News Camera Pointed at Protestors Dressed as Detainees

From the Archive

Fast for Justice 2012: Day 4

Fast for Justice: Day 4
As we prepare this daily update, folks are trickling back to the church from a Clarification of Thought meeting on Witness Against Torture with our friends at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. Laughter is hushed as the lights are turned down, mattresses are spread out in every direction across the floor. Day 4 of our fast is coming to a close.

We have all kinds of news to share with you today. Shortly after our morning began, the jury returned a guilty verdict for Judith Kelly. Mike Levinson delivered a statement that gripped the whole courtroom and was sentenced. Brian, Judith and Carmen will be sentenced on Thursday, January 12th. While we await the sentencing of these friends in Washington, DC, we also celebrate the release from prison of other friends; Bonnie Urfer, Michael Walli and Steve Baggarly. They each served eight months in prison for crossing the line at the Y-12 Nuclear Facility in Oakridge, Tennessee.

Meanwhile, we read in the news (linked below) that Terry Carrico, one of the first Guantánamo prison commanders, is now calling for the detention center to be closed. And yet, Shaker Aamer will not be released until after the elections, so says a Senior White House source to The Guardian, because “We’ve taken enough hits from the right; we can’t risk any more.” Another said: “There will be no rocking of boats from now on in.”

We are finding that, as this fast progresses, our emotions are coming to the surface. We are beginning to laugh at the slightest of goofs, and many welled up with tears listening to Mike during his sentencing statement when he repeated, slowly and clearly, three times in a row before the court: “Torturing human beings is never acceptable. Torturing human beings is never acceptable. Torturing human beings is never acceptable.”

As we get ready to go to sleep this evening, we are preparing to move from our time in the court to our time in the street. Tomorrow begins a 24hour vigil with a “Guantánamo cell” that will continue until January 11th, an anniversary that should be marked as a shameful part of the past rather than a continuing stain on the present.

In Peace,

Witness Against Torture

Contents

1) Mike Levinson – Closing Statement and Testimony
2) Day 4 – Update and Reflections (Compiled by Amy Nee)
3) Day 4 – Courtroom Analysis (By Molly Kafka)

Plus

1) “Jury Convicts Four Guantánamo Protesters Arrested in House Gallery” (Blog of Legal Times)
2) “A Guantánamo Prisoner Has His Day In Court” (Frida Berrigan, Waging Nonviolence)
3) “Guantánamo and Inflaming Passions in the Courthouse and the World” (Johnny Barber)
4) “Terry Carrico, Ex-Guantánamo Prison Commander, Says Facility Should Close” (The Daily Beast)
5) “Last British Resident Held in Guantánamo Bay Faces Another Year’s Captivity” by Tracy McVeigh (The Guardian)

Mike Levinson – Closing Statement and Testimony

WAT trial in D.C. January 3, 2012

Mike Benedetti
Photo: Mike Levinson

Good day! Happy New Year! I also bring greetings from my mentor, Ralph Digia.

I welcome this opportunity to speak—I’ve been waiting to speak throughout this entire ordeal!

My name is Michael R. Levinson; I live in New York; and I am 53 years old.

I am a political activist, and I am senior library clerk at a public library in New York.

I’ve been a political activist since I was 12 years old.
I experienced a tremendous amount of violence and abuse in my life. This led me to develop a strong empathetic attitude toward other people in the world who are also being oppressed and abused.

I am an active member of the War Resisters League, and organization that was founded in 1923 by activists who had opposed World War I.

I am also active in an organization called Witness Against Torture. The purpose of Witness Against Torture is to stop the United States Government and military from torturing people around the world, and to close down the Guantánamo torture center in the Caribbean.

As a member of Witness Against Torture, I’ve done many things with other members of the organization. We’ve made many, many conventional attempts to pressure our government to stop torture and shut down Guantánamo: we’ve written letters, visiting elected and appointed officials, organized public education programs, performed creative and theatrical street events such as walking through the streets of US cities dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods.

In the spring of 2010, many of us decided it was time to address our congresspersons in Washington D.C. at the House of Representatives. We obtained admission tickets to the house gallery thru the standard procedure, picking them up at one of the various tourist offices in D.C. Then we waited on line outside the House of Representatives, and then after a while entered the building. We walked thru various halls, waited on various lines until we came to a reception room outside the house gallery. After another wait and another line, we finally entered the gallery. The gallery is very much like the balcony of a theatre: down below is the stage, and in the gallery/balcony is the audience waiting to watch the show. And this was very much the way it was at first—when we first entered the gallery, many people were milling about, shifting about in their chairs, making light talk such as, “when are things going to get started already?” The same could be said about what was going on the floor of the house chamber: a lot of people, presumably congresspersons, milling about, making idle chatter, socializing, and there were even small children running around. And up in the gallery I could here people around me saying, “When are things going to get started down there?”

Finally, one of our members stood up and spoke. He spoke out against torture, against Guantánamo and legislation being considered to make conditions for Guantánamo prisoners even worse. He was escorted away by official ushers in blazers and then handed over to uniformed police. A second member of our group stood up and spoke out against torture, and was quickly escorted out. Then a third, a fourth and so on, until the total reached 14. I was one of the last to speak. My statement was short and simple: “Torturing human beings is never acceptable!” I spoke this only once, and an usher approached me, motioned for me to come with him, but he came for me, grabbed my arm and escorted me out of the gallery, handing me over to uniformed police in the hallway. As the usher was leading me out, I repeated three times:

“Torturing human beings is never acceptable!
Torturing human beings is never acceptable!
Torturing human beings is never acceptable!”

Regarding my sentence—without any admission of guilt, I appeal to your creativity! I have no hang-ups about paying a punitive fine, if I was certain of exactly where the money would really go. I, therefore, offer the following arrangement: a fine of up to a $150 contribution to aids research, or another legal charity acceptable to both of us.

I leave you with this one prophecy—we in the peace movement will surely win. After all, they only have the guns and money, but nothing else!


Video: Defendant Brian Hynes before sentencing.

Update and Reflections

(compiled by Amy Nee)

Matt closed the circle last night talking about choices. It was in the context of giving a one word debrief about that day’s court experience and in the context too of recognizing that we are coming to a point of changing gears. The trial was coming to a close and we would have to make decisions about how we will spend our days, our energy, our resources. Knowing, as we make those decisions that “we are acting on behalf of those with very little choice, very few to listen…we have to choose to do what we can with the knowledge we have,” and we have a lot to work through and with.

It was indeed a time of changing gears. And because of the ambiguous nature of the day’s schedule (dependent on the jury’s deliberation, the sentencing preferences of the judge and prosecution) those changes had to be made on the fly and with flexibility. We began, as usual, processing to court in hooded silence. Almost immediately upon entering the court house we were called in for a final verdict – Judith Kelly, found guilty – sentencing delayed until noon and then, aside from final sentencing for Mike L., delayed again until the 12th of January. Read more in depth about the court proceedings in Molly’s update posted below. In between sessions folks lingered in the halls, writing letters to Guantánamo detainees and prisoners of conscience. Following the closure of the final session we caucused back at First Trinity, rejuvenated ourselves with tea and juice, got a clean bill of health from Dr. Larry, and made last minute plans to conduct a three-way vigil with groups of 7-12 people bringing the presence of the detainees via jumpsuit and hood to three different locations of power – the Department of Justice, the White House, the Capital/Supreme Court.

Tomorrow, the morning will be devoted to plans for how to press our presence, and that of those detained, out from under the shadow of places of power and into the public. We will move from the veiled linguistic intricacies of the courtroom, to transparent public action. Yet, our actions too are a language and the intent and manner of delivery bears such weight on its reception. How to present ourselves creatively, truthfully, with conviction and kindness, with effectiveness and faithfulness? Chantal closed the morning circle leading us in a song, “woke up this morning with my mind stayed on freedom.” What we look to leads us. A mind stayed on freedom aims toward it, eyes looking for humanity, recognize it, hearts hungering for justice are filled by it.


Video: Brian Hynes on fasting.

Courtroom Analysis

(by Molly Kafka)

The WAT activists sat down briefly in the courtroom 312 of the Superior Court this Friday morning, day four of the trial, to hear the jury’s verdict for Judith Kelly. At 10:30 a.m., Madame Foreperson stood and informed the court that they found Judith Kelly guilty of unlawful conduct. The jurors were then thanked for their service and dismissed. Judge Fisher scheduled sentencing for noon and when the courtroom emptied into the halls, a handful of jurors were willing to speak to the defendants, their supporters, and their legal advisors. The jurors to whom the defendants spoke seemed sympathetic to Witness Against Torture’s efforts in reaching out to the public and the government about the injustices occurring at Guantánamo. In justifying their returned guilty verdicts, the jurors explained they stuck to the elements of the statute. They believed in order for the WAT activists to fully communicate with Congress at the time they tried, the activists would have had to intend to disrupt the representatives from what they were focusing on in the House Chamber.

A surprise juror also spoke to the defense. During the jury selection, Judge Fisher asked the defense to pick a number between one and thirteen. Carmen Trotta offered up the #11 in recognition of WAT’s day of action taking place on January 11th. That number turned out to be the number of the alternate juror. Juror #11, who was sent home yesterday after both the defense and prosecution rested their cases, returned to the Superior Court just so he could speak to the defense. Juror #11 disclosed that he currently works in federal law enforcement and ten years ago he was a conservative Republican. His views in recent years, however, have completely shifted. Had he stayed on the jury, he would have sided with the defendants to the point of forcing a hung jury.

At noon, the courtroom filled again with the WAT community to support their fellow-activists through their sentencing. The government inititialy suggested a sentence for each of the defendants: 30 days suspended jail time, 100 hours of community service, 6 months unsupervised probation, and restriction from going onto or going near the Capitol grounds. Even though the defense requested immediate sentencing, the government requested a week postponement so they could do proper background checks on the defendants. Apparently, the only definitive background check they completed before trial was the one on Mike Levinson. After Mike asked the judge for immediate sentencing since the government did not question his record, Judge Fisher granted his request. You can read Mike’s passionate and striking sentencing statement above.

The defense’s legal advisor Mark Goldstone spoke after Mike and quoted Justice Douglas’s opinion in the Terminiello case from 1949: “Accordingly a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger…There is no room under our Constitution for a more restrictive view. For the alternative would lead to standardization of ideas either by legislatures, courts, or dominant political or community groups.” He told Judge Fisher that “roughly 600 people have been released from Guantánamo Bay and roughly 200 remain detained without due process. Just as the defendants deserved and received due process, so to should the detainees at Guantánamo.”

Judge Fisher seemed moved by these two statements and even partially (and surprisingly – as no one could remember a judge doing this) accepted Mike’s invitation to sentence him to pay a fine to a charity of his choosing. Mike’s full sentence includes a 2 day suspended prison term, 6 months of unsupervised probation, a $150 donation to a charity of Mike’s choosing, a $50 fee to the victims of violent crimes fund, and no illegal conduct on Capitol grounds.

The remaining three defendants will return Thursday, December 12th to make their sentencing statements and receives the courts sentence.

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