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South Florida rally demands: Close Guantanamo now!

By Fern

Michael Sampson and Cassia Laham lead the marchers to U.S. Southern Command in

Doral, FL – Over 100 protesters rallied near U.S. Southern Command here, Jan. 11, to demand an end to the torture and abuse being carried out in Guantanamo Bay. Many of the protesters came from nearby cities like Fort Lauderdale and Miami, and some came from as far away as California and Michigan to demand that President Obama close down Guantanamo Bay for good.

The rally was organized by South Florida-based POWIR – People’s Opposition to War, Imperialism, and Racism. The anti-war group formed a coalition with several groups to lead the protest, including Code Pink, Students for a Democratic Society and Veterans for Peace. The protest marked 12 years of the U.S. sending prisoners to Guantanamo Bay, a trend which started shortly after the ‘war on terror’ began.

Protesters began by assembling near a busy intersection approximately one mile from U.S. Southern Command. As people gathered, they brought signs that read “12 years too many” and “Stop the torture now! Close Guantanamo!” Protest organizers led militant chants such as, “Obama we don’t want your shame, no more torture in our name!” and “I don’t know what I’ve been told, we’ll keep marching till its closed! We are marching here to say: Obama close Guantanamo Bay!” The chants won a lot of support and honks from nearby cars. From there, protest organizers began the march to SouthCom by leading the people into the streets, even though the police denied that their permit protected the rights of the protesters to march in the streets. But the organizers were experienced and knew that the cops weren’t worth being worried about and marched into the streets anyways.

The march took up a full lane of traffic on the way to SouthCom. The lead banner read “Close Guantanamo now!” and listed the demands of the protesters. Once the march reached SouthCom, protesters dressed in the signature orange jumpsuits that prisoners at Guantanamo are forced to wear knelt down, blocking the entrance to SouthCom. The rest of the activists gathered behind the orange jumpsuits and also blocked the entrance. Speakers from Code Pink, Students for a Democratic Society, Progressive Democrats of America, Students for Justice in Palestine, POWIR, Freedom Road Socialist Organization and the Committee to Stop FBI Repression condemned the U.S. for keeping Guantanamo open and demanded it be closed and the prisoners released.

POWIR founder and protest organizer Cassia Laham told the crowd, “For half of my life, 12 years, Guantanamo has been allowed to exist – all as part of some warped strategy to win some ill-defined U.S.-fabricated war on terror. A war that knows no boundaries, no rules and no end. But who knows better than the U.S. what terror really means? Terror is the nearly 100,000 Iraqis who have been slaughtered by American bombs, terror is the thousands of Afghan children who have been murdered and raped and tortured… We stand here to today to say no to war, no to political repression, no to indefinite detention, no to torture and no to Guantanamo!”

Protesters rally behind those wearing orange jumpsuits to block the entrance to

Protest organizers and leaders gather for a group photo at the gates to SouthCo

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