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Anti-war activists rally in Miami to close Guantanamo torture prison

By Conor Munro

Protesters in front of U.S. Southern Command in Florida.

Miami, FL – Protesters from many cities converged in Miami on Jan. 9 to demand that the U.S. government close Guantanamo Bay torture prison. The protest coincides with the 14th anniversary of the first transfer of detainees from the so-called “War on Terror” to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (Gitmo).

Leaders of the movements against war and political repression travelled from Jacksonville, Tampa, Washington D.C., Chicago, and London, England to protest outside the military headquarters at U.S. Southern Command. SOUTHCOM is in charge of the U.S. torture prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

Over 70 people gather at the corner of a busy intersection in Doral, Florida where SOUTHCOM is located. Anti-war leaders made powerful speeches condemning the torture, false detention, and imprisonment of the prisoners, all of them Muslim. They called for an end to U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq as well.

Then the marchers poured into the streets, taking up two lanes of traffic and marching a little over a mile to SOUTHCOM. Cars honked their horns in support as they passed by a giant banner reading, “Shut Down Guantanamo!”

Protesters chanted loudly, “Gitmo. Shut it down!” and “Hey-hey, What do you say? Obama close Guantanamo Bay!” Several wore bright orange jumpsuits; a powerful reminder of the brutal and dehumanizing conditions that detainees face in Guantanamo.

When the protestors reached SOUTHCOM they found that the gates were locked shut with an iron chain, and police vehicles and armed guards blocked the entrance. Unfazed, the group marched right up to the gates, where anti-war activist Medea Benjamin of Code Pink slammed the U.S. government “for its hypocritical actions – claiming to fight terrorism abroad, but at the same time terrorizing and killing civilians with drone strikes, while using illegal detention and torture at Guantanamo.”

English film maker Andy Worthington, known for “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo”, pointed out, “Nearly half of the remaining 104 detainees have been cleared for release by the US government for years now. Obama has no excuses for his failure to shut down Guantanamo.”

Anti-War Committee – Chicago activist Kait McIntyre spoke about her recent trip to a Cuban village just outside the U.S. base at Guantanamo, “Gitmo has a terrible impact on the Cuban people who live near it. It pollutes their water supply with toxic chemicals and denies them the right to fish in their own waters. We need to stand with Cuba and demand that our government returns this land to the Cuban people so that they can do something better with it.”

Asked if she thought rally was a success, Cassia Laham with the local South Florida anti-war group POWIR, said, “Definitely. We didn’t close Gitmo today, but we did bring together a core group of activists from around the country. Together we can build a strong anti-war movement that has the power to stop the 1% and their wars. We’ll keep marching until it’s closed.”

As in years past, the White House renewed its pledge to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo.

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