Request to Join in Solidarity with Fasting for Yemen April 10 – 16

Campaigns // Film

Witness Against Torture (WAT), which has long condemned US crimes in its “war on terror,” is both appalled and saddened by the escalating conflict in Yemen and its attending, humanitarian crisis. Recent US airstrikes in Yemen, recklessly ordered by the Trump administration, have claimed dozens of civilian lives.  The United States continues to back Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, adding to the devastation of the impoverished, war-torn country.  A sea-blockade of rebel areas by the US backed, Saudi-led coalition threatens famine for millions of Yemenis.  Meanwhile, the Trump administration appears to be weakening measures to avoid civilian deaths in various wars the United States is fighting, with the predictable result that more civilians are dying.

Witness Against Torture joins Voices for Creative Nonviolence, the New York Catholic Worker community, Code Pink, the Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, and other groups in participating in a week-long fast from April 10-16 at the United Nations in New York City.  WAT members will have a presence at the Isaiah Wall at the UN, where daily vigils and demonstrations will take place. WAT will also be active in parallel efforts in Washington, D.C. We urge our friends and supporters to participate in these actions, to learn about the crisis in Yemen, to educate their communities, and to demand from US political leaders that US aggression in Yemen end.

If you are interested in supporting this effort by fasting in solidarity, please contact Beth at brockman.beth@gmail.com with details of how and when you plan to fast. You can join the fast in any way you like and for any length of time you like, from one day to all seven days. Even if you are regularly part of WAT’s Fasting for Justice, please email and let Beth know you are fasting and how.

For more information about the fast and vigil in NYC, and the situation in Yemen, click here.

Join Fasting for Yemen on Twitter and Facebook.

#FastingForYemen #YemenIsStarving #RememberYemen

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All in a day: John Yoo, Shame on You! by Helen Schietinger

In Focus - Front Page // Film

When John Yoo was to speak on the George Washington University campus in a debate hosted by the student chapter of the Federalist Society, Anagha Bharadwaj, a GWU law student who joined WAT at the inauguration, needed support from WAT to protest his presence.  We immediately put out the call and two days later a trusty band of local activists showed up for the noon debate at the law school, including folks from Code Pink, TASSC, Vets for Peace and the South Korean peace movement. Campus police arrived to inform us that we weren’t allowed to protest on campus: no signs, no picketing, no chanting on their hallowed grounds.  But our showing on the public sidewalk in front of the building was articulate.

The Jacob Burns Moot Court Room was crowded — GWU Law is apparently teeming with Federalists — but Maha saved a couple of seats in the front row.  She wasn’t allowed to bring her rolled up banner into the room, but David Barrows and I walked in wearing orange jump suits with no problem.  The panelists — the liberal faculty member Jonathan Turley and Yoo — made collegial jokes about the protesters outside, but there was no mention of the theatrical orange in the room.  Not even when I donned my hood for Yoo’s presentation.  As Yoo defended presidential war powers, the outside protesters moved from the street to the windows behind him and began chanting.  Their signs were visible to the audience and the chants provided a chorus that Yoo made light of in his remarks.  During Turley’s talk, defending Congress’s rightful responsibility for war powers, he also emphasized the fact that torture is illegal and a war crime, but without implicating Yoo or the Bush administration.  That gave me the opportunity to disrupt twice, identifying Yoo as the author of the torture memos and the architect of Bush’s torture regime.  I told Yoo he should be prosecuted for war crimes.  As I left the room, he said, “See you next time” and I responded, “See you in court.”
Student activism is alive and well in the hallowed halls of GWU!
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Update

News // Film

Dear friends,

We are preparing for our retreat and yearly planning session in NYC this March 31- April 2. The organising team spent some time on our conference call last night talking out what questions and topics we want to reflect on as a community. We hope our time together will inform our work this year.  We really want to continue building together. If you have participated our  n events before and want to join us, please remember to RSVP to witnesstorture@gmail.com.  We need to arrange for housing and meals.

Erica Ewing, from Cleveland, wrote a reflection on the No Torture Sessions action she was involved in on January 11. Her thoughts remain true to this day as we experience the chaos of the current administration: “Similarly to what people must feel when they see a dozen orange jumpsuits in the streets of DC, my thoughts are jarred by the mundane “business as usual” approach of those who traverse these halls of congress. Their complete disconnect to the consequences their actions have on the real live people.” You can read more here.

Jeremy Varon, from New York, had an article published on Public Seminar that conveyed much of our concerns surrounding the fate of Guantanamo Bay prisoners and the current Muslim Bans: “Trump’s most hateful policies trade on fears of the most vulnerable: foreign, Muslim men under broad suspicion of being terrorists. To reject this fear is to reject Guantánamo, retro-fitted as the dense container of the worst impulses of Trump and his supporters. Always in part a symbol, Guantánamo now looms as a kind of “stress test” of the power of sanity and tolerance against fear-mongering prejudice.” You can read more here.

Maha Hilal has connected us to the DC Justice for Muslims Coalition, which has been actively resisting the Muslim Ban in DC – check out their work here. She also recently wrote an article about white allyship here.

Finally, Mohamedou Ould Slahi was interviewed by 60 Minutes and has brought Guantanamo and the issue of torture back into the news cycle. When asked “Does torture work?”, he responds with “In what way? If working’s bringing pain on me, yes. If working is giving false confessions, yes. If “works” is giving good intelligence, no. If it works resulting in my conviction, hello! I’m here, after 15 years and not even charged, let alone being convicted. So how can you convince anyone possibly who has a shred of intelligence that it works?” If you have not watched his interview yet, you can see it here.

Witness Against Torture on Social Media

Please “like” us on Facebook & follow us on Twitter & Instagram.
Check out our latest news and updates on Tumblr.
Post any pictures of your local activities to our flickr account and we will help spread the word.

Donate to support our work

We are asking our supporters to donate $41 to Witness Against Torture to symbolize the 41 men remaining in Guantanamo.

Witness Against Torture is completely volunteer driven and run. We have no paid staff, but do have expenses associated with our organizing work. We need your financial support. We are fiscally sponsored by the Washington Peace Center. The Washington Peace Center is a verified US-registered non profit. If you are able, click here to donate.

We promise to honor your donations by carry on in our activities until torture is decisively ended, its victims are fully acknowledged, Guantánamo and similar facilities are closed, and those who ordered and committed torture are held to account.

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Shutting down Sessions’ hearing by Erica Ewing

In Focus - Front Page // Film

I am finding it difficult to write this brief reflection from my J11 experience at the Fast for Justice in DC. Not because I have nothing to say, I usually have too many thoughts to keep up with. I struggle with the idea of sharing my perspective. This information isn’t new or special especially to a community who has been witnessing for years. I don’t know nearly enough and am aware that I never will but I am grateful for the chance to continue learning and growing with you all. I want to say my ability to be arrested was a privilege and isn’t deserving of praise. I knew my body would be safe and I would make it out of January 11 alive and essentially unscathed. Emotionally different but nonetheless safe. I am not comfortable with the idea of praise for these actions mainly because our resistance is necessary and urgent. I am grateful to honor what we are doing and our intentions but we must remember there is always much more to be done.

“Freedom should be much more precious for the human being than all the desires on earth and we should never give it up regardless of how expensive the price must be.” -Tariq Ba Odah

I won’t go into detail of why the confirmation of Jeff Sessions’ for the position of essentially the  “people’s lawyer” was greatly contested. I am grateful our community at Witness Against Torture was part of that resistance. At that time we knew Sessions was an exemplary “Tough on Crime” candidate with a reprehensible record, including his support of the use of torture. His two day hearing was interrupted by many activists protesting and bringing to light his trail of racist, sexist, and xenophobic sentiments. WAT headed to the hearings on January 11 with a clear message; NO TORTURE SESSIONS.  

I woke up on January 11 heavy. I felt grateful to wake up surrounded by community and ready to act but still vigilant in the need to slow down and reflect on what this day meant. 15 years of destruction of human dignity.

I drank my tea from the porcelain cup belonging to Musab Omar Ali. A Yemeni man, captured on September 11, 2002, held without charge for 14 years. (I now know he was transferred to Oman on January 16.) I felt heavy for many reasons but mostly because I knew our fast was an act of solidarity with hunger strikers, but when we are free to eat again they continue to languish and wait in uncertainty.

After breaking our fast and spending time reflecting together the handful of us planning to interrupt congressional hearings headed out. I was given strength knowing there were other actions my WAT family would participate in, simultaneous to our own. They would be taking over the streets and eventually the Hart Senate Building to publicly mourn the 9 men who died while imprisoned at Guantánamo and continue to demand its closure.

We made our way to the building and stand in the rotunda area waiting in line until a group of police lead us up the marble staircase to the hearing room. One police officer almost amusingly asks “you’re not gonna make any trouble are you?” to which our small group gently chuckles and brushes the comment off, and I simply shake my head. Similarly to what people must feel when they see a dozen orange jumpsuits in the streets of DC, my thoughts are jarred by the mundane “business as usual” approach of those who traverse these halls of congress. Their complete disconnect to the consequences their actions have on real live people.

We are led into the hearing room through a pair of massive wooden doors and I immediately hear the voice of Civil Rights Champion John Lewis. I quietly find one of the few open seats scattered throughout the room keeping my eyes on where my friends are able to find seats.

I am nervous and trying to remember my words, the words of the men, and why I am here. I am brought back to the where I am by Lewis, and his words as they ring throughout the room “But we need someone who is gonna stand up, speak up and speak out for the people…” Although this felt like as good of time as any to stand up, I looked around at my fellow WAT members and their eyes didn’t meet mine. I sat patiently.

Next up to speak was former U.S. Marshal Jesse Seroyer, he begins by speaking in support of Sessions and I once again feel the anger boiling. “He’s a good and decent man,” he said, “He believes in law and order for all people.” Again here is this narrative of “good”, the false belief that our country has somehow ever operated under “equal justice for all”. The idea that decency comes from your ability to sign policies of destruction and discrimination, all with a smile on your face. The man finishes speaking and I am at the edge of my seat. I wait for my friend Don to stand up,“Close Gitmo, Stop Torture”, he is calling out as he is removed swiftly from the room. My mind constantly wondering ‘Who are the real troublemakers here?’

As soon as the door closes I stand up shaking, with my anger outweighing my nervousness. Our point is to disrupt as much as possible and not let business continue. I pull out my sign which reads “We The People Must Do More To End War” and start speaking. I am trying to collapse the worlds between people sitting in this room and the human beings I have spent my week focusing on. Human beings sitting in cages.  I  make sure I am making eye contact with as many people as possible. I couldn’t tell you what I said, the words came out of my mouth and just as soon evaporated from my mind. I know it was about the men and their families, the humanity we refuse to acknowledge.

I am quickly and forcefully pulled through the large wooden doors. My sign is taken from me and the only words my brain catches, as my hands are tightly bound behind my back, are “I thought you told me you weren’t gonna cause any trouble?” My brain is reeling, as it always is when I spend time in places where “Justice” happens.

I am mostly infuriated by the toothless words used to defend evil systems. The banal way people sit behind desks and walls writing policies that will deny dignity and still feel able to claim that they are operating under the values of “liberty and freedom”.

I am taken downstairs where I find Don and we give each other warm glances. I speak freely with my arresting officer, occasionally she responds or nods as she continues to remove all my belongings and pats me down. It is both my first arrest and the first time she has arrested someone. I can tell she is nervous, as she makes comments looking for ways to demonize us and justify her work.

We were put into the back of a van and we waited. My anxiety ebbed and flowed as I am not a fan of tight spaces. I try to collapse the worlds again and refocus on liberation and the men. There is no comparison to my time confined and the suffering these men and so many others have been subjected to. I gently sing some of the songs we have shared throughout the week and they bring me comfort.  We sit and wait. Eventually making it to the police station where we are brought inside. I find great comfort in the large group of familiar and loving faces, the festival of resistance. We spend many hours together discussing the actions and passing the time as we are individually processed and booked. Experiences there are ones I hold close and reflect on as I continue to look at the system in both an institutional and interpersonal lens, (there is too much to share on these thoughts for this ‘brief’ reflection.)

I end my day heading back to First Trinity Lutheran Church where I am greeted with love and community. I have similar feelings now to how I began the day: grateful but still vigilant. The real troublemakers continue unscathed while so many under the control of this unmerciful system feel hopeless.

Looking back at Sessions, one of many in the long line of creeps that were confirmed. Our fears about him were sadly, but not surprisingly, true. Most recently, he advised Trump on increasing the population at Guantanamo stating “it’s just a very fine place for holding these kind of dangerous criminals.” The deception and outright lies continue.

The canyons seem to be widening. And the destruction of dignity is raging unabated. It can be hard to get through a day. I am given strength when I think about my time with Witness Against Torture. The necessity of being rooted in the stories, words, and art from the men in Guantanamo are the things which continue to guide me and keep me going. I hold onto the responsibility we each have in creating the world we all deserve. It will take courage to continue but because of all the beautiful resistance I have witnessed I will continue to hope and resist.

Peace,

Erica

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Inauguration Resistance and Petition to Report Deaths in Custody

Fast for Justice 2017 // Film

Dear Friends,
We wanted to send out a recap of our witness at the Inauguration Resistance and the Women’s March in D.C. You may view more photos at the following links:
Inauguration protest
Women’s March on Washington
We direct you again to WAT’s statement opposing Trump’s agenda on torture and detention, and to the new video that Justin made to break down what needs to happen to close Guantanamo, now that Trump is president. Our friends, the Peace Poets created a new spoken word video to encourage us in these difficult times – view it here.
Lastly, we have included an ask from our partners the Coalition of Concerned Mothers – please sign their petition here and read about their work.

WAT Witnesses at Trump’s Inauguration, Attends Women’s March

O crisis, intensify!  The morning is about to break forth.

Even though the bands tighten and seem unbreakable,
They will shatter.

Those who persist will attain their goal;
Those who keep knocking shall gain entry.

O crisis, intensify!
The morning is about to break forth.

–from the poem O Prison Darkness by Abdulaziz in Poems from Guantanamo

We reflected on this poetry as thirty WAT members circled up at First Trinity’s Church Hostel on January 20 before we went into the pre-dawn darkness at 6:30 am to demonstrate at the Inauguration.  We processed to a nearby security checkpoint close to the Mall.  We had a long row of folks in orange jumpsuits and black hoods; a robust team of guides, given the darkness; a security team, given the potential for hostile Trump supporters; as well as a choreographer, a medic, and people assigned to media and leafletting.  We were ready.

We joined a huge crowd of Palestinian human rights supporters and antiwar protesters at D St. and First St. NW.  Our banner holders silently faced the police amid a raucous sea of chanting.  As dawn broke, we extracted ourselves from the crush and moved a half block away.  There we faced the line of people waiting to enter the inauguration.  Back at the intersection, riot police moved in, but we stayed safely out of the fray.

Our hooded detainees holding anti-torture banners provided a dramatic tableau that drew hundreds upon hundreds of people snapping photos or recording videos.  The steady flow of humanity, which included Trump supporters and protesters, was, for the most part, respectful and peaceful.  Whenever a person seemed hostile, a member of the security team was right there beside the WAT member being confronted in order to provide a united, nonviolent front.  We received some derisive comments that echoed words we’ve heard from Trump concerning torture and Gitmo.  We understood the challenge that faces us as we go forward from this day.

We stayed at our post until 10:00 am, having committed to occupy that space while other protest groups went to another check point where Black Lives Matter had completely blocked entrance to the inauguration.  We later heard from one BLM member who told us how wonderful it had been to look up from their protest and see all the white faces surrounding and supporting them.

Many of our activists stayed another night, so we could attend the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21st.  This time we carried our own personal messaging as women and as men supporting women.  All 25 of us stepped off together, but we split into smaller groups, intentionally and unintentionally, as the day progressed and we moved through an incredible sea of humankind.  One group actually heard and saw some speeches on a jumbotron.  Many of us, however, had no idea there were any speeches, but we found the crowd itself to be fabulous.  A couple of first timers kept asking when we were going to get to the march, and we told them they were in it! The throng was so big that the march had to self-assemble on at least 5 parallel streets.  The big hits of the day were the creative signs and the sense of love and community that enveloped us all.

 

But how shall we educate men to goodness, to a sense of one another, to a love of the truth? And more urgently, how shall we do this in a bad time?—Daniel Berrigan, S.J.

Coalition of Concerned Mothers Banner a Big Hit at the Women’s March

Sign Their Petition to Demand Reporting of All Deaths in Police Custody 

The Coalition of Concerned Mothers is a dynamic group of women who are trying to make sure no other mothers suffer what they have: the killing of their children by police or by senseless community gun violence.  During this January’s fast, WAT met with members of the Coalition, as we have in years past. Hearing the stories of how their children were killed and their struggles for justice, was heartbreaking, but strengthened our resolve to support their efforts to stop the senseless killing.

Please sign their petition demanding the Department of Justice begin enforcing laws requiring the reporting of all deaths in police custody:

http://petitions.signforgood.com/DeathsinCustodyReportingAct?code=CofCM

According to President Marion Gray Hopkins and Vice-President Cynthia deShola Dawkins, “Because of the Death in Custody Reporting Act and Arrest Related Death Act the Department of Justice has the legal responsibility to require law enforcement agencies to report any and all deaths of people while in custody. To date, although this law has been in place for several years, the financial penalties on law enforcement agencies for not complying have not been enforced.”

We need this information. The victims of police brutality are not just hashtags. They are brothers, daughters, mothers and fathers, many of whom we never hear about. Police brutality, especially against people of color, is systemic and in order to address this national crisis legislatively our elected officials need these reports.

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WAT Denounces Trump Administration’s Draft Executive Order on Detention

In Focus - Front Page // Film

Witness Against Torture Calls for the Rejection of Executive Order Measures, Warns of Broad Dangers of Trump Agenda

The draft of an Executive Order on US detention and interrogations threatens a nightmarish return to the illegal, immoral, and un-American torture policies of the Bush administration.  Its proposed measures — from the re-establishment of CIA “black sites,” to the review of interrogation practices as detailed in Army Field Manual, to the denial of International Committee of the Red Cross access to US detention centers — point to one thing: the resumption of the cruel, inhuman, degrading, and torturous abuse of Muslims.   

The draft’s proposal to halt all transfers from Guantánamo and bring new captives to the prison is also outrageous.  Guantánamo has never been, as the draft claims, a “critical tool” in the fight against global threats.  It has been a place of rampant torture; a detention center for hundreds of innocent men making up the prison’s great majority; a cause of radicalization worldwide; and a stain on America’s reputation. 

The executive order is based in two fictions: that US torture “worked” in securing critical intelligence, and that nearly one-third of men released from Guantánamo then engaged in anti-American violence.  The US Senate Torture Report refutes the claim of torture’s efficacy.  The figure on post-release violence is grossly inflated and obscures that only a tiny fraction of the men released under President Obama are even suspected of engaging in anti-US hostilities.

“Torture has weakened American security and brought misery to its Muslim victims and their families,” says Jerica Arents, a Witness Against Torture organizer from Chicago. “It is frightening that we are even discussing its return.”  “Tough talk on Guantánamo,” says Maha Hilal, the Executive Director of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, “only reinforces Islamophobic fears that threaten the civil and human rights of Muslims, at home and abroad.  The demonization of Muslims must end.”

“That the Trump administration would consider the executive order,” says history professor and Witness Against Torture member Jeremy Varon, “speaks to our worst fears: that Trump is an authoritarian strongman willing to use lies and criminal violence in service of a dangerous, nationalist agenda.  History warns us where that leads.”

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Recap and Celebrating 10 Men Released

Fast for Justice 2017 // Film

Dear friends,

We celebrate the release of ten more men from Guantanamo Bay Prison: Ghaleb Nassar Al Bihani, Mustafa Abd al-Qawi Abd al-Aziz Al-Shamiri, Karim Bostam, Abdul Sahir, Musab Omar Ali Al-Mudwani, Hail Aziz Ahmed Al-Maythali, Salman Yahya Hassan Mohammad Rabei’i, Mohammed Al-Ansi, Muhammad Ahmad Said Haider, and Walid Said bin Said Zaid. They were released to Oman over the weekend. We were privileged to spend time in D.C. with Ghaleb’s wonderful drawings when we visited the Tea Project’s Exhibit (It is open until Friday at GWU’s Gallery 102).

Thank you for all of your support during Part 1 of our witness in D.C. We had 10 days filled with engaging street theater, liquids only fasting, group discussions and reflections, as well as lots of meetings to shape our daily actions. Please visit our website to see photos and videos of the week, as well as our daily updates and notes from the white supremacy workshop Jerica led. We gathered a few links to articles about our J11 actions here: The Guardian, USNews, UPI, CommonDreams and Fox and Frida wrote a Little Insurrection. Her article really nails our time together during the fast and how we are moving toward Part 2: Inauguration Resistance.

If you are planning on joining WAT for our Inauguration Resistance on January 18-21st, RSVP is required to witnesstorture@gmail.com ASAP – we will have limited space so it is specifically reserved for those joining our witness during that time.

Thank you for your continued support. Please keep sharing your local events and news stories with us. We hope to see you in D.C. this weekend!

Witness Against Torture on Social Media
We will be using #CloseGitmo and #guantanamo
Please “like” us on Facebook & follow us on Twitter & Instagram.
Check out our latest news and updates on Tumblr.
Post any pictures of your local activities to our flickr account and we will help spread the word.

Donate to support our work and Fast for Justice.
We are asking our supporters to donate $45 to Witness Against Torture to symbolize the 45 men remaining in Guantanamo.
Witness Against Torture is completely volunteer driven and run. We have no paid staff, but do have expenses associated with our organizing work. We need your financial support. We are fiscally sponsored by the Washington Peace Center. The Washington Peace Center is a verified US-registered non profit.If you are able, click here to donate.

 

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White Supremacy Workshop Notes – WAT Fast for Justice 01.07.17

Fast for Justice 2017 // Film

Below are some more detailed notes from the workshop that Jerica led based on the class she teaches on Whiteness.  There are questions at the end which we considered together as we planned our witness in DC on January 11 and during the inauguration resistance. We invite you to read through these resources and consider these questions with us.

“Hope is a discipline.” Mariame Kaba

White guilt is not helpful.
(Smith, “The Problem with Privilege”) – public confessions from white folks will not absolve supremacist thinking.

Peggy McIntosh – “White Privilege and Male Privilege”; “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
late 80s
first white academic publicly questioning the intricacies of whiteness
like male privilege, white privilege is an unearned asset
through no virtue of one’s own, white folks possess key to accessing institutions, structures, systems of our society

Racism is not merely individual acts, thoughts, behavior that is prejudiced, but
“invisible systems conferring dominance on my group” – a system

Racism = race-based prejudice PLUS power

“Psychologies of Dominance” – whites are taught (conditioned/socialized) into the infrastructure of racism early on; we should assume complicity with white supremacy
no training to “see” advantage

Whiteness = individual, morally neutral, normative, average, benign, universal, good

Robin DiAngelo – “White Fragility”
we are taught that racism is individual acts/thoughts/behavior
racists = bad; I am good; therefore I cannot be/am not racist
racism is “a multidimensional and highly adaptive system” in which “whites have systemic and institutional control”
this system PROTECTS and INSULATES whites from race-based stress; therefore we can move through a highly racialized world with an unracialized identity
i.e. whites not identifying as “white” until they take a diversity class

Challenges/confrontations become highly stressful and whites get triggered, DEFENSIVENESS
whites are socialized into superiority and entitlement. When this is challenged, we become highly fragile (“white fragility”)
a challenge to our racial worldview = a challenge to our very identity as “good” (white = good)
whites tend to withdraw, cry, minimize, ignore, defend, disengage, and leave

Patterns that reinforce white fragility:
Segregation: most white people grow up, live in, and are accustomed to all white neighborhoods, schools, and communities. We are taught this is not a loss.
Good/Bad Binary: if we commit no individual racist acts, we are not racist.
Individualism: whites are not a racialized, homogenized group like other racial categories. This belief erases our collective history of domination, control, and wealth accumulation.
Entitlement to Racial Comfort: white folks have no tolerance for racial stress because we have no practice in dealing with racialized confrontation. When we are confronted, whites tend to blame the person of color bringing up the incidence of racism, and accuse them of wrongdoing as source of discomfort. When in a position of power (in a hierarchy, i.e. job situation), the whites tend to consolidate power, recruit other white people to their side, and isolate the POC.
Racial Arrogance: because whites have no training in dealing with racial stress, we also tend not to practice humility when listening to the experiences of POC. Instead, we largely dismiss their experience (which is different from our own).
Racial Belonging: whites enjoy a deeply internalized, largely unconscious sense of belonging to our society/culture. In every valuable situation or image capturing life, whites belong. (When this doesn’t happen – when white folks are de-centered from the scene – this becomes very destabilizing and frightening.)
Psychic Freedom: whites don’t bear the social burden of institutionalized racism. POC are seen as responsible for the “racism problem”; therefore, whites don’t need to use their psychic/mental energy on it.
Messages of Value: whites are characterized as better and more important in all major forms of shared story, including textbooks, history, media, teachers, heroes. “Good” neighborhoods are really white neighborhoods (coded language); religious iconography; the internalization of value and belonging in mainstream media.

Myth of meritocracy: the American Dream; the belief that the system is based on merit and each individual has the same access/ability to make it to the top.

Whiteness = power = the ability to craft and repeat a societal narrative or story until it is true. Monolithic representations of POC groups and marginalized identities are created by white supremacy.

Lipsitz, “The Possessive Investment in Whiteness”

Smith, “Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy”
White Supremacy impacts communities in different ways, therefore the strategies for liberation must be different.
white supremacy is constituted by three separate but interrelated LOGICS

SLAVERY/ CAPITALISM:
black folks = slaveable/property
anchor of capitalism
commodification; pillar is about exploiting LABOR
hierarchy is racialized; “as long as you’re not black, you can stay off the bottom and escape commodification”
Prison Industrial Complex = rooted in anti-black racism; slavery was reinstated through the prison system; black folks overrepresented; PIC as modern-day slavery

GENOCIDE/COLONIALISM
indigenous folks = must always be disappearing (manifest destiny)
this gives non-indigenous rightful claim of land; pillar is about exploiting LAND
settler colonialism
indigenous as “present absence” in white mainstream imagination
appropriation of custom, spirituality, culture

ORIENTALISM/WAR
West as superior; always against the “exotic”, “inferior”, “anti-progress” East
U.S. exceptionalism
pillar is about XENOPHOBIA, ISLAMOPHOBIA, JUSTIFICATION for war
there is always a constant threat to the well-being of Empire
immigrants = foreign threats inside and outside the Empire
anchor for war; U.S. can justify constant war to protect itself from constant threat
Racial profiling of Arab World is widespread, “necessary”
“the U.S. IS war”, white supremacy = must always be at war
culture of fear
myth of “security”

Questions to consider:
The term “white supremacist” has been used to describe Trump’s campaign in the mainstream. Why? How might this connect to the Bannon appointment and the rise of white nationalism and the alt-right? How is Trump consolidating power? Trump was endorsed by David Duke and, even though widespread calls were made for Trump to distance himself, he did not. How might this impact our work?

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16 Arrested in Actions Against Torture, Trump’s Cabinet Nominees

In Focus - Front Page // Film

Hundreds Demand That Guantánamo Be Shut Down

Witness Against Torture at the Hart Building, 2017

For Immediate Release
January 11, 2017
Contact: Paula Miller, 520-406-4370pmillercleve@yahoo.com
Chris Knestrick, 216-496-2637cknest11@gmail.com

Clad in orange jumpsuits and “Shut Down Guantánamo” t-shirts, activists with Witness Against Torture took over the Hart Senate Building with a message for Senators, staffers, and the general public. They marked the 15th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.  

The message was “Shut Down Guantánamo,” “No Torture Cabinet” and “Hate Doesn’t Make U.S. Great.” These statements were painted on a banner that activists dropped from a balcony as 9 members of the group dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods held a die-in, mourning those Muslim men who died at Guantanamo without ever being charged with a crime. The nine, and four others, were arrested by Capitol Police, as supporters sang “O America, don’t believe their lies. Their politics of hate will destroy our children’s lives.” The balconies were crowded with onlookers as the action unfolded. One of the two who unfurled the “No Torture Cabinet” banner was also taken into custody.

These actions took place as Senators were hearing testimony from President elect Trump’s picks for Attorney General and Secretary of State, which were interrupted repeatedly by WAT activists. Three of those are now in custody.

WAT released a statement reading: “President-Elect Donald J. Trump has nominated militarists for top cabinet positions. He has promised to ‘load up Guantanamo with really bad dudes.’ On the critical human rights and rule of law issues, Trump’s posturing represents backsliding to the worst of the Bush administration’s misdeeds and abrogation of the law. 

Remembering those who have been imprisoned, tortured and, in some cases, lost their lives, at Guantanamo, Witness Against Torture calls on President Obama to use his last days in office to expedite releases from Guantanamo, and make public the full U.S. Senate Torture Report.  We demand that President-elect Trump reject the use of torture, continue transferring men from Guantanamo, end indefinite detention and reject national security or other measures that discriminate against Muslims. 

WAT urges members of the Senate, in whom the public has placed its trust, to use all their power to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. You can choose to reject the Trump administration’s nominees and insist that people at the highest levels of government would never advocate for torture. You have the opportunity to repudiate torture, release the Torture Report and acknowledge responsibility for the ghastly abuses that occurred during both the Bush and Obama administrations. 

The names of those arrested at both locations are:
Chantal de Alcuaz
Jerica Arents
Beth Brockman
Don Cunning
Erica Ewing
Ellen Graves
Martha Hennessey
Sherrill Hogan
Kathy Kelly
Joanne Lingle
Joan Pleune
Manijeh Saba
Helen Schietinger
Eve Tetaz
Carmen Trotta
Silke Tudor 

Images of Witness Against Torture’s action are available here. 

Witness Against Torture will carry on its activities until torture is decisively ended, its victims are fully acknowledged, Guantanamo and similar facilities are closed, and those who ordered and committed torture are held to account

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Fast for Justice Day 1: Forgiveness Demands Accountability

Fast for Justice 2017 // Film

 

Mohamed Ould Slahi left Guantanamo on October 17, 2016 after fourteen years of imprisonment there. He was held without charge and tortured.

Speaking of the torture, isolation, and loss he endured, he nevertheless forgives his captors. He says forgiveness is his inexhaustible resource. He maintains belief in the potential goodness of U.S. people.

Witness Against Torture began our first full day of fasting this morning by listening to Slahi’s words and then hearing an op-ed that appeared in the morning’s New York Times. The op-ed quotes President-elect Donald Trump who says that Guantanamo should be kept open. In February, 2016, while campaigning in Nevada he promised that “we’re gonna load it up with some bad dudes.”

Slahi, in this video, says: “I have no doubt that the good U.S. people will realize that holding innocent people in prison is not the way to go and will work for their release until every last innocent detainee has joined his family. I wholeheartedly forgive everyone who wronged me during my detention and I forgive because forgiveness is my inexhaustible resource.”

Forgiveness demands accountability from U.S. people. Slahi’s forgiveness places responsibility on our shoulders to carry on our activities until torture is decisively ended, its victims are fully acknowledged, Guantánamo and similar facilities are closed, and those who ordered and committed torture are held to account. Slahi hasn’t said: forgive and forget

Today we began planning dramatic actions to remember the men who have died, those who are still detained and those who have been released and continue suffering from the trauma of their detention.

Through large and small group reflections, we are getting to know our neighbors and build community.


Four Men will be released from Guantanamo Bay to Saudi Arabia

We celebrate the news that The United States will transfer four men to Saudi Arabia in the next 24 hours. We have heard that President Barack Obama will make a final push to shrink the inmate population before Trump takes office. Click here to read the story.

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