Activists don orange to mark Guantánamo prison camps' 10th year

Miami HeraldJanuary 11, 2011 

Protesters donned orange jumpsuits around the world Tuesday, from the gates of the Southern Command to London's Trafalgar Square, as activists marked the start of the 10th year of Guantánamo's prison camps with small, scattered protests.

Morning rush-hour motorists in Miami seemed unfazed by the half-dozen protesters, one kneeling in an orange jumpsuit and black hood on the sidewalk at a busy Doral intersection.

"I thought Guantánamo was closed," cracked a police officer securing the scene, referring to President Barack Obama's failed pledge to shutter the prison camps by Jan. 22, 2010.

Instead, the Pentagon was holding 173 foreign men as captives at the the remote prison camps, directed by the Southern Command, whose staff conducted surveillance of the tiny protest as well.

"Somebody's gotta remember," said Miami protester Ray Del Papa, 57. "Obama promised that he'd close Guantánamo, that's why I voted for him. We're two years into the administration and nothing has changed.''

The only disruption of the morning was provided by a motorist who failed to stop on red before turning right on Doral Boulevard. Police pulled him over and wrote him up.

The biggest demonstration of the day, by far, turned out in Washington, D.C., where Amnesty International teamed up with other activist groups outside both the Justice Department and White House.

They knelt and marched in protest, more than a few with black hoods on their heads, other with simulated shackles.

One protester added a skeleton mask and carried a sign proclaiming, "End Indefinite Detention: Charge or Release!''

At around the same time, a federal judge up Constitution Avenue upheld the indefinite detention of an Algerian captive at Guantánamo who was scooped up in a Pakistani security forces sweep in March 2002.

The American Civil Liberties Union set up an online clock that ticked off the amount of time, down to the second that the prison camps remained open "On Obama's Watch,'' as it put it.

Tuesday, it said, marked the 721st day.

In London, the Associated Press reported that 20 demonstrators held a peaceful protest at Trafalgar Square, beneath the columns of the National Gallery.

A focus of concern was Britain's last known former resident, Saudi citizen Shaker Aamer, 42, who has been detained at Guantánamo since 2002. A coalition of human rights groups planned to hand a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the U.S. Embassy demanding the release of Aamer, who family lives in England.

There is no end in sight for the prison camps, which opened on Jan. 11, 2002 with an airlift of 20 men from Afghanistan, where they had been scooped up in the war on terror.

At least 10 of those first 20 men are still at the prison camps, including Yemeni Ali Hamza al Bahlul, 42, convicted of war crimes for serving as Osama bin Laden's media secretary and filmmaker.

Another convict from that first flight, Taliban foot soldier David Hicks, 39, was repatriated to his native Australia in exchange for a guilty plea, his since been released and published his memoirs.

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