For Immediate Release
US House of Representatives Disrupted by Anti-Torture Activists
Witness Against Torture Interrupts a Vote on the House Floor with the Call "Close Guantanamo!"
WASHINGTON - While the US House of Representatives chamber filled for a vote today at 4:40pm, Representatives' eyes and ears turned toward the Chamber's gallery as a group of activists interrupted proceedings to call for the closure of Guantanamo Bay prison and denounce provisions in the Defense Appropriations Bill concerning detention policy.
Fifteen people from the group Witness Against Torture stood in the gallery to read the following statement:
Today the House of Representative is in the process of contemplating not the passage of a bill but the commission of a crime. Provisions in the proposed Defense Appropriations Bill grant the United States powers over the lives of detained men fitting of a totalitarian state that uses the law itself as an instrument of tyranny. The law would make the prison at Guantanamo permanent by denying funds for the transfer of men to the United States, even for prosecution in civilian courts.
Abandoning the civilian courts, the bill would be the ultimate concession that the rule of law and cherished American values cannot survive the fear and hatred that have consumed this country. The proposed bill makes restrictions on the transfer of detainees even to foreign countries so severe that no one — whether cleared for release by our own government or acquitted in trials — could be expected to leave Guantanamo. It therefore mandates the indefinite detention even of innocent human beings, which is the very essence of tyranny. Congress has an obligation to uphold the US Constitution. All Americans have the obligation to defend human rights. The proposed bill makes America a callous and reckless jailer, unworthy of the name of democracy. It must be defeated.
Guantanamo must close. Those unjustly bound must be freed. Justice must rule.
The activists were removed from the gallery by the police and placed under arrest. They will likely appear for arraignment in District of Columbia Superior Court on Friday.
Earlier today, before entering the House chamber, members of Witness Against Torture, the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition (TASSC), Amnesty International and other groups embarked on a March of Shame, walking between the institutions in Washington DC that continue to be responsible for unjust, illegal, and immoral American policies and conduct.
Beginning at the White House at 11am, the anti-torture activists, dressed in the orange jumpsuits and black hoods that are now emblematic of the policies of torture and abuse that the Obama administration inherited from President George W. Bush and has further entrenched. Then the group solemnly processed to the Department of Justice, the Supreme Court, and the Capitol.
The demonstrators called on all branches of government to close Guantanamo, end indefinite detention, repudiate the Military Commissions, and resist any effort to reauthorize torture in the form of “enhanced interrogations.” The procession took place as the House of Representatives is dealing with a version of the 2012 defense appropriations bill that undermines US Federal Courts, keeps Guantanamo open, and attempts to expand indefinite detention.
Witness Against Torture will vigil at the Department of Justice on Friday (6/24) from noon to 2pm. These demonstrations are part of a week of activities organized by the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition International, culminating in a vigil in front of the White House on Saturday, June 25th from 7am to 7pm.
Witness Against Torture demands:
- Close the prison at Guantánamo Bay;
- Free all prisoners who have been cleared for release, ensuring their safe resettlement and providing asylum in the U.S. for those unable to go elsewhere;
- Produce charges against all other prisoners and prosecute them in U.S. courts;
- Open all detention centers to outside scrutiny. That includes accepting the oversight of the International Committee of the Red Cross of all facilities; and
- Conduct a comprehensive criminal inquiry against all those who designed and carried out torture policies under the Bush administration.
Witness Against Torture is a grassroots movement that came into being in December 2005 when 24 activists walked to Guantanamo to visit the prisoners and condemn torture policies. Since then, it has engaged in public education, community outreach, and non-violent direct action. For the first 100 days of the Obama administration, the group held a daily vigil at the White House, encouraging the new President to uphold his commitments to shut down Guantanamo.