Being together in community allows us to support one another, challenge one another, and collectively push limits. So on our final day of fasting, on the heels of a beautiful gathering of hundreds for January 11th we decided that rather than relax and reflect, we would continue to push forward.
|Actual detainees suffering mistreatment at Guantanamo|
I begin this letter with a full stomach, having recently returned from a delicious and abundant fast-breaking meal hosted by friends at America University’s Washington College of Law. Breaking the fast was a strange time of intermingled celebration and mourning. Along with dinner there was a panel discussion led by Juan Mendez, the Special Rapporteur on torture for the UN, Frida, and Matt. While commending our actions, and those of others advocating for closure of Guantanamo and an end to torture, he shared the dismal news that not only have things not gotten better since he spoke with us last year, but they have gotten worse. And yet, he persists in his efforts to uncover and confront illegal and inhuman acts of torture perpetrated by government’s around the world, including our own. Frida offered a simple and elegant summary of our time here together in D.C. It was a time focused on four things – the trial for the June 23rd action, the 92-hour cage vigil, the January 11 rally, and today’s action. In the coming days we will try to compile some reflections and analysis of our time together in DC, but for now, we share a final daily run-down.
Following our final morning reflection, led beautifully by Chrissy, we rolled out of the church and over to the Superior Court. There we heard sentencing statements (all included below)from Judith, Brian and Carmen, finally able to speak openly about what it is that brought them to trial with an eloquence and sincerity that brought many in the court room to tears. The defendants were given the sentence of 5 days jail time, suspended; 6 months unsupervised probation; 30 hours of community service or $300 to a charity of their choice; a stay away order from Capitol grounds, and $50 to the victims of violent crimes compensation fund. Following the sentencing statements, the standing room only courtroom broke into gentle song… “Courage, Muslim brothers, you do not walk alone. We will, walk with you. And sing, your spirit home,” as we slowly processed out and onto our final action of our time together.
We moved from the court house to the White House with a brief stop at Freedom Plaza to pick up the cage we’d deposited there after the January 11th rally. A procession of roughly 40 people in jumpsuits, accompanied by guides and supporters, marched two by two to the White House one more time. The men and women in jumpsuits were arranged along the fence encircling the White House, in the “picture postcard” zone, creating what Paki called an “orange out,” obscuring the iconic view of the president’s mansion. While those not willing to risk arrest slowly drifted from this zone (where it is forbidden for more than 25 people to stand) 36 remained and after roughly three hours were arrested. Those standing aside in support shared their presence and also words announcing our reasons for taking this stand, namely, the men who remain at Guantanamo. We alternately read the name of each detainee from a list followed by the chant, “we remember you,” read stories from the few we’ve been able to collect backgrounds on and sang, “Courage, Muslim brothers, you do not walk alone. We will, walk with you. And sing, your spirit home.” There was some concern that the long delay between assembling for action and arrest was a strain on those standing in formation. There was concern too that this might prohibit us from breaking this fast as a full community if friend we processed late into the night.
In the end, we all were able to gather tonight and share our first meal together. The event was a closure to this trip, but not to this movement. As Frida said during the panel, “We go home knowing there is a lot of work to be done.” Not much has changed, she conceded, “from a policy perspective,” but our presence and actions here these last ten days, have been both faithful and effective. Many people have been touched, people in the court room and the court house, on the streets, at institutions of power, in this church, amongst our community here and those we remain connected to back home, and perhaps most importantly, in the Guantanamo Bay detention center. Giving thanks for the food, Frida concluded, “This food will nourish us so we can go home and continue the work.” And so we shall.
Matthew Daloisio firstname.lastname@example.org
Witness Against Torture
Photos, photos, photos!
Nearly 300 photos of 2012 Witness Against Torture were taken by Justin Norman, email@example.com from Des Moines, Iowa.
A slide show of these photos is here.