End Torture, Stop the War

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On Thursday, January 11, 2007, the fifth anniversary of the detention of persons at Guantanamo Bay, I participated in a demonstration in New York to demand the closing of that camp and other secret prisions, the end of torture by the United States, the restoration of habeas corpus and other fundamental US rights. The announcement the night before of troop increases in Iraq added urgency to all these issues.

Unlike the action in December in front of Macy’s, this one was not so tense, nor perhaps so forceful to passersby. There was a stage set in Foley Square in lower Manhattan, the ACLU had brought its cage with “prisoners” inside that sat on the scene. People in the orange jumpsuits were also on the stage with signs and banners. My own job this time was distributing orange stickers to put on coats or bags to be visible as we left to get on the subway, return to the office, whatever we were doing.

The event had been planned for some time and featured remarks from a leader of the ACLU about the assault on our civil liberties and speakers from many religions: a rabbi, a priest, a Buddhist monk, a minister, an Islamic woman leader. All of these spoke from their traditions about respect for human life, peace, love for all persons. The rabbi told us that justice is not abstract, but now, here. What we do now is either just or injust, what we are choosing matters. The Buddhist monk spoke little, but he had his bell with the clear, pure tone that called us to a brief meditation in silence in the midst of that busy place and ended with a prayer for compassion. The priest led a litany for those oppressed and the prisoners.

I was greatly moved by the Islamic woman who read from the Quran, which also calls for justice and peace and respect for all.

In a private moment with her afterward, I was struck by her quiet strength. She looked at me steadfastly and said, “We can do this. We can end this. It is up to us, the women, and we can do this.” She seemed to radiant great depth and strength.

Though we have not had real winter here, the temperature was seasonal that day. I had been to the gym just before and was warmed up and warmly dressed, so though it was cold, I was okay except for my right hand. Many people wanted help getting their sticker on their coat, so I often took off my glove to be able to help. My right hand was getting really cold at the end of the hour and a half we were there.

There were a lot of press photographers again, but no live news coverage. The area is close to police plaza, so there were police around as there always are there, but not like the Macy’s event. I got the feeling the officers would have been there whether we were or not. The whole event was less tense.

It was powerful for me in a different way. Cindy and Ann and others were at that moment in Guantanamo Bay at the gates of the camp. People I know in other cities were demonstrating in their way. I was again with people with whom I have stood in the rain holding a huge banner, stood in the cold distributing flyers, knelt on the sidewalk. It is moving to be with these people who will not be silent in the face of war, torture, assaults on our democracy.

We can do this. We are doing this, we women and men who will not be silent.

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