Call continues at White House to close Guantanamo prison

A protester calling for the closing of the military-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, stands silently outside of the White House in a model of a prison cell Jan. 7. (Courtesy of Witness Against Torture)

Protests outside the White House take all kinds of forms and encompass all kinds of issues. Through Wednesday, there’s a jail cell with orange-jumpsuit-clad protesters inside facing the presidential mansion.

The small cell, with protesters taking three-hour shifts inside, represents the holding pen some accused al-Qaida members were held in for a time at the military-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The protest, said Witness Against Torture organizer and Catholic Worker Matthew Daloisio of New York, marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo prison and calls for ending the indefinite detention of alleged terrorists in Cuba, Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan and at CIA-run sites around the world.

The cell showed up Jan. 7 and will be in place for 92 hours until Jan. 11, the day Guantanamo opened in 2002. Daloisio said about 1,000 people are expected for a rally at the White House to call upon President Barack Obama to uphold his executive order to close the prison and try the men being held there.

Among the rally’s organizers are the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Amnesty International and Center for Constitutional Rights.

Obama subsequently has signed legislation that prevents the prison’s closing, disappointing the anti-torture activists.

“There was hope for some change as Obama took office,” Daloisio told Catholic News Service. “All of that hope is essentially lost when it comes to issues of civil liberties and accountability.

“When we began this work we never imagined that 10 years later we would be continuing in this way,” Daloisio said.

He also expressed concern that American citizens now can be detained indefinitely under a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act signed by the president Dec. 31. Obama issued a signing statement explaining, however, that no American citizen will be held indefinitely without charges while he is in office.

After Wednesday’s noontime rally, some protesters will stay at the White House while others make their way to Capitol Hill, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Justice Department to press their demands.

The protests began Jan. 2 with a daily presence at the White House. About 100 people nationwide, including 50 in Washington, are engaged in a liquids-only fast through Jan. 12.

Fourteen Witness Against Torture members, including some long-time members of the Catholic Worker movement, faced trial last week for their verbal protest June 23 in the gallery of the U.S. House of Representatives. Four people — Judith Kelly of Arlington, Va., Brian Hynes and Carmen Trotta, both of New York, and Mike Levinson of New Rochelle, N.Y. — were found guilty of unlawful conduct and disruption of Congress in a jury trial in the District of Columbia Superior Court Jan. 5. One person was acquitted and charges were dropped again nine others.

The group was protesting an appropriations bill being debated in Congress at the time because it included provisions that made it virtually impossible to close the Guantanamo prison.

One Response

  1. Cnstitutioinal rights is the wrong name for this group! They are working for rights that are NOT in the constitution of the US
    Amenesty to NOT a right in our country. We do allow immigration and through the naturalization dept where statistics can be evaluated so there is not an over abundance of workers for the jobs available, an too many wanting housing for the availability of housing for them, schools and medical help also etc.
    There definitely are no rights for people who have been captured, trying to kill us!!
    The jail in Cuba also was not “just” opened. It has been a US controlled area for many, many years and just now being used for inprisoning people who are not citizens and who for our safety are being kept in another country.
    I feel sorry for any person having a hard time living under any circumstances but sympathy is not to be used for giving people rights which are not theirs causing problems for others.
    It takes good, sane thinking to raise a child for instance and due punishment for them when they have broken the rules. When this right thinking is applied, adults will be the outcome of their getting older. Too many parents even, have let children get by without due punishment and the child remains a child in his thinking. We have too mny adults bodies at this time with children’s thinking, trying to get something that is not theirs but will get what they want by using lying, cheating, fraud etc..
    There also are too many actions without the consulting with GOD. The Holy Spirit will bring us wisdom if we ask for it. When there is strife, there is living part of our purgatorial sentence here on earth. Thank God for strife since it will hurry our path to heaven, is heaven is where we choose to live out eternity – it’s our choice!

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