Brighton at Night, in the Rain, a set on Flickr.
On January 29, 2013, I travelled to Brighton, one of my favourite places in England, for “Freedom from Torture,” an event about Guantánamo organised by the University of Sussex Amnesty International Society, featuring myself, my friend Omar Deghayes, a former Guantánamo prisoner, and Elspeth Van Veeren, a researcher and writer about Guantánamo in the university’s International Relations Department.
The event was filmed, and I’ll publicise it here as soon as it has been edited and is made available, but I can confirm that it was a powerful evening, very well attended, in which the 120 students and other members of the public who turned up were left in no doubt about the shameful history of Guantánamo, and the even more shameful truth that it is still open because of the failures of all three branches of the US government to deal appropriately with the wretched legacy of the Bush administration — primarily through cowardice and/or laziness on the part of President Obama, and opportunistic fearmongering and obstruction on the part of Congress and the D.C. Circuit Court (the court of appeals dealing with the Guantánamo prisoners’ habeas corpus petitions), as well as indifference in the Supreme Court. For more on these issues, see my recent article, “Eleven Years of Guantánamo: End This Scandal Now!” and also see the videos of my speech outside the White House on January 11, and a panel discussion at the New America Foundation on the same day. Read the rest of this entry »
I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.
Here at “Close Guantánamo,” we have long despaired that the power of black propaganda is such that the Bush administration’s claim that Guantánamo held “the worst of the worst” has had a disturbing and enduring power. The reality, as those who have studied Guantánamo know, is that this is an empty claim, not backed up by evidence.
In fact, few of the 779 men held at Guantánamo throughout its 11-year history are genuinely alleged to have had any connection to al-Qaeda, the 9/11 attacks, or any other examples of international terrorism. Sold for bounty payments, or rounded up through woefully inept intelligence, the men and boys flown to Guantánamo were generally so insignificant — either in the wrong place at the wrong time, or mere foot soldiers in an inter-Muslim civil war in Afghanistan that predated the 9/11 attacks and had nothing to do with terrorism — that reasons had to be created to justify holding them, even though, for the most part, the authorities did not see it that way. Convinced that their prisoners were holding out on them, they tortured, abused or bribed them into making false statements — about themselves, and about their fellow prisoners — that could be used to justify holding them. Read the rest of this entry »
So now we wait.
On Saturday, as this second set of my photos shows — following on from the first set here — around 25,000 people marched through Lewisham, in south east London, to a rally in Mountsfield Park in Catford, to deliver a powerful rebuke to senior NHS officials, and to the government.
In the first set, I focused on the initial gathering in the centre of Lewisham, and in this second set I photographed the march through the streets, past shoppers and car drivers earnestly honking their horns in support, past Lewisham Hospital, and on to Mountsfield Park in Catford, where there were speakers including Louise Irvine, a Deptford GP and the chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, and Heidi Alexander MP, who introduced a successful petition to save Lewisham Hospital, which now has over 30,000 signatures.
There was also music, a number of food stalls and a giant petition, and it felt, just for a few hours, as though a velvet revolution was beginning. It is certainly true that only huge numbers — like the numbers seen on Saturday — can genuinely alarm those in power, but it remains to be seen, of course, if such numbers can be mobilised again, not just for Lewisham, but across London, and throughout England as a whole, as the long years of this wretched coalition government — arrogant and cruel, to an extent that is almost beyond belief, and without a genuine mandate — continue to grind away at the very structure of civil society, hurling more and more of the most vulnerable members of society into genuinely alarming poverty, while continuing to destroy Britain economically, and doing nothing for anyone except the rich and the super-rich — the bankers, corporations and individuals who got us into financial difficulties in the first place, and who continue to avoid paying taxes on a colossal scale. Read the rest of this entry »
Save Lewisham Hospital: The Huge March on January 26, 2013, a set on Flickr.
On January 26, 2013, in Lewisham, in south east London, I took these photos of an extraordinary demonstration, in which an estimated 25,000 people marched from the centre of Lewisham, past Lewisham Hospital and up George Lane to Mountsfield Park in Catford to save Lewisham Hospital from having its A&E Department closed, and other services severely downgraded, including its maternity services.
It was one of the most exhilarating protests I have ever taken part in, a worthy successor to the one in the driving rain on November 24, when around 15,000 people showed up, providing the first thrilling indication that, in attacking the NHS in Lewisham, the government and the wrecking crew in the NHS’s management had sparked a movement of resistance that was spreading like wildfire throughout the borough and beyond. Yesterday, it felt like a continuation of that initial impulse — that something had been sparked which was finally waking people up to the understanding that, although politicians and bureaucrats wield often considerable power, and generally show disdain for us, in the end we are many and they are few. Read the rest of this entry »
On January 11, the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo, I was in Washington D.C., with various human rights groups, lawyers, mainly religious anti-torture groups, and other concerned individuals, calling on President Obama to fulfill the promise he made to close the prison when he took office in 2009.
It was my third Guantánamo anniversary in the nation’s capital, but unlike in previous years, we were not allowed to protest in front of the White House, as preparations were being made for President Obama’s Inauguration, and, instead, we spoke in the middle of President’s Park South, with the White House in the distance.
It was only after the official event ended that activists with Witness Against Torture, in orange jumpsuits and hoods, dared to make their way to the fence at the back of the White House, to tie 166 orange ribbons to the railings — one for each of the men still held in Guantánamo — and to stage a peaceful sit-in. The activists only narrowly avoided arrest, which would have been particularly ironic, given that they were only reminding President Obama of his failed promise. Read the rest of this entry »
On Tuesday January 29, 2013, I will be in Brighton — and, specifically, the University of Sussex, in Falmer — for an event organised by the Sussex University Amnesty International Society entitled, “Freedom from Torture: Guantánamo Bay Panel Event with former detainee and leading world expert.” The event, which is free, begins at 6pm, and finishes at 8pm, and is taking place in Arts A1 (no. 22 on the map here).
This is the first event I’ve taken part in since my trip to the US, from January 7 to 16, to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on the 11th anniversary of its opening, and I’m delighted to be bringing news of my visit to the enthusiastic students of Sussex University, in the company of my friend, the former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes, who I last shared a platform with at a peace conference in Sheffield in October, and also with Elspeth Van Veeren, a researcher and writer on Guantánamo Bay from Sussex University’s International Relations Department.
The Facebook page for the event is here, and I’m looking forward not only to a great event in the evening, but also to catching up with my friend Jackie Chase in the afternoon, and recording an interview for Radio Free Brighton, the community radio station based in Under the Bridge Studios, below the station. I’m also looking forward to staying the night, hanging out with Jackie and hopefully getting to cycle around Brighton a bit before returning on Wednesday afternoon. Read the rest of this entry »
No More Drones and Close Guantánamo: Protest at CIA Headquarters, a set on Flickr.
On January 12, 2013, during my ten-day visit to the US to campaign for the closure of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo on the 11th anniversary of its opening, I joined around a hundred protestors, from groups including Witness Against Torture, Code Pink, Episcopal Peace Fellowship DC, Northern Virginians for Peace & Justice, Pax Christi and World Can’t Wait to protest against the Obama administration’s use of drones in its ongoing “war on terror,” and also to protest about the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, the day after the 11th anniversary of the prison’s opening.
The protest took place outside one of the entrances to the headquarters of the CIA, in McLean, Virginia, and I was delighted to be asked to address the crowd, drawing connections between Obama’s use of drones and Bush’s use of torture, “extraordinary rendition” and the indefinite detention to which the prisoners at Guantánamo are still subjected. Before and after, I was reunited with various friends in the activist community, and also met others for the first time, as I wandered around with my camera, capturing the photos in this set. Read the rest of this entry »
London in the Snow: Brockley and New Cross, a set on Flickr.
On January 20, 2013, as London became enveloped in snow — the second snowfall in two days, and this time much heavier than the first — I visited Hilly Fields, the hill-top park on Brockley, in south east london, where I have lived for the last 13 years, to take my son Tyler sledging, and to capture some photos of Londoners at play, which I published here.
I then walked with Tyler down to Brockley station, where we parted ways. He went round to a friend’s, and, after a quick coffee and a muffin at the Broca coffee shop, I cycled north, through Brockley, and on to New Cross and Deptford, as the snow grew heavier and heavier, and the cars and pedestrians began to disappear. Read the rest of this entry »
Please come to the demonstration to save Lewisham Hospital this Saturday (January 26), and please also send health secretary Jeremy Hunt a quick email, via 38 Degrees, to ask him to save the hospital.
This Saturday, January 26, a huge protest is taking place in the London Borough of Lewisham, in south east London, in a last show of outrage before Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, makes a decision about whether or not to close Lewisham Hospital’s A&E Department — leaving just one A&E, out in Woolwich, for the 750,000 people in Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley — as advised by Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator appointed by Hunt’s predecessor, Andrew Lansley, to deal with the debts of a neighbouring NHS Trust.
Those concerned by this devastating assault on NHS services for the 250,000 people of Lewisham are requested to meet at Loampit Vale roundabout at 12 noon, for a march past the hospital to Mountsfield Park, where there will be a rally, music and a giant petition! Please, please come along if you can!
We know, from the huge turnout for the march to save Lewisham Hospital on November 24 (see my photos here), that the people of Lewisham can show the government what resistance is, when they are provoked, as they have been by these wretched proposals. Between 10,000 and 15,000 people turned out in the driving rain to oppose the plans to shut the hospital’s A&E Department, to cut other services, including intensive care and maternity services, and to sell off 60 percent of its buildings, leaving just the A&E Department at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich to serve the needs of everyone in Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s four days since I came back from a ten-day trip to the US to join other campaigners, on the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, in calling for President Obama to revisit the promise to close Guantánamo that he made when he took office exactly four years ago, and this time to fulfill his promise, and not cave in to criticism, failing the prisoners as thoroughly as they have also been failed by the other branches of the US government.
As well as being failed by the President, the 166 men still in Guantánamo have been failed by Congress, where opportunistic lawmakers, bent on selling a message of fear to the US public, have imposed onerous restrictions on the President’s ability to release prisoners, and the courts, where pro-Guantánamo ideologues in the Court of Appeals in Washington D.C., who have gutted habeas corpus of all meaning for the Guantánamo prisoners, and have discovered that they are able to dictate detainee policy to the Supreme Court, which has refused to consider a single appeal from the prisoners.
As a result, on the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, on January 11, those of us protesting the prison’s ongoing existence — and the inertia and indifference towards it that is more marked than ever before — found ourselves bound together closely by our concern for those still held, and for the system of indefinite detention without charge or trial that Guantánamo has become. We also discovered new levels of righteous indignation — see, for example, my speech outside the White House here (on the anniversary), and, earlier that day, the panel discussion I was part of, with the attorney Tom Wilner and Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantánamo, at the New America Foundation. Also check out my photos here and here. Read the rest of this entry »
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