Photos and Report: Occupying Dick Cheney’s House and Protesting About Guantánamo, Torture and Drones Outside CIA HQ

Campaigners against Guantanao, torture and the use of drones outside CIA headquarters in McLean, Virginia on January 10, 2015, the day before the 13th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo (Photo: Andy Worthington).

Click here to see the whole of my photo set on Flickr.

On January 10, 2015, during my US tour to call for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on and around the 13th anniversary of its opening (on January 11), I joined activists with Code Pink and Witness Against Torture for a day of action  in Virginia, outside Washington D.C.

I was staying with Code Pink coordinator Joan Stallard, along with Debra Sweet, the national director of the World Can’t Wait, who organized my tour (for the fifth January in succession). Debra and I had driven from New York the day before, where I had been since Tuesday evening (January 6), and where I had been staying with my old friend The Talking Dog in Brooklyn. I indulged in some socializing at a Center for Constitutional Rights event on January 7, visited a high school and spoke to some students with Debra, and spoke at another event on January 8, with two Guantánamo lawyers, Ramzi Kassem and Omar Farah of CCR. I described We Stand With Shaker, the campaign to free Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and we also watched the promotional video, featuring my “Song for Shaker Aamer,” as well as CCR’s film about Fahd Ghazy, one of their Yemeni clients. A video of my talk is available here.

I also had the opportunity to walk the streets of Manhattan — and to cross the Brooklyn Bridge on foot — in spite of the seriously cold weather, but just as I was getting used to being in New York City, Washington D.C. beckoned. On the evening of January 9, after a drive full of animated chatter about politics and the state of the world, we (anti-drone activist Nick, our driver, film-maker/photographer Kat Watters, Debra and I) stopped by at the church where Witness Against Torture activists were staying — and fasting — and I gave a short and hopefully constructive speech and played my song for Shaker on an acoustic guitar. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Calls for the Closure of Guantánamo Outside the White House on January 11, 2015

Andy Worthington stands with the We Stand With Shaker poster at the protest against Guantanamo outside the White House on January 11, 2015, the 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison (Photo: Medea Benjamin for Andy Worthington).January 11, 2015 was the 13th anniversary of the opening of the Bush administration’s “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo, and I traveled to the US to take part in protests in Washington D.C. on the anniversary, as well as in other locations in the US, as I have done since January 2011.

I’m currently nearing the end of the tour, in Massachusetts, with a final date tomorrow in Chicago, but in the meantime I’m delighted to make available, via Witness Against Torture (and YouTube) the video of the rousing speech I gave outside the White House on January 11.

I spoke about We Stand With Shaker, the campaign I launched with activist Joanne MacInnes in November, calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and I also spoke about the 126 other men, calling for their release unless they are going to be tried — an outcome that only applies to around ten of the men still held. [Click on the photo to enlarge it]. Read the rest of this entry »

Close Guantánamo: Take Part in the Global Day of Action on May 23, 2014

Next Friday, May 23, is a global day of action, “Not Another Broken Promise! Not Another Day in Guantánamo!” organized by the campaigning group Witness Against Torture, with the support of numerous other groups including Close GuantánamoAmnesty InternationalBlue Lantern Project, Center for Constitutional RightsCloseGitmo.netCode PinkLondon Guantánamo CampaignNational Religious Campaign Against Torture, No More Guantánamos, September 11th Families for Peaceful TomorrowsTorture Abolition and Survivor Support CoalitionVeterans for Peace and World Can’t Wait.

25 events in five countries have been arranged so far, and they include events in New York, Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, London, Munich and Toronto. The full list can be found here, and Andy Worthington, the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, will be speaking at the London protest, which takes place in Trafalgar Square from 12 noon to 2pm. If your hometown isn’t represented, and you want to set up your own event, please contact Witness Against Torture, and see this page for a comprehensive toolkit for those organizing protests.

It’s a year since President Obama’s promise to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo

The reason for the global day of action next Friday is because, on May 23, it will be exactly a year since President Obama delivered a major speech on national security issues, in which he promised to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, after a period of nearly three years in which the release of prisoners had almost ground to a halt. Sadly, it took a prison-wide hunger strike — and unprecedented domestic and international interest in the plight of the prisoners — for the president to promise action. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: Close Guantánamo – The Washington D.C. Protest on the 12th Anniversary of the Prison’s Opening, Jan. 11, 2014

Close GuantanamoAndy Worthington calls for the closure of GuantanamoTorture is always wrongRev. Ron Stief calls for the closure of GuantanamoLeili Kashani calls for the closure of Guantanamo"Tell the world the truth": Shaker Aamer's words from Guantanamo
Medea Benjamin of Code Pink and a supporterThe "Close Guantanamo" march leaves the White HouseMr. President, you gave your word to close GuantanamoVeterans for Peace call for the closure of Guantanamo"Close Guantanamo" campaigners arrive at the Museum of American History"Close Guantanamo" campaigners at the Museum of American History
Shut down Guantanamo"Close Guantanamo" campaigners occupy the Museum of American HistoryWitness Against Torture activists call for the closure of Guantanamo in the Museum of American HistoryPalina Prasasouk reads out a letter from Shaker Aamer in GuantanamoThe Price of Freedom: Witness Against Torture activists call for the closure of Guantanamo in the Museum of American History

Close Guantánamo: The Washington D.C. Protest on the 12th Anniversary of the Prison’s Opening, Jan. 11, 2014, a set on Flickr.

On Saturday January 11, 2014, a coalition of groups involved in campaigns calling for the closure of Guantánamo — including Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Witness Against Torture, World Can’t Wait, and my own group, the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, which I co-founded and run with the attorney Tom Wilner — met outside the White House in Washington D.C., in the pouring rain, to tell President Obama to revisit his failed promise to close the prison, to continue releasing cleared prisoners as a matter of urgency, including the Yemenis who make up the majority of the 77 cleared prisoners still held, and to bring justice to the 78 other men still held, either by putting them on trial or releasing them.

These are my photos of the day, and as well as including some of the speakers outside the White House, the set also includes photos of the march from the White House along Constitution Avenue to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where, as I explained in an article for “Close Guantánamo,” featuring a 10-minute video of the day’s events by Ellen Davidson (including clips of me and Tom), which I’m also posting below, activists with Witness Against Torture staged a creative and powerful occupation of the museum, under the clever slogan, “Make Guantánamo History.” Read the rest of this entry »

Today, As Guantánamo Hunger Strikers Seek Relief in Washington Appeals Court, A US Protestor Will Be Force-Fed Outside

Today, at 11 am Eastern time (4 pm GMT), lawyers for three prisoners still held at Guantánamo Bay — including the last British resident, Shaker Aamer — will ask the appeals court in Washington D.C. to order the government to end the force-feeding of prisoners, denounced by the World Medical Association and the UN, in which, as the legal action charity Reprieve explained in a press release, “a detainee is shackled to a specially-made restraint chair and a tube is forced into his nostril, down his oesophagus, and through to his stomach.”

At the height of the prison-wide hunger strike at Guantánamo this year, 46 men were being force-fed. That total has now fallen to 15, but twice a day those 15 men are tied into restraint chairs, while liquid nutrient is pumped into their stomachs via a tube inserted through their nose.

As well as Shaker Aamer, the other petitioners in the appeal are Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian, and Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian. All three were cleared for release by President Obama’s inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force in January 2010, and are represented by Reprieve and Jon B. Eisenberg. Read the rest of this entry »

GTMO Clock Launched, 75 Days Since Obama’s Promise to Resume Releasing Prisoners from Guantánamo, and Six Months Since Hunger Strike Started

Please click on the “GTMO Clock” image to visit the website and see how many days it has been since President Obama promised to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, and how many men have been freed.

Today, the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, Witness Against Torture and the Center for Constitutional Rights are launching the “GTMO Clock,” to show how long it is since President Obama promised to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, and how many men have been freed. This article is published simultaneously here and on the “Close Guantánamo” website.

It’s six months since the prisoners at Guantánamo embarked on a prison-wide hunger strike to protest about their seemingly endless detention. Although President Obama promised to close the prison within a year when he took office in January 2009, he failed to do so, and in February this year, the majority of the 166 men still held began refusing food, in the hope of attracting the world’s attention to their plight, and forcing President Obama to act.

In May, after the world’s media had picked up on the hunger strike, and international bodies including the UN, the EU and the International Committee of the Red Cross had put pressure on President Obama, he responded with a major speech on national security, in which he promised to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo. Today, however, it’s 75 days since that speech, and no prisoners have yet been released. The “GTMO Clock” will be keeping track of how many days it has been since President Obama made his promise, and how many men have been released. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo Protests on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture in Washington D.C. and London

Tomorrow (Wednesday June 26) is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, established by the United Nations in 1997 to mark the 10th anniversary of the day that the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force.

I have been marking this day since 2007 — also see my reports from 2009, 2010 (and here), 2011 and 2012 — and this year I note that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Member States “to step up efforts to assist all those who have suffered from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

He added, “This year is also the 25th anniversary of the Committee against Torture. This body — along with other UN human rights mechanisms such as the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and the Special Rapporteur on Torture — is vital to strengthening a victim-oriented approach that also includes a gender perspective. This effort was further strengthened by the adoption this year of a UN Human Rights Council resolution focussing on the rehabilitation of torture victims.”

He also stated, “I urge all Member States to accede to and fully implement the Convention against Torture and support the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.  Let us work together to end torture throughout the world and ensure that countries provide reparation for victims.” Read the rest of this entry »

TV and Radio: Andy Worthington Discusses Guantánamo, the Hunger Strike and Shaker Aamer

It’s been a busy week, with the prison-wide hunger strike still raging at Guantánamo, and the government’s denials about it taking place crumbling under sustained media interest.

I’m delighted that the major US newspapers have picked up on the story, and also that CBS News and CNN have finally deigned to cover it, although in general, as was noted at the start of the week by RT — which is engaged in the kind of sustained coverage of the story that ought to be undertaken by the US networks — US TV remains a Guantánamo-free zone.

I appeared briefly on RT’s show on Monday about the hunger strike — part of a short interview that replaced a larger segment planned for last Friday that was scuppered by technical problems — but what I particularly liked about the show was how RT succinctly exposed the shallowness of most US broadcast news, and the ignorance of the American public when it comes to Guantánamo.

In the streets of New York, a reporter for RT asked residents if they knew that over half of the 166 men still in Guantánamo — 86 in total — had been cleared for release but are still held  — only to be met with surprise and, in some cases, evident shock and indignation. Read the rest of this entry »

No More Drones and Close Guantánamo: Protest Photos at CIA Headquarters

Close Guantánamo, Close the CIAClose GuantánamoDrone protestorsPeace messagesWhen drones fly, children die!Code Pink's Peace Strategy
Drones are evil"… nor shall cruel and unusual punishments be inflicted"Andy Worthington outside CIA HQAndy Worthington calls for the closure of Guantánamo and an end to drone strikesSinging for peaceDebra Sweet of World Can't Wait
Debra Sweet: against drones and tortureCode PinkWitness Against Torture at CIA HQReflecting on peace and justice: Witness Against Torture at CIA HQCarmen Trotta and Witness Against TortureCarmen Trotta calls for the closure of Guantánamo
A tender momentJohn Brennan = tortureWar = millions of Sandy Hook Massacres. Abolish war!Refuse to Kill!Breaking the fast

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 »

Photos: Protestors Call for the Closure of Guantánamo outside the White House

Guantánamo protestors and the Washington MonumentPeace bikeFree Djamel AmezianeGuantánamo protestors and the White HouseGuantánamo protestors in front of the White HouseThe poet Luke Nephew calls for the closure of Guantánamo
Close Guantánamo: Black hoods, orange jumpsuits and the White HouseAndy Worthington calls for the closure of GuantánamoClose Guantánamo: Andy Worthington in front of the White HouseRamzi Kassem calls for the closure of Guantánamo in front of the White HouseRamzi Kassem calls for the closure of GuantánamoClose Guantánamo: Protestors outside the White House
Close Guantánamo: Two protestors outside the White HousePardiss Kebriaei and Leili Kashani at the "Close Guantánamo" protest outside the White HouseLeili Kashani calls for the closure of GuantánamoClose Bagram and GuantánamoInaugurate Justice, Close GuantánamoCruel, Inhuman and Degrading
Close Guantánamo: Witness Against Torture's White House protest166 orange ribbons and the White House

Protestors Call for the Closure of Guantánamo outside the White House, a set on Flickr.

These photos, following on from the previous set, capture some of the key images and the principled, decent and tireless campaigners for justice involved in the protest in Washington D.C. on January 11, 2013 to mark the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and to call on President Obama to fulfil the promise he made to close the prison when he took office in January 2009, or be remembered as a failure, who succumbed to political expediency and settled for a path of cowardice rather than confronting his political opponents, both in the Republican Party and in his own party, and doing what needed to be done.

This, of course, involved the still-pressing need to restore some semblance of justice in the wake of the horrors inflicted on the law, on America’s reputation, and on hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the so-called “war on terror,” but instead of addressing the issues, President Obama has expanded the US government’s drone program of extrajudicial assassinations, and has failed those in Guantánamo — especially the 86 men (out of 166 still held in total), who were cleared for release by the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established after taking office in 2009. The Task Force spent a year reviewing the prisoners’ cases before reaching its sober and considered conclusions, and, in addition, some of these men were actually cleared by military review boards under the Bush administration, some as long ago as 2004. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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