Voices for Creative Nonviolence, was to say “we are those 2 Children,” and to find donkeys, make signs, and take to the public square to protest the killings.
If children can make this protest under conditions of war and great deprivation, what does that challenge us to do?
It’s a good thing that tens of thousands of people, many young, braved the cold Sunday and marched around the White House demanding that Barack Obama turn against the Keystone Pipeline. The pipeline is already a disaster for Canada, and for the ultimate recipients of the oil, whether that’s the U.S. or China, because of the price to the global environment. A concise description of the damage already done, and that could be launched was run by Revolution Newspaper last week in Resisting the Keystone XL Pipeline—and Fighting for Humanity and the Planet:
Canada’s tar sands, the second largest oil reserve in the world (behind Saudi Arabia), already produce 155,000 barrels of oil per day. The tar sands are sticky deposits of bitumen (solid or semi-solid petroleum), trapped beneath 54,000 sq. miles of Canada’s boreal forests and wetlands. Extracting oil from the tar sands produces three times more greenhouse gases (which cause global warming) than extraction of conventional oil.
It seems on Sunday, many were marching to encourage Obama, in the belief that he only needs support to keep the “backbone” to resist the relentless profit-drive of the global imperialist system to use up fossil fuel resources as quickly as they can. But it’s one thing for people to hope, and another thing altogether for leaders to sell hope in the hope-less enterprise of getting the Democrats to do what people wish they would.
My friend Elizabeth Cook, an activist in New Orleans for peoples’ right to live in the face of hurricanes and manufactured oil disasters, wrote:
What many activists don’t realize, or perhaps it doesn’t matter, is that essentially when 350.org, the Sierra Club and NRDC more or less delivered endorsements for Obama for re-election, they served to undermine the very efforts they are able to encourage out of concerned individuals.
David Swanson asks, in Pseudo-Protests and Serious Climate Crisis:
Why all the pro-Obama rhetoric? Robert Kennedy, Jr., was among the celebrities getting arrested at the White House in the days leading up, and his comment to the media was typical. Obama won’t allow the tar sands pipeline, he said, because Obama has “a strong moral core” and doesn’t do really evil things. As a belief, that’s of course delusional. This is the same president who sorts through a list of men, women, and children to have executed every other Tuesday, and who jokes about it. This is the guy who’s derailed international climate protection efforts for years. This is the guy who refused the demand to oppose the tar sands pipeline before last year’s election.
Revolution points out:
In his second inaugural address last month, Obama promised to elevate climate change to the “top tier” of his second-term priorities. Suddenly the focus of the Keystone XL protest shifted to a rally to “help the president start his second term with strong climate action” (350.org website). Say what? One promise made in an inaugural speech, and we’re supposed to rally to “help” this president who has done so much to politically demobilize people while this system grinds on carrying out intolerable crimes—not just in relation to the environment, but with the expanded war by drones, continuing mass incarceration of Black and Latino youth, record number of deportations of immigrants, etc., etc.?
I concur that we should not look “up” to those in office to save the planet. But where to look?
Elizabeth points to direct action:
The messaging itself is extremely problematic: tar sands are already coming into this country via other pipeline routes, and by rail and soon by barge. The southern portion of the Keystone pipeline is already being built, with Obama’s stamp of approval, although there is a brave and small group of activists that have been engaging in civil disobedience on that southern leg of the pipeline connected with the Tar Sands Blockade Coalition
David says to keep independent of the Democratic Party:
What if there were a third option, namely that of simply demanding the protection of our climate? We might lose some of those who enjoyed burning Bush in effigy and some of those who enjoy depicting themselves as friends of the Obama family. But would we really lose that many? If the celebrities and organizers took such an honest policy-based approach, if the organizations put in the same money and hired the same buses, etc., how much smaller would Sunday’s unimpressive rally have really been?
World Can’t Wait held a conference on Saturday in Chicago where people knitted their heads together over where to look for the answers, how to unite, and even what to learn on the subject. We are not going to let this destruction go on without a political fight from the people. See Reportback on Climate Crisis Conference.
Sunday evening I was part of a conversation with participants from many groups (including but not limited to Code Pink, KnowDrones.com, National Coalition of Nonviolent Resistance, NoDronesNetwork, UNAC, Upstate Coalition to End Wars & Ground the Drones, Veterans for Peace, World Can’t Wait) and individuals working on opposing drones from around the country.
The inspiration for the call was the increased attention – and protest against – the U.S. drone war and targeted killing, brought on by the release of the White Paper just before the Brennan hearings, and the successful protest by Code Pink at the hearings, causing it to be closed to the public. Broadcasts on PBS Nova and Bill Moyers, a cover story in TIME, and thousands of news stories about the Obama administrations’ justification of targeted killing, expansion of executive power, and secrecy on the program have brought the question to light.
Editorial cartoons in the LA Times and New York Times lampooned Obama as a drone warrior, NPR featured a debate, Forbes ran a piece by James Zogby, and the NY Times ran front page analysis on how Obama is treading a similar path to Bush, including this: “By emphasizing drone strikes, Mr. Obama need not bother with the tricky issues of detention and interrogation because terrorists tracked down on his watch are generally incinerated from the sky, not captured and questioned.”
On the call, much appreciation was expressed for the eight people who disrupted the Brennan hearing February 7, including Ann Wright. They were arrested and have a court appearance in March for disrupting Congress. Code Pink is following up with lobbying efforts, after visiting the offices of Senators Feinstein and Chambliss from the Senate Intelligence Committee, which continues secret hearings this week on Brennan.
David Swanson reported that after the resolution against drones passed by Charlottesville VA City Council, he’s hearing from other cities preparing resolutions against drones. Nick Mottern of KnowDrones.com reported that more than a dozen locations have replica drones, and more on order, prompting him to raise funds to buy a mold so that they can be produced more easily and quickly. Joe Scarry reported on a series of regional conference calls planning actions at NoDronesNetwork. Seattle is sending its two surveillance drones back to the manufacturer, an action which may have prompted Portland, OR, to cancel plans to acquire drones.
Actions in April as part of the month of coordinated protest at manufacturers, research institutions, and bases are being planned in Chicago, New York City, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Boston, the Pacific Northwest, San Diego, Wisconsin, and monthly protests at the CIA may extend to week-days. Find more here and get involved.
Please communicate with Nick Mottern via firstname.lastname@example.org with follow up comments.
After the prosecution rests today, defense will move to have the charges dismissed. As we said Monday, after the prosecution’s main witness, the 103rd precinct commander testified, it’s clear they have no evidence that anything at the 103rd was actually disrupted by our protest. See the trial blog report.
It remains an outrage that this trial is even happening. But the defendants and attorneys are determined to put stop-and-frisk on trial.
The cross examination of the Commander was enjoyable and memorable. Many thanks to Marty Stolar, Tom Hilgardner and Meg Maurus for skillful and passionate work preparing for it.
Highlights today: We hope the defense begins, and expect to hear witnesses who participated in the November 19, 2011 protest in Jamaica Queens.
AND we’ll be outside the court 1:00 pm talking to the press, then delivering 1200 messages to the D.A. to drop the charges. We hope you can come out (E/F train to Union Turnpike/Kew Gardens). The trial may continue into next week, after the Monday Veteran’s Day holiday. Court will end at 1:00 pm Friday because of a juror request — and by Thursday we’ll have a sense of how fast it will go.
Even if you can’t come out, you can support in key ways:
- We need $300 for a rush transcript of Monday’s testimony. Donate online, or send a check.
- Facebook & Tweet posts on our Trial Blog, and forward this message. There are still 6-7 trials, with 19 defendants in four boroughs, arising from the wave of mass civil disobedience we began last fall.
- The October 30 benefit, postponed because of the storm, will likely be rescheduled for Thursday December 6. YOU are needed on the promotion team, or to collect food/drink donations, clean up, work the door, etc. Contact email@example.com to volunteer.
FRIDAY: For all of you uptowners- we have a special request for support.
9:30 Friday November 9. Bronx Criminal Court 265 E. 161st Street.
Court Support for Jeffeth James
Bronx Criminal Court
James was viciously beaten by NYPD, yet is facing charges. This is the incident where Noche Diaz and 2 others were arrested observing the NYPD. See News12 coverage.
Join Noche Friday morning if you can, in providing support to Jeffeth and his family.
Protesters Out In Full At U.N. General Assembly (on NPR September 25, 2012):
The annual United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City is also an annual meeting for protestors. The “protest pens” were full on Tuesday, and the protestors brought a long list of grievances…
ALCORN: These two anti-Chinese government protests have the largest presence here, something in the low hundreds, but there are others. A coalition of anti-war groups have brought a replica of a drone, complete with hellfire missiles the size of baseball bats. It’s on a stand about 50 feet behind Deborah Sweet, by order of the police.
DEBORAH SWEET: This president has the kill list and sends drones to kill actual people, but we can’t bring a paper and fiberglass replica across from the U.N. to protest the use of drones.