From the Archive
Fast for Justice 2012: Day 5
Hour 16 of 92-hr Guantánamo cage vigil at White House
We truly have transitioned. Long days of sitting in court room 312, wandering its halls, trying to ignore the pastries in the café while sipping hot tea, are over. Most of the day was spent out of doors – at Occupy Washington D.C., processing through the city, haunting the Washington Monument and the White House and introducing “the cage” to the public. And at four o’clock this afternoon, we lifted the Guantánamo Cell that had spent the day leading our procession around the city, over the stanchions that prevent vehicles from entering the White House grounds, and wheeled it onto Pennsylvania Avenue to begin what will be a continuous vigil (92 hours) until January 11th. As we write (11:30pm on Jan. 7th), three of our community are there at the White House, to be replaced by another shift soon.Whether in court or out of doors our momentum is sustained by the many diverse contributions of numerous participants of the WAT community. There are teams of volunteers directing their time and energy to various essential tasks: house-keeping, action planning, courtroom sketches, photographs and videos, waking up early to put on coffee and hot water, staying up late to collect and disseminate information. One of our un-credited daily updaters, Ted Walker, has left for a few days, as did defendant Brian Hynes, and his wife and daughter Heidi and Frieda, whose invigorating presence will be truly missed.
Saying her goodbyes, Heidi commented on her time amongst the WAT community saying the experience was deeply meaningful to her, not only as a support to her husband while on trial, but also, in fact mostly, as a parent. “I think we taught Frieda what church is – thank you so much for being our church.” Time and again we are reminded that while enduring the scarcity of fasting and justice denied we encounter abundance in compassionate, creative individuals coming together. Imperfect and agitated, we occasionally drive each other crazy, but at the end of the day the evidence is clear, community sustains and compels us. And the network of this community is ever-expanding. This week several from our group spent an evening with folks from Pax Christi, today we spent the afternoon at one of D.C.’s Occupy camps and tonight we received word of an invitation to have WAT representatives “share our message” with the Sunday school of First Trinity, the parish that is generously offering us hospitality.
Thinking of community brings to mind the many folks around the country and world joined together in this fast. We have received notes from Massachusetts and Australia. California and Guatemala. People joining the fast for one day or ten. As just one example of many, The White Rose Catholic Worker Community in Chicago (who sent three members to be here in DC) has been organizing at home for months, planning and preparing for a weekend teach-in, education opportunities with various local communities and daily vigils (President Obama will be in Chicago on January 11). Their determination, perseverance and passion are an inspiration. Many thanks for all those who alter their days and habits, setting aside their regular lives with the hope of uplifting the lives of others.
Witness Against Torture
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Update and Reflections
We were greeted this morning with a shining sun and balmy 50 degree temperature. The warmth was greeted as a grace on our move toward actions that would keep us out of doors for most of the day. Flocks of fasters set out, most flooding two city buses, a few by foot, basking in the brightness. The first order of business was to converge on the Occupy camp at Freedom Square where we would assemble “the cage,” a mock prison cell on wheels, large enough to hold one or two individuals representing detainees. Occupiers offered a warm greeting with a number eagerly drawing out i-pads and phones and various and sundry electronic devices to conduct impromptu interviews with folks in jumpsuits and those tackling the cage construction with insufficient tools. A plethora of fresh signs were drawn naming our desire for Guantánamo (“shut it down”) and our concerns about the NDAA (“Indefinite detention for U.S. citizens without trial”). New fliers had also been composed, printed and folded. With these tools of communication in hand the hope is that we are not just drawing attention but sharing information.
This morning in his insightful morning reflection, Ted suggested that we ought not focus on “telling others what they don’t know,” that this is an unhelpful act of presumption. Rather, utilizing the hood that confines it’s bearer to silence, in a way that both represents the voicelessness of the detainees and infers a sacred hush, we have the opportunity to create, “a space for people to react in different ways.” A space where we are not manipulating or even trying to convince, but offering an opportunity, an interruption that might for a moment lift the weight of a lifetime of habits and pressures and conventions so in that moment of lightness people can make their own way. People certainly did react in different ways to our presence as we silently walked around the Washington Monument and to the White House. “Best protest ever!” “ – better not release them in the U.S.,” “I love Guantánamo!” “Thank you for what you’re doing.” A number of parents were overheard sharing their own information with questioning children. A few encouraging fragments of phrases came through, “try them or release them.”
Arriving at the White House we passed another group of protesters (not an uncommon occurrence in front of the White Hose). When they saw us processing by one said, “Guantánamo – Obama had promised to close it…” Though we were able to bodily coalesce at the gates of the White House and vigil, the cage was temporarily left on the sidewalk, unable to slip through the cement stanchions obstructing vehicles from entering. Not to be deterred, when our vigil had ended, half a dozen folks hoisted the cage up and over, delivering it safely to the edge of Lafayette Park with a close clear view of the president’s home. There we left four fasters for the first 3-hour shift of what will be a 92-hour vigil with the cage, an emblem of indefinite detention brought home to the White House lawn.