Witness Against Torture formed in 2005 when 25 Americans went to Guantánamo Bay and attempted to visit the detention facility. Once we returned from that journey, we began to organize more broadly to shut down Guantánamo, working with interfaith, human rights and activists’ organizations.
We have planned a series of nonviolent direct actions to expose and decry the administration’s lawlessness, build awareness about torture and indefinite detention amongst Americans and forge human ties with the prisoners at Guantánamo and their families.
In 2007, we began marking January 11th– the date that the first “war on terror” prisoners arrived at Guantánamo Bay in 2002– as a day of national shame, organizing major demonstrations and civil resistance at sites in Washington, DC and around the country.
In 2009 the group starting fasting in DC in January during the anniversary of the prison. I joined in 2011 and will be participating in my fourth fast with the group in 2014.
January 5, 2012 Day 2
Slept well in our space. Well, sorta’ despite Brian Terrell being right next to me and snoring. It’s warmer than the church we were in last year. The showers are also nicer so I took one. We began this day with a procession to the Superior Court House where Brian Hynes (Shaker Aamer), Michael Levinson, Josie Setzler, Carmen Trotta, and Judith Levinson face charges of disorderly conduct.
January 6, 2012 Day 3 & 4
Before we went to court I found this flower bed outside our church. I’m not sure what it is, perhaps a decorative kale, but it looks delicious.
The jury returned after less than an hour of deliberation. Judith Kelly – guilty of disorderly conduct for expressing grievances towards Guantanamo Bay and the NDAA bill to congress. Michael Levenson was the only 3 of 4 who received his sentencing today. The prosecution would like to receive some time to research the criminal backgrounds. Prosecution wanted to charge Michael with 30 days jail time, six months unsupervised probation, not to be allowed on capitol grounds for a year and 150 hours community service.
On day five we moved from Holy Trinity back to St. Stephen’s in the morning for action planning where Justin fell asleep
The 24 hour vigil team decided that we would start the vigils today at 4P.M. with groups of three. One person would be under a hood inside the cage and the others would be making contact with the public, leafleting. After action plan meeting we constructed the cage at Freedom Plaza where we proceed to process from there to the Washington Monument and final destination: The White House.
January 8, 2012 Day 6
I slept all day after taking the 1AM – 4AM shift at the 92-hour vigil. Did not participate in any actions. Went to the screening of Taxi to the Dark Side at Radical Space D.C. where we had a Q&A afterwards and invited people from Occupy D.C. There was a former military police there who ran outside during the documentary to vomit. Video of Witness Against Torture group discussion on Taxi to the Dark Side
January 9, 2012 Day 7
The 7th day of fasting began at 7A.M at the Pentagon as people walked into work. A poem written by Shakir Aamer and his biography was spoken out loud on the intercom. Shakir is a Saudi Arabian citizen currently being held indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay since 2001. He initiated the first hunger strike at Guantanamo and has spending most of his confinement in solitary confinement as a result. He has lost half of his body weight.
January 10, 2012 Day 8
Chantal and Chris from Chicago lead the morning reflection on the beginning of day 8. Tired, hungry and un-bathed, our expressionless faces soon turned to smiles as Chantal sang a song she wrote “12 Days of Fasting”. The lyrics will be available on the WAT site soon. We shared laughter and then we shared glances. Chantal had an exercise where we looked around the circle at people and thought of how that person has touched us. We caught glances and smiled back at each other silently.
January 11, 2012 Day 10
Almost a thousand people gathered today in Lafayette Park in Washington D.C. from all over the country and world to mark the 10th anniversary of Guantanamo Bay. It was the largest action against the detention center since its opening in 2002.
January 11, 2011 Day 1
As activists gather in D.C. for 11 days, I also begin fasting. I can’t move past the logic that fasting isn’t going to free the prisoners. The detainees don’t even know we’re starving ourselves out here. They probably don’t even get to watch TV or go on the internet. So, I’m adding some humor to it. Ironic Atheism- I’m protesting Christmas. One collation at sunrise, one collation at sunset not equally more than one full meal. In the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the 173 remaining Guantánamo Bay detainees.
January 12, 2011 Day 2
Sunrise- Ate a bowl of couscous and a spoon of vanilla ice cream
Sunset- Ate a bowl of couscous
January 13, 2011 Day 3
Sunrise- Half a pita bread until I realized the other half was mold. Can’t tell with this vegan food, you know. 5 dried apricots. Cranberries. I’m also unsure what would be a full meal. This would be a full meal in Mexico, Israel, or Ethiopia. This would also be a full breakfast.
January 14, 2011 Day 4
I can’t tell if I haven’t slept or is it because I’m hungry. I went to bed at 11PM last night and woke up at 4:30AM. I thought about pho all day. For the first time, I could smell the pizza at work and it smelled damn good. Oh so wondrous. I had an entertaining night at work, mostly just me talking to myself and practicing different voices I would try on customers.
Very excited to ride a train for a long distance tomorrow. I expect nothing less than Darjeeling Limited experiences. I think, next year I’ll go for the full 2 weeks and sneak away to NYC for a day. Oh, wait. I could totally do that on Sunday.
January 17, 2011 Day 5&6
Day 5 was spent on the train. Took about 17 hours to get from Chicago to DC. The train ride was pretty and the people were interesting. I spent a good four hours in the lounge socializing with fellow travelers, most of whom were returning to DC or Philly. We jumped from subject to subject. Everything from Dean Koontz, Ayn Rand, astrology, suicide, the blues, dogs, etc… obviously in an effort to pass the time quickly.
January 18, 2011 Day 7
First day protesting torture in DC for me was today. Began it with a morning meeting to reflect and discuss today’s action. With it being MLK Day, we head over to the FBI building to protest the FBI’s spying on peace activists. 40 plus people from our group which has been referred to as “The fasters”, Codepink, a reverend, an attorney who had sued the FBI, and Colleen Casey- a retired FBI agent, whistle blower and Time Magazine’s Person of the Year spoke. Obama also decided to drive by with his gang.
January 19, 2011 Day 8
At 6AM we got on The Metro to head over to The Pentagon. Last night’s rain had frozen over to make an icy dawn in DC. One man scraping his car off asked me, “Are you Orchard Workers?”
Tensions were high before we march once again to the Department of Justice. However, today’s march is different. Today is the day of possible arrests. All the hours of planning would be put into action today. Our primary at agenda at the DoJ has always been for Eric Holder to come down and speak with us.