Inauguration Bleachers

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Daily Update – Day 6 of the Fast for Justice

Dear friends,

Today was a busy one – and tomorrow and Monday will be busier still.

Still lots of organizing and planning and meeting and acting – all of which become a little more difficult as we go deeper into our fast.  But a spirit has also descended on our community here, now numbering over 70 people…a spirit of connection, and gratitude, and resolve.

Today we joined friends in Code Pink for the Torture Tour, visiting the Virginia homes of John Brennan and Dick Cheney (where two were arrested), then going to CIA headquarters in Langley for a vigil and speaking event.  A photo album of the tour can be found here.  In the afternoon, some of our group joined a planning meeting for organizing an anti-militarization mobilization in DC in March, and some went to a rally to remember Leelah Alcorn and honor Leelah’s wishes for folks to stand up for the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming people everywhere. The day ended with our From Ferguson to Guantanamo panel discussion.

And tomorrow we will be at the White House at 1pm for a demonstration marking January 11th.

Thanks to those who responded to our invitation to share resources for the breaking of our fast on Monday.  More details on how to join us if you are local – but much more to happen before (and shortly after) then.

In Peace,

Witness Against Torture

Links to Media Coverage of Torture Tour

Two anti-torture protesters arrested at Dick Cheney’s house

Human Rights Activists Protest Torture Policies on Former VP Dick Cheney’s Porch

Demonstrators mark 14th anniversary of opening of Guantanamo prison with torture protest on Dick Cheney’s lawn

Dick Cheney Has Anti-Torture Protesters Arrested At Demonstration Outside of His House

Two Arrested After Protests At The CIA And Home Of Dick Cheney [VIDEO]


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Saturday, January 10 – Day 6

John Brennan’s home, in a modest suburban neighborhood, was remarkably unprotected. Only a few police officers and cars were there to meet us when we arrived (although more showed up soon). Medea Benjamin led the group from the street up the short driveway that led to a cluster of houses in a circle, including Brennan’s house. Singing what has become our theme song (“we’re gonna build a nation/that don’t torture no one/but it’s gonna take courage/for that change to come”), we walked past the police officers who tried to stop us and moved directly in front of Brennan’s house. There, using our sound system, we spoke directly to Brennan. Several people from the group spoke, condemning the CIA’s and his actions. After about a half hour of speaking, singing, holding banners, and capturing images, and with a police force growing in size and agitation, we filed away from Brennan’s home, singing ‘we’re gonna build a nation…’

At Dick Cheney’s house, police stood in front of the front door.  Our group processed toward a gate that was slightly ajar which led to the back door, where we could easily see through the windows.  When the police who were out front did arrive in the back yard, Tighe Barry of Code Pink was wearing a mask representing Dick Cheney and standing behind a prop for prison bars.  Members of the group encouraged the police to arrest Dick Cheney, and they did, but they actually had nabbed Tighe.  Eighty-three year old Eve Tetaz, longtime Witness Against Torture community member, was also arrested, apparently for moving too slowly.   Both were released a few hours later.

The planning meeting for the spring anti-war action brainstormed ideas and debated some organizing strategies for a national call to action. At the moment, it appears there will be a mobilization in Washington DC March 20-21 that would consist of town hall type meetings, live streaming, and localized teach-ins. Stay tuned for more information in the near future.

In the shadow of the old Carnegie Library, the city’s former central library, a crowd of more than 500 concerned citizens rallied to remember and honor Leelah Alcorn, the transgender teen who committed suicide last month when she walked out into a highway near her Ohio home. Lordes, one of the speakers, said that at 38 years old she was already three years past the average lifespan of transwomen in the U.S. “We are here to declare that Leelah’s life mattered, and that she commissioned all of us to fix society.” Following the rally the large group marched in the cold streets to the Department of Justice (DOJ) with a stop at the Family Research Council where a memorial for Leelah was built. Once at the DOJ, the group’s list of demands were read. The demands include an immediate ban to the dangerous pseudo-scientific “conversion therapy,” required sensitivity training for teachers, parents and other public officials, and greater access to needed hormone treatment for those transitioning. It was a powerful and dramatic march and rally and the organizing group pledged further actions in the near future in the pursuit for full trans rights and respect.

The evening panel discussion took place in the sanctuary of the church where we are staying and begun with powerful poems from the Peace Poets. They performed “Power Concedes Nothing” (derived from Frederick Douglass), “Everything is Possible,” and “Sweet, sweet solidarity.”

The panel that followed was challenging and affirming, engaging and instructive.  The four panelists were Marsha Coleman-Adebayo (DC Hands-Up Coalition), Salim Adofo (National Black United Front), Aliya Hana Hussain (Center for Constitutional Rights), and Kathy Kelly (Voices for Creative Nonviolence) –  with facilitation of the panel by Jerica Arents (Witness Against Torture).

Among some of the reflections panelists shared:

Ferguson turned a moment into a movement.

Ferguson and Guantanamo have in common White Supremacy, impunity for police, and so many innocents who have been jailed.

We have to deal with this White Supremacy Beast.

What feeds the Beast of White Supremacy is the constant promotion of fear, that white people need to protect what they have and their “security.”

Prisoners at Guantanamo talked about Ferguson, saying “They’re being treated like non-humans, like us.

One of the challenges of activism is stepping out and not knowing what you’re going to find on the other side.

People in our movement have actually been given strength from the mothers whose children have been killed.

We are getting better at working together, forming coalitions. It’s hard because people come to the table with all their isms and schisms.

Attica is connected to South Africa is connected to Guantanamo is connected to Ferguson. We have to look at the global picture.

Malcolm X said, “Don’t be surprised that I was in prison. Don’t you know that if you’re black in America, you’re in prison?”

I want us to question uniforms. Because someone wears a uniform and has been trained to kill does not mean he should be exalted.

About being allies: You have to give people the space to solve the problem on their own.

We need to enlarge our understanding of what genocide means.

We need to have brutally honest conversations with each other.

We need to teach our children and young people about militarism.

All of these struggles are preparing us for the really big struggle where we confront the class of people who are destroying life on this planet.

We need to stick in there for the long haul.

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