Friday, December 7, 2007

In Need of a Headline

Hola communeros,

I was hoping to pitch this to Pavement Pieces as well-would be very grateful for your input!


Against the cold concrete rests the prisoner’s hooded head. His body, dressed in orange jumpsuit, is prostrated on the pavement. He is awaiting execution. Or a pardon. Or a double-take of a passerby who may pause to find out what is going on this Tuesday morning in Foley Square, just outside the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City.

By “bringing home” these distressing images, students and activists gathered here are hoping to raise awareness about the pending Supreme Court hearing of the two cases of Guantanamo Bay detainees, who are petitioning for the right of habeas corpus that would allow them to challenge their detention in American courts.

Under the current Military Commissions Act as “enemy combatants” or “awaiting determination,” these men can be held indefinitely without any charges being brought against them. According to Center for Constitutional Rights statistics, out of 786 men and boys detained since January 2002, so far only 10 have been charged with any crime. US government lawyers argue that since Guantanmo Bay is not owned by US, prisoners there are “aliens outside of the sovereign territory of the United States” reports the BBC and as such “do not enjoy any rights [under the habeas corpus clause of US Constitution].”

These people, says Ms. Elena Landriscina, an NYU student and one of the organizers of today’s event “are made to disappear. These are 21st century disappearances carefully crafted so that people don’t have access to courts, media or public ear.”

Or to the public eye. Demonstrations such as this one are trying to get American people to visualize that this “is an issue that really affects them as well,” says Ms. Katie Savin, an NYU student. “Our constitution is being stripped away.”

Co-sponsored by Center for Constitutional Rights (the organization representing the detainees), the National Lawyers Guild and Witness Against Torture, the event drew out some thirty activists. Amongst the demonstrators were members of Granny Peace Brigade, an organization started in 2005 when 18 grandmothers-ages 59 to 91- tried to enlist to go to Iraq instead of the young recruits. They were arrested, charged with disorderly conduct and acquitted after a six-day trial. The experience led them to organize.

For Ms. Carol Husten, one of the activists, this time “is a complete change from what we have grown up with. And we are in our seventies, some of us in our eighties, some in nineties...watching the deterioration of the civil rights in this country.” The issue seems to lend strength and mobilize even those least mobile: armed with earmuffs against the increasingly fierce wind, one member leaned against her walker for support.

While the Supreme Court will not reach a decision until June 2008, these women will continue to protest because-in part- “justice is made in the street.” “The point is that it is almost besides the point. I have to be doing this-for the future of my children, and everybody’s children” says Ms. Husten.
Should the decision of the Supreme Court defy their hopes, for Ms. Husten it would mean “a time for the revolution.”

No comments: