Text by Jehovah Jones.
Photos by Ellen Davidson and Jehovah Jones.
When several hundred social-justice activists gathered at the White House Wednesday to demand that President Obama free the scores of martyrs being illegally held prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, there were some in the crowd who were quietly determined not to be ignored yet again.
Representing Veterans for Peace, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Code Pink, CloseGitmo.net and World Can’t Wait, this constitutionally protected citizens’ protest featured prayer and singing of hymns, a huge contingent of protestors in orange prison jumpsuits, some bearing the names of the 86 prisoners who have been cleared of any crime and yet not freed, and a flock of pink umbrellas spelling out ‘Close Guantanamo.’
There was testimony by some of those whose lives have been impacted, and by a group of women who had just visited the prisoners’ families in Yemen, as well as lots of silent protest by those of us who are just sickened by how badly those people are being treated in our name.
At least one person decided this wasn’t enough, and chose to go the extra mile, which in this case measured about 8 feet vertically.
Texas shrimp-boat captain and Vietnam veteran Diane Wilson was in her 57th day of a water-only fast undertaken to show solidarity with the 104 prisoners of conscience who have vowed not to eat until they are free. That much time without food can make you seriously weak.
But you’re not Diane Wilson.
Wilson, 64, draped a painter’s dropcloth across the spikes at the top of the fence that shields the president from his people, got a boost and vaulted over. With that small, innocuous act, she was in effect crossing the rubicon, pissing* in the face of those who believe they are The Law.
As ridiculous as it may sound, when she entered the lawn in front of her country’s seat of government, unarmed and unthreatening, Diane was promptly converted into The Enemy.
And so this calm, motherly woman who lay on the ground just inside the fence to show she was no threat, was beset by screaming thugs pointing assault rifles, and threatened with the release of a snarling, snapping German shepherd purposely whipped into a frenzy by his grinning frat boy of a handler.
In addition to Wilson, who was roughly cuffed and jailed, at least 18 other protestors were arrested for refusing, when arbitrarily ordered, to leave the sidewalk outside the fence, where any tourist is allowed to stroll.
In an apparent bit of delayed payback, Code Pink’s waifish Medea Benjamin, who confronted the President over exactly this issue a few weeks ago while he was giving a speech at Fort McNair’s War College (sanitarily euphemized as National Defense University), was roughly thrown down on the sidewalk and cuffed, as you can see in the photo below.
As was former Veterans for Peace President Elliot Adams as he tried to chain himself to the outside of the fence. Frail and in his 41st day of fasting, Adams was pressed facedown on the hot pavement for a ridiculous amount of time, held by the foot of a hulking bully of a cop, who eventually got around to cuffing him.
Both were released without charges within the hour. Based on the way the cops acted, they apparently felt that they deserved some gratitude for that.
How did we get here, people? How is that a man who ran on a platform that specifically included freeing the people his predecessor had illegally and cruelly locked away in that inhuman hellhole for a decade, sits serenely behind that fence and does nothing while the people he claims to serve are abused by sneering, condescending pricks in clownish uniforms?
How did the country’s first African-American president, running as a progressive and presumptively representing a minority that has long been mistreated in this country, wind up as the defender of a malignant status quo established by neoconservative pond scum?
How is it that this presumably decent professor of constitutional law has become The Man standing in the schoolhouse door barring entry to those who would expose the extent to which that constitution is still being trashed, long after the departure of Grand Dick Cheney and his idiot minions?
How is it that President Obama, who still claims to personally want to close that shameful chapter and return to the rule of law, sits on his nuanced multicultured ass and does not lift a finger to help a courageous kid like Bradley Manning, who’s been stripped of his humanity, had his legal rights trampled for years, for simply trying to tell his fellow citizens about the war crimes committed in their names by Bush and his henchmen? It’s now on your head, Mr. Obama. Make no mistake about that. You inherited this mess, it’s true, but you didn’t have to buy into it.
How is it, now that you’re the overseer of Plantation America, ensconced in the columned antebellum mansion, that you extend such crimes as these, and have added your own? Eavesdropping on citizens without a warrant, and claiming for yourself the right to play judge, jury and executioner of people across the world, fellow citizen or not? How is that you’ve tasked your own AG to play John Ashcroft and break his arm reaching for justification for the Cheneyesque bullshit that you’re pulling?
Where, at last, is your humanity? And don’t give me that ludicrous, juvenile ‘War on Terror’ schtick. It’s an insult to your intelligence as well as mine.
Folks, It’s way past time to rock this boat. Get in the streets, scream and howl, and refuse to be ignored. Do it while there’s time, because it’s fast running out.
Those prisoners on whose behalf we were here to protest? I doubt the government will admit it, but they don’t want to release them for one simple reason — fear that in the last decade of being imprisoned, abused and tortured, these innocent people have been radicalized and could actually be tempted to commit some of the acts for which they were falsely imprisoned. Would you blame them if they were?
But preemptive imprisonment, for whatever reason, is lawless madness. And it’s exactly that sort of madness that your government is getting very comfortable about rationalizing. Guess what they’ll rationalize next? I don’t wanna.
Rattle the chains. Now. It may already be too late, but there’s only one way to find out.
*Not literally, but I can dream, can’t I?