World Can’t Wait – 2009-06-03 10:17:39
Day of Defiance: Taking the Stairs at Grand Central to Stop Torture
May 28 Protests Demanding Release of the photos &
Prosecution of the War Criminals Responsbile:
Further coverage of the torture scandal everyday on worldcantwait.org; firejohnyoo.org and warcriminalswatch.org
(June 1, 2009) — War Criminals Watch, World Can’t Wait, and other groups that worked on May protests (Code Pink, Progressive Democrats, the National Lawyers Guild and West Hollywood City Hall) and the many newly active people who came forward helped shape and develop outrage about the US torture state. The protests received local TV coverage in most cities, national coverage on Democracy Now and CNN, and we hear that the photo below ran over and over on Russian TV.
Press report, New York, May 29: Thursday, as World Can’t Wait protested in 16 cities to demand that the Obama administration release the torture photographs, and prosecute the war crimes of the Bush regime, charges re-surfaced that the suppressed photos contradict President Obama’s statement on May 12 that they are “not particularly sensational.”
General Antonio Taguba, who investigated the 2004 Abu Ghraib torture scandal for the Bush administration, told The Daily Telegraph: “These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency.” US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the White House responded with denials, prompting further confirmations and details from those who have seen the photos that they include extreme sexual humiliation of detainees.
In New York, protesters gathered on 42nd Street, with dozens donning orange jumpsuits, representing detainees in US detention facilities. They walked silently into the hall of Grand Central Station, and up both sides of the west staircase, where they unfurled a banner saying “Release the Torture Photographs” and held photos believed to be part of the 2,000 involved in the controversy. Spontaneous applause went through the crowds of commuters, as thousands of cell phones snapped images.
“These photos must be released,” said Debra Sweet of World Can’t Wait, a leader of the protest. “People in the rest of the world know about what’s in these photos. Not ‘detainee abuse,’ not ‘enhanced interrogation,’ but torture. It’s the people in the United States who don’t know it. We have to see the photos and face up to the truth that the U.S. government authorized and orchestrated torture.
If we are to stop future presidents from squashing habeas corpus rights as George Bush did; if we’re going to prevent “prolonged” preventive detention, as President Obama is proposing, the people need to raise our voices against these violations of rights in the name of the ‘war on terror.’ We demand an end to the illegitmate occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the killing of civilians, and the uise of torture to intimidate the populations.”
May Actions Against the Torture State
From Fox28.com, South Bend Indiana
Some 2,500 people, including protestors, greeted former President Bush at Lake Michigan College Thursday night. President Bush created an unprecedented amount of interest and anticipation.
The Economic Club is known for having high profile speakers most recently former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But the 2,500 people that lined up outside to get seats to see Bush breaks all attendance records as enthusiasm and anticipation increased before his address.
“I’ve been a fan of George Bush’s for many years and I thought it was a nice opportunity to hear what he had to say,” said Bush supporter Michael Harmon. “I would hope that he would comment somewhat on the new administration and his views of how it’s all going to turnout,” said Bush supporter Richard Pfiel.
Not everyone at Lake Michigan College was there in support of the former president. A handful of protesters from “World Can’t Wait dot org” held signs and demanded that President Obama release torture photos and documents. They also say they want President Bush and his administration prosecuted for war crimes.
“These people are war criminals and we’re allowing him to speak at Michigan college and get paid $150,000. How does that make us feel in Michigan where we’re loosing all of our jobs and he’s getting paid $150,000 for a war criminal to speak?” asked Bush protester Bruce Fealk. Protesters say they came today to face President Bush and hold him accountable for his actions. Their efforts are part of a group of protests happening this week across the nation. President Bush did address his dissenters by defending his decisions as president.
Recording devices were not allowed inside of the auditorium, but here are some still photos of the president’s address. He started by telling a few jokes about being retired and then quickly stated this about current President Barack Obama.
“I am not going to criticize my successor. I wish him all the best.” The president said he did not appreciate when other presidents criticized him so he would only discuss his term in office and the future of the country.He told the crowd, “Our future depends on if people are free.” The next stop for President Bush is Friday in Toronto, Canada where he’ll meet up with former President Bill Clinton for a joint address.
Reporter: Nadia Crow
Karl Rove, War Criminal Prosecuted at the Chicago Theater
Unjust, Immoral, Criminally Insane: Stop the Torture, Stop the War, Let’s Just Make it Plain” This chant, along with banners that read “No Torture” and “Release the Torture Photos, Prosecute” and good agitation by members of World Can’t Wait, and an actor switching from wearing a Cheney mask to a Rove mask, and those dressed in orange jumpsuits wearing black hoods, made for a highly energizing and polarizing evening in downtown Chicago.
Karl Rove appeared with James Carville as a part of speakers series called The Minds that Move the World and moderated by Charlie Rose at the Chicago Theater tonight. Today was suppose to be the day that the Pentagon was to release 2000 more photos of torture, but Obama has since decided to block the release. World Can’t Wait chose today to be a national day of resistance to U.S. torture even as those in the ruling class fight each other as to how they’re going to get the people to go along with the torture program.
The presence of World Can’t Wait and other activists made it difficult for the crowds of people streaming into the theater hard to ignore the message that those responsible for torture must be prosecuted and that we all have the responsibility of demanding this so that the torture state will be dismantled.
Many people stopped and took fliers and photographed the scene. Some engaged in a dialogue with activists about what is needed to stop these crimes being committed in our names. Others shied away and tried to shield themselves from the truth. Few others defended U.S. war crimes and war criminals.
What topped the evening was seeing two World Can’t Wait activists who had gone inside the theater come around the corner with a banner which read “Torture=War Crime, Prosecute” The “O” in torture was actually a skull painted in white. They had taken this banner inside and about ten minutes into the event they moved to the aisle and unfurled the banner and yelled “Torture is a War Crime!” “Prosecute War Criminals” “Rove is a War Criminal”
Security moved in quickly to remove them and they were escorted out. A few moments later when Rove began to talk about water boarding two other activists stood up yelled “Water boarding is torture!” “Your a War Criminal” Some people not associated with World Can’t Wait who were going to the event told an activist that they had planned on heckling Rove as well.
The energy produced by the protesters and the visual displays made one thing clear. While war criminals like Rove go unprosecuted by the government courts that he and others like him will be prosecuted in the court of public opinion so long as many keep coming forward in a loud and visible way to say “Torture is a War Crime, Prosecute!” The Roves, the Yoos, the Addingtons, the Bybees, the Cheney’s, the Bushes etc will have no sanctuary from the people of conscience until they are prosecuted.
World Can’t Wait Chicago was joined by Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Eigth Day Center for Justice, Veterans for Peace, Revolutionary Communist Party, Code Pink, and 9/11 truth.
The local chapter of the World Can’t Wait – stood outside of the Philadelphia Inquirer office, new home to monthly columnist John Yoo, and re-enacted a waterboarding demonstration. 25 people came out to the event with a number of different media outlets.
We began with a speak out: discussing the national day, exposing that torture, like rape is a war crime, and calling for the release of the 2,000 torture photos, and the prosecution of war criminals like John Yoo. The onlookers were really upset and disturbed by the waterboarding demonstration.
The “interrogators” and the “detainee” gave a realistic run down of the Justice Office approved CIA method of interrogation. Cameras were flashing while people watched with their mouths open in disbelief that the US government would condoned such a tortuous method. While the demo was going on, we were on the mic explaining that waterboarding was indeed torture and that the information gathered from torture was used to justify the invasion in Iraq. We explained that the detainee is being smothered and drowned at the same time.
Although there were not as many people as we had hoped, we were really proud that we (the local wcw chapter) persevered and organized the first waterboarding demo outside of the Inquirer office. Also, a local blog site showed up, and shared with us a video that they made to promote the 28th – the national day of resistance.
• Check it out:
Rove Denounced at Radio City
Several protestors heckled Karl Rove Tuesday night during his appearance at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
Rove, the longtime former political strategist infamously known as “Bush’s Brain,” and the architect of Dubya’s two election “victories” in 2000 and 2004, appeared alongside James Carville, the former Clinton strategist and alleged liberal. Rove and Carville joined moderator Charlie Rose on stage for a debate that marked the finale of “The Radio City Music Hall Speaker Series: The Minds That Move The World.”
A “Mind That Moves the World”? I guess that’s one way to describe a man who engineered two election thefts based largely on suppressing and intimidating voters of color, paving the way for the most fascist president in the history of the United States to assume and consolidate power. I suppose it’s one phrase that could be used to evaluate a key visionary behind, and unrepentant apologist for, one Bush crime after another. It’s certainly not the phrase I would use. And, clearly, I wasn’t the only one in the auditorium who felt that way.
“Rove is a War Criminal!” a woman in the audience shouted repeatedly, roughly an hour into the debate. She was able to yell for about a minute or two before security ushered her out of the building. She also screamed: “Arrest Bush!” “We Will Not Be Silent!” and “Torture is a War Crime”.
I was in the mezzanine, excitedly watching events unfold. While my eyes were fixed on the heckler, a voice from the stage said, “Put a sock in it—shut up!” According to a conservative, college-aged man sitting next to me, it was Carville, not Rove, who reprimanded the woman.
“Let’s keep moving here,” Rose said nervously, as the protestor continued to yell at Rove.
Many in the audience, which clearly included a significant number of overt reactionaries, booed the woman. (At the beginning of the event, Rose asked the audience to indicate, by applause, how many people mainly agreed with Rove and how many primarily agreed with Carville. I would register Rove’s applause level at a “6” out of 10, and Carville’s at a 9 out of 10.)
Shortly after the woman began screaming, two other demonstrators managed to get on stage. One of them appeared to get within about 5 yards of the speakers before being restrained by security. Things were happening fast, the auditorium was pretty dark, and I was far away from the stage, so it was difficult to see exactly what went down. But the Huffington Post would later report that one of the women on stage was carrying handcuffs, in an attempt to arrest Rove.
After the event, I found out more details about the disruptions. As it turns out, the woman yelling from the audience had been inspired by three World Can’t Wait (WCW) activists who had spoken out a few minutes earlier; the three WCW resisters stood up and began chanting as Rose, Rove, and Carville rambled on about Bush’s economic legacy. The resisters then unfurled a banner, though it was very difficult to read in the dimly-lit auditorium. At the time, I was too far away to decipher what the three protestors were yelling.
Later, one of the them told me that their chant—which matched the text of the banner—was: “Indict Rove/Master Thief/ 2 elections!/ Media Chief/Iraq lies!”
The WCW activist reported that, initially, nearby spectators were booing, and yelling at them to sit down and be quiet. However, he said that as they continued to yell, the booing stopped. After shouting for about a minute, the three were escorted out; the WCW protestor said that , as he was being led out by security, he switched to shouting, “Indict the Bush Regime War Criminals!” which generated applause from a significant number of people in the audience.
One fellow demonstrator would tell him afterwords that he hadn’t taken part in an action of this sort since the Civil Rights Era. And he wasn’t the only one who was inspired: The woman who, a short time later, began yelling, “Karl Rove is a War Criminal!” told the WCW activist after the event that the three demonstrators had provided her with the courage to speak out.
“When I saw you guys do it,” he recalled her telling him, “I knew I had to do it.”
Before the debate, a crowd of about 40 demonstrators gathered across the street from Radio City’s ticket-holder entrance, responding to the call put out by The World Can’t Wait’s New York City chapter to “Spread the Unwelcome Mat” for Rove. This protest, together with the action of the three WCW demonstrators inside the auditorium, was part of a national week of resistance to torture centered on the demands to prosecute Bush Regime war criminals; release the torture photos; and bring an immediate end to torture in our names. (With actions in 15 cities across the country on Thursday May 28—including a demonstration planned for Rove’s appearance in Chicago— that day takes on particular importance).
Demonstrators outside the theater displayed two large, bright orange banners that read:
“Torture is a war crime-Prosecute!” and “War Criminal Free Zone!”
It appears the mainstream media has overwhelmingly been silent about the debate disruptions, and about the protest outside Radio City, although Washington Post blogger Dan Froomkin did link to the Huffington Post account of the event.
However, it is significant that a war criminal on the magnitude of Karl Rove was not simply able to come to New York City, spew his murderous lies, and leave without disruption. Everyone who entered the auditorium to witness the debate was confronted with visible, audible opposition to Rove’s presence, both before and during the event.
Rose, Carville, and significant sections of the audience tried with all their might to place a shield of respectability around Rove: Although a large portion of the crowd booed Rove heavily when he tried to defend the Iraq War and the Bush administration’s response to Katrina, Rove also received laughter and applause on several occasions throughout the night. Earlier, the speaker who introduced Rose said Carville and Rove had both “dedicated their lives to serving our nation,” and asked the audience to display an “open and respectful attitude.”
By publicly condemning this war criminal, the demonstrators dented Rove’s shield of respectability. And, as the comments of the female heckler after the event indicate, boldly speaking out and challenging war criminals—and the terms they are setting—can inspire others to do the same.
May 28, Grand Central Station
Tonight we had a very good action in NYC. I was under a black hood, so Icouldn’t see everything at Grand Central Station – but I hear it was very impressive, and soon we’ll have photos. We had about 25 people in jumpsuits, and stretched over the large west staircase, banners. When we got everyone in place, and the banners were dropped, there was spontaneous applause from what sounded like hundreds of commuters.
Thousands of photos were snapped. Reuters and PBS (Bill Moyers Journal) filmed us. After an hour we slowly marched to where General Petraeus was getting an award. In NY style, we were pushed into a pen across the street from the event, and off to the side, while the pro-war, pro-Guantanamo group was right next to the door.
We left the pen, marched around the block, and came back for another attempt at getting our message heard. One person (me) was briefly detained and given a citation for disorderly conduct. About 12 of us stayed out there til after 11pm, when the war criminals got into their limos and heard us screaming “war criminal!”
On May 12 more than 50 people responded to a call made by World Can’t Wait-Hawai`i to demand the prosecution of Jay Bybee, the signatory to the now-notorious 2002 “torture memo” authorizing waterboarding, walling, sleep deprivation and other horrific forms of torture. The crowd was diverse. Lawyers and long-time activists. Pacifists and revolutionaries. Office workers and retirees. Some stayed for the morning. Some could only escape from their offices for an hour.
Signs reading “Torture is a War Crime! Prosecute!”, “Stop Torture”, “Prosecute Bybee”, “Bye-Bye Bybee”, “Impeach the Torture Judge” lined Bishop Street in the heart of downtown Honolulu where Bybee was hearing Hawai`i cases being appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Some banners and signs were brilliant orange; some had been hastily scrawled on banker’s box covers or pieces of cardboard. Pedestrians asked “Who’s Bybee?” and the conversations began.
A homeless man muttered: “The big guys always get away with it”. An office clerk who came down from offices above to “check out the hullabaloo” read the leaflet and commented: “In this building? How can that be? That’s terrible!” She carefully folded up the leaflet and said she’d post it on the office bulletin board.
A protester who entered a nearby business noticed the Bybee leaflet on the refrigerator. A security guard argued that waterboarding wasn’t torture and a mainstream journalist interviewing activists turned and asked him: “You want me to waterboard YOU?” Many simply thanked us – but not all. A student from a downtown university specializing in military studies ran out a feeble argument claiming that memos weren’t laws. A military officer sneered “You people are insane. You don’t even know what torture is.”
By 9am protesters moved from the sidewalk to the front doors of the marble downtown office building where the hearing was being held to hold a press conference. Claiming the building was “private property”, security called for back-up from the Honolulu Police Department.
A phalanx of police immediately appeared but quickly backed down when it was suggested that they speak with an ACLU attorney who was present. An impromptu press conference was held. Some made a legal argument against torture; others spoke to the immorality of torture. Statements were spontaneous and heartfelt.
Media representatives from TV stations, print media, and public radio interviewed passers-by and protesters throughout the morning. At the end of an interview a journalist teared up, put his mic away, and said: “Thanks for doing this. You’re doing it for all of us.” The interviewee responded, “But all of you have to join the movement to prosecute the torturers. Your humanity demands it!”
At the end of the press conference a call went out to everyone to begin building for May 28th. It’s too early to know how the protest was covered on the news, or how broadly word got out about the protest, but at the end of the morning it was clear that this is just the beginning, and that we’re now a part of a national movement to hound and prosecute the war criminals. We’re depending on others living in cities where 9th Circuit cases are heard to continue to hound him wherever he goes.
People showed up early to hold signs along Beretania Street in front of the Hawai`i State Capitol before our march took off for the downtown business district at 4pm. We were smaller than we had hoped, but we made a big impact as our chants bounced off the 30-story business buildings. People sitting in the mall read our bright orange banners and signs; a few clapped to the slogans. A prominent lawyer stepping out of his office jerked his head around and gave a big thumbs up when he heard our chant: “Torture is a War Crime! Prosecute! Prosecute!”. Starbucks’ customers stood up to read the signs. We were loud, we were orange, and we definitely broke the silence!
When we reached the Federal Building our bright orange banners and signs lined Ala Moana Blvd., where rush-hour traffic was at a virtual crawl. Response from passers-by was overwhelmingly positive. When traffic lightened up we gathered for a short rally.
Looking at the faces of the people at the rally one couldn’t help but be moved by its diversity: World Can’t Wait organizers, lawyers, college students, communists, pacifists, sovereignty activists, pastors and retirees.
And while we numbered only 35 people, we all knew we represented a much larger community of people who oppose torture that needs to be mobilized to become a visible movement. The spirit was determined and upbeat and the possibility became more real as people shared ideas about making that happen.
“They say Torture is for NATIONAL SECURITY,
We say Torture is a CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY!”
“Release the photos, quit hiding the proof! Release the photos, the world wants the truth!” —–chanted outside the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, San Francisco
On the National Day of Resistance to U.S. Torture, the San Francisco Bay Area World Can’t Wait chapter, along with members of the San Francisco National Lawyers Guild’s Committee Against Torture, Code Pink, the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, and National Accountability Network gathered at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. This protest added to the National Day’s demands our call to publicly repudiate the lifetime appointment of Torture Judge Jay Bybee to the federal bench.
About thirty people rallied outside the court, raising the demand to disbar and prosecute Bybee for codifying specific torture tactics and for giving high Bush administration officials immunity protections from both civil and criminal suit. San Francisco’s was one of six (6) protests on this National Day focused on Bybee – protests were going on also in Pasadena, Anchorage, Honolulu, Fresno, and Portland, Oregon.
A super-sized banner reading “Torture is a War Crime! Release the Torture Photos! Prosecute the War Criminals!” lined one corner of the courthouse in downtown San Francisco. The “Bush and Bybee Museum of Torture” was nearby – an exhibit which included the fourteen torture methods Bybee authorized in an August 2002 memo: sleep deprivation, stress positions, waterboarding, forced nudity, cramped confinement in a dark space, water dousing, wall standing, walling, facial slaps, abdominal slaps, insects placed in a confinement box, facial holds, attention grasps, and dietary manipulation.
Each torture method was named and the abuse described. For instance: “Wall Standing: To induce muscle fatigue, the detainee is forced to lean with only his fingers for support against a wall four to five feet away from where he is standing.” The Museum also displayed photographs of torture from Abu Ghraib. Individuals in orange jumpsuits posed in the midst of the display, silently posing the question: “Who speaks for the detainees that continue to be tortured under Obama?”
Passerbys asked, “Our country let this happen?” and “Who is Bybee?” as they were handed flyers and orange ribbons. These questions created a political terrain for further conversation and investigation among the people. Many conversations with pedestrians were also started directly in front of the courthouse steps, where a 9-foot statue-like Obama doll held a sign:
“Bush’s INDEFINITE DETENTION was bad…
Obama’s PREVENTIVE DETENTION is worse!”
The demonstration also included a press conference featuring World Can’t Wait, Progressive Democrats of America, Code Pink, and two attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild, Sharon Adams and Anne Weills. Adams wrote the Guild’s recent California Bar Association complaint against Bybee and spoke forcefully about the moral and political reality of torture as well as the legal.
Weills, who is working on bring charges against Bybee within the federal court system, also drew a larger-than-legalities picture, calling for a halt to the whole ideological view of empire that has made torture palatable. On behalf of World Can’t Wait, Stephanie Tang discussed the day’s main demands and the urgency of raising up resistance to the whole torture state. Protesters announced that demonstrations will meet Bybee whenever he comes to this courthouse.
TV and print reporters gathered photographs and interviews. A staff writer from The San Francisco Daily Journal (“California’s Largest Legal News Provider”), stood listening and then interviewed protesters talking about the Bybee bar complaint and ongoing efforts to fire, disbar and prosecute John Yoo, who plans to resume teaching at Berkeley Law this fall after a visiting professorship at Chapman Law this past spring.
At the end of the press conference, a call went out emphasizing the need for sustained resistance and for everyone to begin making plans for another demonstration. And a representative of the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists invited everyone to an evening performance of the anti-torture play “Pedro and the Captain” by famed Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti (presented by the BFUU as part of today‘s National Day of Resistance to U.S. Torture).
One of our chants clearly states why we need to be out in the streets, bringing the truth to the people:
Bush and Obama
The torture stays the same
Preventive detention/Extraordinary rendition/Military commissions/Guantanamo prison/Bagram Prison
Not in Our Name!
On May 28th, the Greensboro WCW chapter stepped back out onto the streets of our city to declare our opposition to the impunity (or is that immunity?) that is being afforded to US officials who authorized and committed horrific, sadistic acts of torture as part of the so-called “war on terror”.
15 people, including local Muslim leaders from the new organization Muslim Americans for Palestine, as well as a WCW activist in an orange Gitmo-style jumpsuit, stood on a busy commercial street at rush hour until a torrential downpour came down, sending us looking for shelter and conversation at a nearby restaurant.
Also joining us was a music teacher who found our posts on facebook, a former immigration lawyer who was caught in an entrapment-style sting in 2004 and served a year in prison, which many local activists consider a part of the government’s war on immigrants, and some stalwarts of the old Greensboro chapter and others who were pumped to get back out on the streets.
The Greensboro WCW chapter is now planning to show some films, such as “Taxi to the Dark Side” and “Standard Operating Procedure” in the weeks to come, to tap into and mobilize public opinion against torture and impunity.
Many of us are grieving and angry over the assassination of Dr. George Tiller on Sunday. I knew George, and will be attending his funeral in Wichita KS on Saturday. I’ll be sending more in response to what this means for womens’ rights, tomorrow. Read some thoughtful pieces from World Can’t Wait leaders on worldcantwait.org
Debra Sweet, Director, The World Can’t Wait
World Can’t Wait – firstname.lastname@example.org – 866.973.4463 – 305 W. Broadway #185, NY, NY 10013