Today is International Day of Support for Victims of Torture and the 140th day of the Guantanamo Bay detainee hunger strike. I headed down to Washington, D.C. to take part in the protest in front of the White House organized by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Amnesty International USA, Witness Against Torture, World Can't Wait, Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition, and many other human rights groups.
We condemned the force-feeding of the detainees who are on hunger strike.
In obedience to the Light Within, I follow the example of Friends who supported their imprisoned brothers and sisters in 17th-century England, who have long worked to improve prison conditions (even for those convicted of grievous crimes), who helped slaves escape to freedom, who were part of feminism's First Wave, and who currently assist vets in obtaining the medical benefits they so desperately need.
I affirm that those whose legal and human rights are being violated have the right to protest nonviolently, even if the only way they can do so is by fasting.I denounce force-feeding as torture and deplore the pain and suffering inflicted on them.
I march, clothed as the detainees were clothed when they first arrived at Gitmo, because they cannot march. Their fast is their voice, my footsteps are mine.
However, when all all is said and done, I was just there for decoration. My friend and fellow Quaker Megan really lived her conviction and joined those who chose to risk arrest and were indeed arrested. Not sure I'll ever have that sort of courage. She stood before the the White House fence radiating a quiet, assured, loving peacefulness. A real example of what it means to live the Peace Testimony.
Unfortunately for the cause of those subjected to torture and solitary confinement (but fortunately for gays who have also been awaiting justice), the Supreme Court chose the same day to hand down its momentous decisions. This had two consequences for our group of protesters. First, we didn't get much press coverage. Second, I think the absence of recognizable journalists emboldened the police to use more severe tactics. For instance, I saw them force an elderly, nonviolent vet to lie face-down in the street while they handcuffed him.
Here are some other sites with photos and videos of the protest:
Video of speakers -- vet face-down on ground toward the end
Medea Benjamin being thrown to the ground
Photo gallery - close-up of Diane Wilson being arrested
Story on CommonDreams
I hope we Americans find a way to throw off our pall of self-righteousness, paranoia, and vengeance and start treating everyone as children of the same Divine Parent.
Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Hebrews 13:3