June 25-30, 2014 Annual June Survivors’ Week Report-back
Dear Friends, Last week, members of Witness Against Torture gathered in Washington, D.C. for the International Day in Support of Survivors of Torture. Our group of about fifteen attended a panel organized by National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) on Thursday on U.S. sanctioned torture, engaged in nonviolent direct action at Senator Ayotte and McCain’s offices, and participated in an all-day vigil with Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition(TASSC). On Sunday, we retreated to the Peace Oasis to put in motion a framework for January 11, 2015.
During our opening session on Thursday, we found our energy drawn to the Cotton amendment that passed in the House of Representatives and similar efforts to keep Guantanamo open by Kelly Ayotte in the Senate. These bills would make transfers from Guantanamo virtually impossible and continue to senselessly criminalize the men detained without charge at the prison. Furthermore, we decried McCain’s tweet about shipping the newest Benghazi Attack suspect to Guantanamo. Jeremy V. wrote a letter to each senator expressing our concerns.
On Friday morning, we took these letters to the Senate Russell Building, wearing our orange jumpsuits and joined by some new friends from Australia and Philadelphia, to visit the offices of Senators Ayotte and McCain. Our striking procession made its way to the second floor offices. Those of us in jumpsuits flanked each side of Senator Ayotte’s office doorway with our black hoods on while Jeremy and Chris K. entered the room to speak with an aide there. The interaction was courteous and we then processed to McCain’s office, where we repeated our tableau and added two banners: “Not One Step Back, Close Guantanamo” and “Release Those Unjustly Bound”. They received us dismissively and we proceeded to read our statement aloud in front of his office.
Jeremy spoke eloquently as to our presence in the hallway and Jerica A. led us in an invigorating version of the Civil Rights Movement Song “Keep your Eyes on the Prize.” Jeremy created a new verse for the occasion: “No Senate bill can break our will. We won’t be turned around!” When we started processing towards our exit, a police officer told us our singing was disrupting “important work” so we decided to hum the rest of the way out.
We then headed to the White House for the Friday vigil that the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker holds weekly. Despite the heat, we spoke to the passersby of the injustices of forced-feeding and indefinite detention and shared the stories of Adnan Latif and Yemeni Guantanamo hunger striker Emad Hassan.
Many listened, took flyers and asked us questions. In the end, we decided that we were not naïve to think our letters would turn the tide, but we felt it was important to put forward an appeal to these Senators. The men in Guantanamo do not have the opportunity to walk these hallways and plead their case in person. We will continue to amplify their voices on the hill and in public spaces until they are released and Guantanamo is shut down.
We invite you to view and share the pictures and video we took of our action together, as well as the letters we wrote to Senators McCain and Ayotte. Please call and write Senator Ayotte and Senator McCain and to your representatives about these issues. We must continue to voice our dissent and ask for the men’s release. They have suffered and must be released now.
SAVE THE DATE– January 5– 13, 2015
Witness Against Torture Fast for Justice and Week of Actions in Washington, DC. Details to be announced this Fall. FRIDAY FAST FOR JUSTICE: We invite you to join us in taking action and fasting on Fridays. For more information, visit witnesstorture.org or email email@example.com
More photos: https://secure.flickr.com/groups/witnesstorture