From the Archive
21 Arrested: Demonstrators Interrupt US Senate; Block DC Central Cell Block Entrance
Washington, D.C.— Witness Against Torture held two actions in Washington, DC condemning domestic racism and the violation of human rights in the War on Terror.
Inside the United States Senate chamber at 2:30 pm, thirteen demonstrators interrupted Senate proceedings to call for prosecutions of those who committed torture, as detailed in the US Senate report on CIA interrogations. Chanting “Torture, It’s Official, Prosecute Now!” the protestors addressed the Senate before being arrested by Capitol Police. In the Senate Visitors Center, another group held banners with such slogans as “Accountability for Police Murder, Accountability for Torture.” Nine were arrested in the Visitors Center.
At 4:45 pm, members of Witness Against Torture obstructed the entrance to DC Metro Police headquarters for 28 minutes, in recognition that a person of color is killed by police or vigilantes every 28 hours in the United States. They recited the names of dozens of victims of police violence and spoke the words of men indefinitely detained in Guantánamo Bay calling for justice. Activists from the DC Hands Up Coalition stood outside chanting and singing.
Earlier at the Department of Justice, Witness Against Torture joined the Hands Up DC Coalition at their Justice Monday Vigil to call for the indictment of law enforcement officers who have killed people of color. The two groups brought coffins marking the deaths of three African-Americans killed by police to the doors of the Justice Department and were addressed by the mother of Emmanuel Okutuga, killed in 2011 in Silver Spring, Maryland. They also conveyed the stories of men still detained at Guantanamo, despite being clear for release by the US government years ago.
“Grand juries refused even to indict the police murderers of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, just like the Justice Department has refused to prosecute CIA torturers, whose crimes are detailed in the Senate report,” said Marie Shebeck, from Chicago Illinois. “Where is justice if we are not equal under the law, if some people can literally get away with murder and torture.”
“We came to the US Senate, the Justice Department, and a DC jail,” says Uruj Sheikh, from New York City, “to convey with a new voice that racism and Islamophobia, torture tactics in US prisons like extended solitary confinement and the torture of indefinite detention at Guantánamo are two parts of the same system of white supremacy and militarized violence.”
The actions were the culmination of a week-long series of demonstrations calling for the closure of Guantánamo Bay prison, an end to torture, mass incarceration, and police violence. Activists are available for interviews.