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Miami protest: End U.S. torture! Close Guantanamo now!

By Cassia Laham

Protest demands the closure of the U.S. prisons at Guantanamo Bay

Doral, FL- In spite of pouring rain, nearly 70 people took to the streets near Miami, Jan. 11 demanding the immediate closure of the U.S. prisons at Guantanamo Bay. The march took place on the 13th anniversary since the prison doors at Guantanamo Bay Detention center first opened. Protesters marched for over a mile on the busy streets of South Florida’s industrial district until they arrived at the gates of U.S. Southern Command, the headquarters and control center for Guantanamo Bay.

“For 13 years the U.S. has kept Guantanamo open, wrongly imprisoned innocent people and tortured them, all under the pretense of fighting terrorism,” said Conor Munro, a lead organizer with POWIR, an anti-war group that helped organize the protest. “It’s time the U.S. shut down the entire military base at Guantanamo and give the land back to the Cuban people.”

“The U.S. erases the reality of torture by punishing victims of torture, like Palestinian American women’s leader Rasmea Odeh in Chicago!” explained Holly Kent-Payne, with the Committee to Stop FBI Repression. Rasmea Odeh, tortured and raped by the Israeli military 40 years ago, is facing sentencing in a Detroit court after an unfair trial.

Kent-Payne continued, “The same is true for the prisoners at Guantanamo, whose existence as prisoners of war is officially denied by the U.S. government. Meanwhile the real perpetrators of war and torture in Washington D.C. are let off the hook.”

The demonstration began at the corner of NW 36th Street and NW 87th Avenue, where community members gathered with signs reading, “End the torture,” and “Close down the torture prison now!” People also wore art displays by internationally-renowned protest artist Huong that read “No to torture,” and “Shut it down.” The colorfully painted wooden signs brought the Miami art scene to the streets. Passing drivers honked enthusiastically in support of the protesters and a few passersby grabbed signs and joined in the rally. After 30 minutes of sign-waving, the crowd took to the streets shouting, “Close Gitmo now!”

City of Doral Police were out in force, as well as federal security agents who followed the protesters from start to finish in black cars with tinted windows, taking pictures. What was meant to intimidate protesters only emboldened them, as they faced the police and security officials’ cars with their signs.

After 40 minutes of marching and chanting, the demonstrators finally converged at their target – the U.S. Southern Command. The secluded command center, where the U.S. military and intelligence agencies make plans and give directions, is home to the joint operations in charge of the prisons and military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Once they arrived, protesters got to hear speeches by prominent leaders in the national and local anti-war movements.

“Spend money on jobs and education, not for torture and occupation,” said Jonathan Waring, a member of the University of Florida Students for a Democratic Society.

Protesters called on the U.S. government to address seven specific demands, including the immediate closure of the prisons, ending all torture of prisoners and repatriating all innocent prisoners and their families upon release.

“Change will finally come and the U.S. will shut down this house of torture,” said Dave Gibson from War vs Human Needs.

Protests took place simultaneously in several locations throughout the country, including Washington, D.C. and California. The march in Miami was organized by a coalition of anti-war and pro-justice groups, including: POWIR, War vs Human Needs, National Lawyers Guild, Green Party of Broward County and Students for Justice in Palestine.

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