Day 2 in DC to close Guantanamo and end torture

posted by Mike on January 22nd, 2009

I’m a little sad this morning–the intensity of the fast is over, the house is getting less crowded as people head home, and the little community we formed is in the past.

On the other hand, I’m excited that Obama is signing an executive order today closing Guantanamo within the year, and asking the Secretary of Defense for a report in 30 days about conditions that might violate the Geneva Conventions.

IMG_0156

We’ll continue our presence in DC, to remind people that the detainees are still in there, whatever papers are signed today, and that the executive order leaves open the possibility that they’ll be there another year. There’s been a lot of discussion about what other small, immediate steps Obama can take to improve the situation of these men. We’re waiting to see what exactly Obama signs, and what other statements he makes.

Fast for Justice: Day Nine

posted by Mike on January 19th, 2009

Tomorrow morning we break our nine-day fast in McPherson Square at dawn, amidst thousands of others gathered to celebrate the promise of peace on Inauguration Day.

Folks are out shopping for food; when they get back, we’ll cook up a good vegetable soup for breakfast.

Many things have not gone as planned this week–but then so many things have gone better than planned. This afternoon, we had another “unexpected Obama moment.” After our day’s vigiling, we stepped off the bus, and a minute later the road was shut down:

The more I hear about yesterday’s vigiling at the Inauguration Concert, the more bummed I am that I missed it. Sounds like the concert-goes were just super-positive about the message. And I missed this, which even on YouTube brings a tear to my eye:

When I was hiking, and things got tough, I sang this verse to myself:
Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back;
This land was made for you and me.
—Woody Guthrie

Guantanamo fast: Day 7

posted by Mike on January 17th, 2009

Today I’m feeling better–not sick at all. Getting a little skinny, but fasting for 2 more days will be no big deal. Thinking of the scores of Guantanamo prisoners being force-fed, which only happens if they’ve stopped eating for 3 weeks or are below 85% of healthy weight. Fasting is easy, even a very positive experience, when surrounded by a large, supportive group. Stuck in prison, I’d imagine it would take a lot of despair to stop you from eating for so long.

We started the day with most folks attending mass, then went to the White House. We finished the day at Union Station with a children’s “Peace Train” mini-parade hoping to meet Obama at the station. (I think the kids had to leave before he arrived.)

Fast for Justice Day 5: The Senate

posted by Mike on January 15th, 2009

The original plan for the fast to close Guantanamo was to vigil in the same place (Dupont Circle) every day for 2 hours. Instead, we’ve been meeting more vigilers there, then processing to different places.

Today was the Attorney General confirmation hearings for Eric Holder. Several of our group got up early to attend the hearing.

Fast for Justice: Day Four

posted by Mike on January 14th, 2009

Today was the fourth day of our nine-day fast for justice for Guantanamo detainees. Well over a hundred people are now part of the fast, about a third of them in Washington, DC.

Today, as we marched to the National Press Club dressed as detainees, we learned that our photo was on page B1 of the Washington Post, illustrating an article about how activist groups are choosing to engage with Obama. The photo was taken during the very short time we were at Obama HQ.

In the Washington Post

At the Press Club there was a summit/press conference of “Major Human Rights Groups” discussing their proposed agendas for Obama’s first 100 days. We took part, with Matt Daloisio giving a couple short speeches. (Witness Against Torture is by no means a major human rights group, but I guess it’s clunky to title your press release “Major Human Rights Groups (And A Small Group Of Troublemakers) Meet in D.C.”)

Beth Brockman, at the beginning of todays’ public vigil:

So how am I holding up? I am still dog tired, and I think I’m getting sick. Let’s hope it’s just a touch of dehydration or something. I’m dreaming of eight hours’ sleep and a solid meal.

Fast for Justice Day 3: Obama HQ

posted by Mike on January 13th, 2009

At this point more than 100 people are part of a nine-day liquid-only fast to call for the closing of Guantanamo and speedy justice for the detainees. Today, those of us in DC demonstrated (very briefly) at Obama HQ. David Meieran shot this clip.

Spending several hours wearing a hood, walking and standing quietly amidst dozens of identical figures, was a big change from running around dealing with internet and multimedia stuff. Very prayerful.

Fast to close Guantanamo, Day 2

posted by Mike on January 13th, 2009

Obama is now saying that he would like to start closing the Guantanamo prison soon, but that it may take a really long time. As Spencer Ackerman says, “I could not be more confused now.”

I am doing pretty good on day 2 of the fast, and so are my fellow fasters. There are now more than 100 people fasting; we’ve posted some of their bios.

Four cups of fancy protein drink daily are not cutting it–this afternoon I felt like crap. A few cups of fruit juice fixed the problem. I’ll probably start mixing the protein drink with juice instead of water, and add a quart of juice daily on top of that. We’ll see how it goes. You’re going to have moments of lethargy while fasting, but if your regimen is causing problems on day 2, you’re not going to make it to day 9 without adjustments.

Video of yesterday’s kickoff event made it to several foreign news channels and was shown at least once on CNN. This Al Jazeera clip with Bud Courtney is a pretty good representation of what was going on:

One of my tasks is gathering video and blog posts from the fasters. There’s a large crowd, and a real diversity of thoughts on this thing. Anna Brown’s reflection is worth reading and touches on a spiritual/mystical angle of the fast. Maybe if energy and talent allow, tomorrow I’ll post something thoughtful myself.

Day −11 to close Guantanamo and end torture

posted by Mike on January 9th, 2009

100 Days Project to Close GuantanamoGreetings from the Nipponzan Myohoji Japanese Buddhist Temple in Washington, D.C.! This is the home base for the 100 Days Campaign to close the Guantanamo detention facility and end America’s policies of torture.

About a dozen people are here now, spackling the walls, making puppets, cooking, cleaning, e-mailing, shopping, plotting, and watching “Sesame Street.”

Many more will arrive in the next couple days for the procession and fast kick-off.

Paul and Hector build a puppet
One day soon, this will be a puppet. Photo: Jorge Aros.

McClatchy: 10 percent of Guantanamo detainees now being force fed:

As of Thursday, 30 of the 250 war-on-terror detainees were classified as hunger strikers, 25 of whom were being fed through tubes in their noses, said Navy Cmdr. Pauline Storum at Guantanamo.

Sunday’s readings include Isaiah 42:6-7:

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

(Cross-posted to 100dayscampaign.org.)

Nine days of prayer and fasting for an end to U.S. torture

posted by Mike on January 7th, 2009

100 Days Project to Close GuantanamoI’m joining more than 60 people on January 11, 2009 — the seventh anniversary of the opening of American detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — in a nine-day, liquid-only fast to encourage President-Elect Barack Obama to keep his promise to shut down Guantanamo and end torture in his first days of office.

At DuPont Circle Park in Washington, DC, at 12:45 pm, leading human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, the ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, and 9-11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, will call for an end to the Bush policies, justice for the detainees, and accountability for US crimes. 100-200 demonstrators wearing orange jumpsuits and hoods will have a prisoner procession to dramatize the plight of the detainees still at Guantanamo.

The fast ends on Inauguration Day, when we begin a 100 day campaign to close the prison.

This will be my longest fast to date. I’m skeptical about “detoxification” and other health claims made for fasting, but fasting has always cured my spiritual malaise and helped me refocus my life.

What will my fast be like? I have this goofy super-health-food protein drink, vegan but not raw. My plan is to have 2 servings a day (440 calories) of this for the first week or so, then re-evaluate. I think most of the other fasters will stick to juice. (8 ounces of unsweetened orange juice is 112 calories, and apple juice is 117 calories.) I’m also going to avoid caffeine and alcohol.

If you’ll be fasting, in DC or elsewhere, let me know and we’ll link to your account on the 100 Days website.

100 Days co-organizer Matt Daloisio talks about the campaign:

100 days against torture in DC

posted by Mike on November 10th, 2008

Witness Against Torture and other groups will spend the first 100 days of the Obama administration in an intensive effort to persuade our government to end America’s policies of torture.

I’ll be in Washington, DC from January-April 2009 as part of the core organizing team.

We’re first calling for the closing of the Guantanamo prison. With luck, this will happen quickly and we can encourage to government to take further measures against torture.

You can contribute to this project by coming to DC for a week, or by donating via PayPal at the Witness Against Torture site. If you’d like to sponsor me/help me with my costs directly, e-mail pieandcoffee@gmail.com. This money would go to staples like my transportation, food, and (possibly) internet costs, not beer or movies or anything like that. I’ll donate any leftover funds to Witness Against Torture.

  • January 11-20: Public fast for an end to torture. (The first detainees reached Guantanamo on January 11, 2002.)
  • January 20: Inauguration Day.
  • January 20-April 30: 100 days of lobbying, vigils, and education to bring an end to America’s policies of torture.

I’m still getting up to speed on all this. I’ll blog more details here and at the 100 Days site.

Barack Obama, August 1, 2007: “As President, I will close Guantánamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions.”

TIME/AP, Nov 10, 2008: “President-elect Obama’s advisers are quietly crafting a proposal to ship dozens, if not hundreds, of imprisoned terrorism suspects to the United States to face criminal trials, a plan that would make good on his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison but could require creation of a controversial new system of justice.”

ACLU: “Therefore, on the first day in office, the next president should issue an executive order directing all agencies to modify their policies and practices immediately to: . . . Close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay and either charge and try detainees under criminal law in federal criminal courts or before military courts-martial or transfer them to countries where they will not be tortured or detained without charge . . . .”

Updates
Words & deeds of first 100 days of every president since Roosevelt, via Kottke