Sunday, June 28, 2009

Three of My Friends Held in DC Central Lockup Until Monday

DRAFT PRESS STATEMENT: TASSC Arrests, White House sidewalk, Sat. June 27, 2009::

Today, five persons of conscience were arrested on the White House sidewalk, in connection with a 24-hour Vigil to End Torture, sponsored by the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC). The group gathered at Lafayette Park, bringing messages of solidarity from organizations and individuals - all calling for an immediate end to torture and support for survivors of torture.

Mid-way through the vigil, at about 1:00 p.m., several hundred vigil participants processed from Lafayette Park to the front of the White House, carrying their mesage of an immediate end to torture. Five persons remained on the White House sidewalk, in violation of federal regulations, and were arrested by US Park Police. The five are: Joy First, of Madison, Wisc.; Malachy Kilbride, Eve Tetaz, Harold Nelson, and David H. Barrows, all of Washington, DC.

Nelson and Barrows were released from police custody, after posting a fine of $100. Kilbride, First and Tetaz opted to seek a trial on the charges, and were held over in custody: they are expected to see a magistrate in DC Superior Court, on Monday, June 29, 2009.

Upon learning he would be held over the weekend in jail, Malachy Kilbride made the following statement: "When I got arrested, people knew where I was going and that I would be treated under the law. I did this for the "disappeared," who are treated outside the law."

The TASSC vigil continues until 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, June 28. It includes remarks by representatives of human rights groups - such as SOA Watch, Witness against Torture, the National Lawyers Guild, and religious groups - as well as statements by survivors of torture in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The 24-hour vigil raises awareness of practices of torture, particularly among the many visitors and tourists visiting the White House and Lafayette Square area.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What is a crime? We go to trial Monday!


I have not written much recently because life has been busy, and I am now beginning to focus on my own career rather than what can easily become (and often did for me) all-consuming activism. I have been arrested again since last I posted -- more on that later. Below is an interesting reflection mentioning our January 6th (first day of Congress) arrest.

Thank you to my friend David Swanson for the following post on his afterdowningstreet.org...

U.S. Govt. Threatens to Prosecute Waterboarding
By David Swanson

We've been lobbying the Department of Justice all these months without realizing that the key to justice lay in the Department of the Interior, and specifically in the National Park Service, which has told activist Steve Lane he will be prosecuted if he attempts to demonstrate waterboarding at Thursday's anti-torture rally in Washington, D.C. The permit for the rally reads "Waterboarding exhibit will not be allowed for safety reasons."

Of course it's not news that the government views waterboarding as a crime. Attorney General Eric Holder called it torture at his confirmation hearings. But it is news that someone has been threatened with prosecution if he engages in torture. We learn about ongoing torture by the government all the time, and we're told all the time that torture is no longer official policy, and yet in neither type of story is there ever any suggestion that the laws against torture might be enforced, now or in the future. In the government's view, torture must be less safe when performed without the benefit of government resources, doctors, lawyers, psychologists, videographers, and vice presidents. However, street demonstrations of waterboarding have yet to produce a single corpse to add to the pile produced by official U.S. government torture.

Other crimes in Washington are also crimes if you or I commit them, but not if someone else does. When a group of us ordinary citizens spoke against the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine in the lobby of a senate office building on January 6th of this year (video) we were hauled off to jail. Bill Moyers' Journal covered the story. But when tourist groups are spoken to by senators in the same lobby, no crime occurs (video). I'm not talking about the people who hung banners from the balconies, or the passersby who cheered. I'm talking about those of us who stood and read the names of the dead. Seventeen of us (including some who hung banners) were arrested. Some of us paid a fine. On Monday, four face prosecution for unlawful assembly even though freedom of assembly is guaranteed in the Constitution, while warrantless wiretapping -- just to pick one example of ongoing government crimes -- is banned by the Constitution.

The greatest hypocrisy is not that tour groups can make noise whereas citizens with a political message cannot. The greatest hypocrisy is not that our president is speaking up for protesters as long as they are in Iran, while the Pentagon considers protesting to constitute "low level terrorism" when practiced within the United States. The greatest hypocrisy is that laws are being enforced while the most important laws and the most egregious violations are being ignored as a matter of loudly announced principle. When Laurie Arbeiter, Robbie Diesu, Michelle Grise, and Pete Perry appear in court on Monday they will not be able to ask the judge to stop looking backward, even though their "crimes" occurred in January. They will not be able to accuse the judge of petty vengeance for his or her refusal to "look forward." They will be compelled to face the question of whether they violated a law. (Never mind that the Capitol Police arrested us and then figured out hours later something they could most plausibly charge us with.)

Meanwhile, Dick Cheney confesses to felonies every time he opens his mouth, a civil suit against John Yoo has produced a 42-page order that could easily serve as an indictment, and the families our drones keep bombing in Afghanistan could never be persuaded that reading the names of the dead is the most serious crime that has occurred. The House has impeached a judge for groping despite his already having been convicted in court. But another judge responsible for torture is permitted to continue ruling on cases.

Here are two ideas to try to straighten our priorities out:

First, call Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth A. Meyers and ask that the charges against those who read the names of the dead be dropped: 202-727-3500 or 202-727-4783.

Second, take part in Torture Accountability Action Day on Thursday, June 25th, by joining our rally and march in Washington, D.C., (11 a.m. at John Marshall Park) or any of the rallies happening around the country on the same day:
http://tortureaccountability.webs.com/eventsacrossus.htm