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News :: Human Rights : International
Protesters Call for Closing Guantanamo Bay Detention Center
31 Jan 2010
On January 18th, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, around 30 people gathered in the freezing cold on the Boston Common to demand that President Obama follow through on his promise to close down Guantanamo Bay Prison. The President had vowed to close Guantanamo Bay—located on a US Naval Base in Cuba where hundreds of accused "terrorists" are detained, many without charges or access to lawyers—within his first year, which ended on January 20th. The President, along with human rights organizations, have condemned Guantanamo for the use of torture and countless other violations of international human rights agreements.
Boston protesters carried signs and banners, and using a bullhorn, spoke directly to onlookers, calling for an end to the wars, the end of the use of torture, the closure of Guantanamo Bay, and freedom for many of the political prisoners held within United States prisons. Others spoke in the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who, toward the end of his life, championed not only peace and racial equality, but rights for all working people and an end to the war in Vietnam. The Greater Boston Stop the Wars Coalition called for the action and supporters, many of whom provided speakers, included the Boston May Day Committee, the Boston Anarchist Black Cross, the Socialist Party, Committee to Free the Cuban 5, and Students for a Democratic Society. Anarchists from BAAM, the ABC, and the Northeastern Federation of Anarchist-Communists were present.

Clara Hendricks of Boston Anarchist Black Cross gave the following speech.

While we are here today to recognize Barack Obama’s failure to follow through on his promise to close the torturous prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, it is also essential to recognize the implications of his condemnation of torture, and what this should mean for prisoners nation-wide. We live in a country with the highest per capita prison population in the world. We live in a country where millions of prisoners are subject every day to the same torture that continues to occur at Guantanamo. In condemning torture, Obama was, in a way, condemning the entire US prison system. So today we must not only demand that he closes Guantanamo, but that he ends ALL torture- and this means the abolition of the US Prison system.

This connection of Obama's statements to domestic prisons was not something that was lost on our comrades on the inside. So, rather than write up something new, I thought I would share with you the words of some prisoners I know. The following, written last winter, comes from the International Committee to End the Torturous Facility at SCI Greene County:

"North of West Virginia dwells a covert 'Guantanamo Bay' death camp opened in the early 1990s. Its famous name is S.C.I. Greene County. Stationed in Western Pennsylvania, it houses over 2,000 prisoners, 515 of those prisoners are detained in the Control Unit, including death row inmate Mumia Abu Jamal. In addition, it primarily warehouses a colossal amount of long term, lock down inmates under the fabricated blanket excuse of "A threat to their selves or others” status; demanding a
sensory deprivation type of situation.'

S.C.I. Greene County Lieutenant/Iraqi Army Corporal Charles Graner participated in and/or gave orders to the unlawful despotic treatment of prisoners such as: depriving of meals, beatings, depriving disability prisoners of their chronic disease needs; (sometimes causing deaths), pepper spraying inmates, electric shocks, all of this was executed by him from late 1990s to the early 2000s. More importantly, this is the same personnel that utilized identical methods at Abu Ghraib prison in the Middle East leaving the world to watch it on film."

Looking further south, there is an article written by Jordan Flaherty, an ally of prisoners in Louisiana, published in January 2009, shortly after Obama’s statement on torture.

"The torture of prisoners in US custody is not only found in military prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo. If President Obama is serious about ending US support for torture, he can start here in Louisiana."

The Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is already notorious for a range of offenses, including keeping former Black Panthers Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox in solitary for over 36 years. Now a death penalty trial has exposed widespread and systemic abuse at the prison. The behavior documented at Angola stands out both for its brutality and for the significant evidence that it was condoned and encouraged from the very top of the chain of command.

"In a remarkable hearing that explored torture practices at Angola, twenty-five inmates testified to facing overwhelming violence in the aftermath of an escape attempt at the prison nearly a decade ago. These inmates - who were not involved in the escape attempt - testified to being kicked, punched, beaten with batons and with fists, stepped on, left naked in a freezing cell, and threatened that they would be killed. They were threatened by guards that they would be sexually assaulted with batons. They were forced to urinate and defecate on themselves. They were bloodied, had teeth knocked out, were beaten until they lost control of bodily functions, and beaten until they signed statements or confessions presented to them by prison officials. One inmate had a broken jaw, and another was placed in solitary confinement for eight years.

"Torture and abuse are illegal under both US law and international treaties to which the US is signatory. Despite the laws and treaties, US prison guards have rarely been held accountable to these standards."

While these two statements just about say it all, I want to make sure we recognize that it is not just about SCI Greene and Angola. It is not just about the Angola 3 and Mumia Abu-Jamal. These torturous conditions exist across the country from county to state to federal institutions. While those we refer to as political prisoners often receive particularly harsh treatment due to their ideologies and beliefs, this same treatment is just as often given to countless others, whose cases are not known or publicized. This is the unknown and unspoken reality for nearly 1% of the United States population. The conditions of torture are so widespread that according to a court case in 1980, they do not even violate the 8th Amendment, as they are indeed cruel, but not unusual. They occur every day.

So today, as we acknowledge the torture occurring at Guantanamo, and call upon Obama to follow through on his promise, we must not forget those who are locked up in our backyards. Those in South Bay, in Concord, in Framingham, in Walpole, Norfolk, Chicopee, and across the nation. We must continue to strive for a day when torture is truly nonexistent- and that day cannot exist while a single prison stands intact.

This work is in the public domain.
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