News and reports

Shut down Guantánamo

WASHINGTON, D.C.--Dozens of protesters gathered at the U.S. Supreme Court building January 11 to mark the sixth anniversary of the operation of the U.S. prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Eighty-one people were arrested as they called for the camp to be permanently closed. Demonstrators wore orange jumpsuits, and some were hooded, simulating the abusive treatment that detainees at the camp have been forced to endure.

The protest, called by Witness Against Torture, called for a repeal of the Military Commissions Act and the restoration of habeas corpus, which would give prisoners the right to be brought before a judge.

The activists also demanded that the government either charge and try all the detainees, or release them. They further called for the government to "clearly and unequivocally forbid torture and all other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, by the military, the CIA, prison guards, civilian contractors or anyone else."

Protesters chanted "Shut it down," as they kneeled on the plaza in front of the court. The demonstration briefly succeeded in closing down the court building.

Protesters faced charges stemming from violating an ordinance that prohibits demonstrations of any kind on court grounds. Some were also charged under a provision that makes it a crime to give "a harangue or oration" in the Supreme Court. Some face up to 120 days in jail.

Some 67 demonstrators were held until late Saturday--most because they wouldn't give their real names and instead identified themselves by the names of Guantánamo detainees. "I am here on behalf of..." they told Judge Robert Richter, before giving the name of one of the approximately 275 detainees still incarcerated at the camp.

"Even if it's symbolic, it's incredibly important, because these names are finally being heard in a courtroom," Mark Goldstone, an attorney for Witness Against Torture, told the Washington Post.

The protest was part of a day of action that included demonstrations in London, Stockholm, Ireland, Bahrain, the Philippines and elsewhere around the globe calling for an end to torture and the closure of the prison camp.

Protesting repression in Puerto Rico

ACTIVISTS IN the U.S. and elsewhere are vowing to stand up against a renewed government witch-hunt of Puerto Rican independentístas (supporters of Puerto Rican independence).

This latest government action comes in the context of the September 2005 killing of independentísta Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, a leader of the Boricua People's Army. On September 23, 2005, the anniversary of the Grito de Lares, a historic day commemorating an important Puerto Rican anti-colonial uprising against Spanish rule, hundreds of FBI agents sealed off the town of Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, and surrounded the home of Ojeda. The FBI opened fire, killing the 72-year-old Ojeda.

Now, as part of their continued persecution of independence activists, the U.S. government issued subpoenas to three Puerto Rican activists to appear before a federal grand jury in New York on January 11. The targeted activists include artist Tania Frontera, social worker Christopher Torres and filmmaker Julio Antonio Pabon.

There are also indications that the FBI is trying to locate Hector Rivera, one of the founders of the Welfare Poets, in order to serve him with a subpoena. The subpoenas are widely understood to be part of an ongoing government fishing expedition targeting the independence struggle.

As part of the fightback against this campaign of coercion, a newly formed coalition--including many individuals and groups that successfully organized against the presence of the U.S. naval base in the town of Vieques--called for a series of mobilizations January 10-11.

On short notice, more than 300 people turned out January 11 at the Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn to express their disgust at the tactics of the government.

One activist on hand, Julio Rosado, was targeted in previous government attempts in 1977 and 1984 to jail independentístas by forcing them into the choice of collaboration with the government or jail time for obstruction of justice. According to Rosado, this tactic has been used by the government "at each and every moment when they wanted to intimidate the Puerto Rican people to keep us from expressing our solidarity with the struggle for independence."

Building for Winter Soldier

WATERTOWN, N.Y.--As part of the national effort to build solidarity for the 2008 Winter Soldier Investigation, the Different Drummer Café and the Fort Drum chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will hold a January 19 press conference and fundraiser.

IVAW members from across the country will gather in Washington, D.C., from March 13-16 to expose how U.S. foreign policy has led to the commission of war crimes in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

This event takes its inspiration from the historic Winter Soldier Investigation that the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) held in 1971. More than 100 VVAW members gathered in Detroit to expose the criminal war that the U.S. fought against the people of Vietnam.

Citizen Soldier's Tod Ensign, who founded the Different Drummer, stated that he has helped organize the events "to offer testimony for a local audience from some of the veterans in upstate New York and Vermont who served in the Iraq and Afghan wars and to raise funds for and build Winter Soldier in D.C."

Ensign, a longtime GI rights and antiwar organizer, helped to spearhead organizing for GI testimonies back in the 1970s. Ensign has also provided consultation to the IVAW as a new generation of GIs prepares to draw on their experiences to help bring another U.S. war to an end and bring their brothers and sisters in uniform home.

Activists should help organize similar events in collaboration with IVAW, Vets for Peace and antiwar organizations in the run up to the IVAW's event in D.C. this March.

For more information about the 11 a.m. press conference and 2:30 p.m. fundraising event on January 19, go to www.differentdrummercafe.org.