News Camera Pointed at Protestors Dressed as Detainees

From the Archive

Midweek Update from DC: Yemen action and more

WAT action Wednesday at the Supreme Court
“Know where you stand and stand there.”

Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Dear Friends,

This evening we are holding in our hearts our five community members who are spending the night in Central Cell Block awaiting their arraignment tomorrow afternoon.  Read our press release about the action and arrests below.

Then scroll down for news of our Tuesday evening protest at the White House during Trump’s speech and our community dialogue event earlier in the day. We conclude with an uplifting reflection by Ellen Huffman who is fasting in solidarity with us from Colorado. Thanks, Ellen!


WAT Press Release
Five Witness Against Torture Activists Arrested for Bannering on the Supreme Court Steps as Part of “Stop Torture” protest

Activists Participate in week-long fast calling on the U.S. to Stop Support for the Murderous War in Yemen and Close the Prison Camp at Guantanamo

On January 9, 2019, five human rights activists protesting all forms of torture were arrested while bannering on the Supreme Court steps. Their banner stated: “We Target. We Torture. We Terrify,” followed by the question “Who Are We?”  

Joining them were dozens of protesters who formed a tableau to denounce US-backed war on Yemen and call for closure of Guantanamo.

Alongside the banner, 36 children’s bookbags were scattered atop bloodied shrouds. Each backpack bore the name of a Yemeni child killed on August 9, 2019 when a Saudi warplane dropped a Lockheed Martin 500 lb. laser guided bomb on their school bus. Remembering the nine prisoners who died in Guantanamo, activists clad in jumpsuits and hoods laid down on bloodied shrouds, across from the backpacks.

While Supreme Court security guards handcuffed those holding the banner, supporters sang: “Know where you stand. No more war. Know where you stand and stand there.”

Arrested were Sherrill Hogen, Manijeh Saba, Ellen Graves, JoAnne Lingles, and Charley Bowman.

Explaining why she chose to risk arrest, Ellen Graves, a social worker from Western Massachusetts said she is troubled by grotesque practices that have starved, maimed, dismembered and traumatized Yemeni children. Graves and many of the other activists have gathered for a week of fasting and action that marks January 11, the seventeenth year since Muslim men have been imprisoned in Guantanamo. “The misery of Muslim people continues,” said Dr. Maha Hilal after reading the names of the Yemeni children being commemorated along with the names of nine Muslim men who have died in Guantanamo.
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Tuesday evening at the White House protesting the Trump address

We expected a quiet evening of planning on Tuesday, until Trump decided to make an address stumping for his wall.  So we made haste to join other protesters in front of the White House to give our own counter-message: Is this who we are? We had been reflecting on that question earlier in the day in the context of Guantanamo and Yemen.  We had no problem extending our analysis to “The Wall” and other state violence happening at our border.  Indeed, is this who we are? #NoWall #CloseGitmo #YemenCantWait

Mike Fiala reports reports back on our community dialogue session at Codepink house on Tuesday

Local tenant justice activists Minnie and Yvonne warmly introduced us to their neighborhood where housing justice is one of the fundamental challenges.
We learned that battles they won in the past for holding onto affordable HUD-subsidized housing have returned. As Yvonne described it: first, it was segregation; then it was integration; now it’s gentrification. For her, gentrification is segregation by another name.  Minnie & Yvonne were supremely interested in our work in WAT, easily expanding their hearts and their own concerns to us. In fact, they were struck by our WAT t-shirts and so two men gave them their shirts off their backs. They were also delighted to talk with Xavier University students who joined us for the dialogue. They invited us all back in the summer, talking about the wonderful parties, food, and children there are in their neighborhood!

Reflection from Solidarity Faster Ellen Huffman

40 men detained at the prison at Guantanamo.  Less than ever since its opening in 2002, but still, 40 people.  People. Individuals who have been held for years, some cleared for release for years, some never charged with a single crime.

I couldn’t attend the Witness Against Torture (WAT) convergence in Washington, D.C. this year–an experience that was incredibly meaningful to me the three years before–and so I tried to fast in solidarity with those 40 men from my home in Colorado.  I knew the stats. I knew the reasons why striving to live in solidarity matters. I knew what it was like to hear the words of Guantánamo prisoners read over a handheld sound system while my stomach folded in on itself.

But this time I was alone.  This time I could only be connected to the actions of my colleagues through texts and tweets.  I’m in a new city where I don’t know too many people and certainly don’t know any other WAT/IRTF folks.  I was alone.

And I know through my struggles with fasting on my own, with feeling isolated from my community, with feeling lonely and heartbroken, that I was not even skimming the surface of what it might feel like to be separated from family and neighbors, tortured and held for years on end.  And I know that ultimately, I was not alone. How could I be?

We are made to seek justice in community.  We are made to form connections while working for equality and peace.  We need each other in this work. It is too hard on our own and we get so much more work done together.  I know I treasure my year in Cleveland working with IRTF so much more–and I appreciated it quite a lot while I was there–now that I’m across the country.  

This work of solidarity matters.  You are no less alone than the men I fasted with.  Watch your individual actions multiply by partnering with IRTF and WAT. You will be amazed.

Con paz y luz,

Rev. Ellen Huffman

Former IRTF board member, now residing in Boulder, Colorado, enrolled in a graduate program in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Naropa University


If you are in the DC area, we hope you’ll make plans to attend the following:

  • Thursday evening panel, entitled The State of Muslim Rights in the War on Terror. 
  • Congressional Briefing on Guantanamo, Friday, 10 am, Longworth House Office Building, Room 1539.
  • Rally at the White House, marking 17 years of Guantanamo, 2:30 pm.

Visit our website for our schedule, photos, and more. 

Peace and gratitude,
Witness Against Torture

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