Posts Tagged ‘Guantanamo’

Guantanamo – America’s Shameful Prison

Tuesday, January 11th, 2022

Amnesty International protesters close to the US Embassy

January 11th was for quite a few years a busy day for protests; it marked the anniversary of the setting up by the United States of a military prison as a torture camp at the disputed US Guantanamo Bay naval camp on the island of Cuba.

Prisoners’ had taken turns in the cage overnight

Set up in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack as a part of George W Bush’s ‘War on Terror’, the camp and the activities which took place there destroyed any final vestige of higher moral ground America could lay claim to in its role of world policeman, something that its various largely clandestine involvements in various South American American coups and activities in the Middle East and elsewhere had already largely laid waste.

Guantanamo is still there, still open, though the great majority of the 779 men brought there have been released. Most were totally innocent, victims of a US policy of offering $5,000 rewards for the capture of ‘terrorists’ to Pakistani and Afghan groups, who took the money for turning in anyone they felt would get them the money.

In October 2021, there were still 39 men held at Guantanamo, including ten who had long been cleared for release. Very few of those held over the years have faced trails trials and very few were involved in any acts of terrorism. Bush and Obama acted slowly but together released well over 700 of the prisoners, but Trump only released one, effectively stopping the process.

Protests continue in the UK, but on a much smaller scale, particularly since the last British resident, Shaker Aamer was released without charge or trial after 13 years of imprisonment and torture in 2015.

In 2008 Amnesty International organised a large protest in Grosvenor Square, a few yards from the US Embassy, though the street in front of the embassy had been closed to prevent protests there. They brought with them two cages, similar to those in which the prisoners were imprisoned outdoors at Guantanamo, with a large group of people wearing the orange jumpsuits which they are made to wear there. Protesters dressed as guards in military style uniforms harassed the ‘prisoners’ interrogating them and threatening them with violence and with aggressive-looking dogs.

From Grosvenor Square I went up to the Regents Park Mosque, where activists from Cageprisoners and the London Guantánamo Campaign, some also in those orange jumpsuits and one manacled hand and foot. There they were handing out leaflets to those attending Friday Prayers.

Later I went with them to Paddington Green Police station, where terrorist suspects are detained and questioned in this country. They were going on to continue to protest in Parliament Square, but I returned first to the US Embassy, where the London Catholic Worker Community was holding a two hour vigil closed to the corner of the Embassy, holding placards and lighting candles for those still held and several who had died there. Several were alleged to have committed suicide, but later evidence emerged strongly suggesting they had died during torture.

The final event of the day was a rally in Parliament Square organised by Cageprisoners and the London Guantánamo Campaign with a number of speakers including Victoria Brittain, former Guantanamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, laywers including Gareth Peirce, Bruce Kent, Yvonne Ridley and Jean Lambert MEP.

It was dark, cold and wet, but those present were cheered by the announcement at the end of the rally that Scotland Yard were investigating allegations of 14 criminal offences committed by Tony Blair and Lord Goldsmith and others which resulted in the deaths of Iraqi citizens during the armed invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Unfortunately and predictably these investigations came to nothing, and though the Chilcot report was damning in parts, Blair not only got off scot-free but this New Year was awarded a knighthood. A few days ago one of several petitions to have his “Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter” rescinded reached over a million signatures. Mine was one of them.

Six years of Guantanamo: Amnesty
London Guantanamo Campaign / Cageprisoners
Guantanamo – London Catholic Worker
Guantanamo – Parliament Square Rally


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London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

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London 22nd October 2014

Friday, October 22nd, 2021

ILF

The Independent Living Fund enabled many disabled people to continue to live with dignity and to work making a positive contribution to society and the government decision to close it led to many protests and to legal actions to try and stop it under the Equality Act.

Although a court ruled that the minister concerned had acted illegally, all it required was that the new minister reconsidered the plans. He did so, and decided to go ahead, though with a three month delay. And a judge ruled in December 2014 that although in axing the ILF he knew that the closure would mean many disabled people would lose their ability to live independently in the community his decision was legal.

The decision to end ILF was clearly wrong, clearly immoral, but so long as the legal niceties were observed the government was able to go ahead with it, and our law gave no protection.

The vigil outside the court while the case was being heard attracted wide support, including from Inclusion London, Norfolk and Suffolk DPAC local DPACs, the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, Transport for All, Winvisable, PCS Union, the TUC, and other organisations,and there was even a simultaneous vigil in Toronto, Canada. Three MPs, John McDonnell, Andy Slaughter and Jeremy Corbyn, came to give their support, and there were speeches by campaigners including Paula Peters and Andy Greene, with John Kelly singing.

As expected the vigil ended with a short direct action by DPAC and others, briefly blocking the Strand outside the law courts.

Free Shaker Aamer

This was one of a long series of regular vigils opposite Parliament for Shaker Aamer, an innocent charity worker arrested by bandits and handed over to US forces who have imprisoned and tortured him for over 12 years. He was cleared for release in 2007 but remained in Guantanamo with our government failing to press for his release because his testimony could embarrass MI6 as well as the US.

London Panoramas

I had time before another protest to visit an exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands and on the journey to pause and make some panoramic images.

Probably the most interesting were inside Westminster station, where “the beams and buttresses, designed by Hopkins Architects and completed in 1999 for the opening of the Jubilee Line are also the foundations of the block of parliamentary offices above the station, Portcullis House, and were deliberately Piranesian, though sometimes I get more of the feeling of Escher as you seem to walk endlessly up escalators and around the interior.”

Democracy Camp – Poet Arrested

I returned to Parliament Square where the Democracy Camp was still holding workshops, though police and the GLA ‘heritage wardens’ had fenced off the main grass area.

Danny, one of the protesters had been sitting on the plinth next to the statue of Churchill since the previous afternoon and poet Martin Powell arrived with a pot of food for him, which he tossed up to him, going straight into his hands, despite police warning him he could be arrested.

How can feeding the hungry be a crime?” he asked and he was arrested and led away in handcuffs around two sides of Parliament Squareperforming his poem ‘The Missing Peace’. I left while Danny was still on the plinth, though later that evening police finally found a ladder and brought him down after over 26 hours.

Musical Poor Doors

It was Class War’s 14th weekly protest at the ‘rich door’ of Redrow’s One Commercial St flats and it was a lively affair, with the banners dancing to the music of Rhythms of Resistance, a poetic performance and some rousing speeches against social apartheid.

There were a lot of police present and some stood in front of the door and ushered a few people in and out but made no attempt to stop the hour long protest, which though noisy remained entirely peaceful. Some of the police clearly enjoyed the music and watching the dancing.


More at:
Musical Poor Doors
Democracy Camp – Poet Arrested
Canary Wharf & Westminster Tube
End UK shame over Shaker Aamer
DPAC High Court Vigil for ILF


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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


US Shame – Jan 11th

Monday, January 11th, 2021

Many commentators after the recent Trump-induced invasion of the US Capitol said that the 6th January 2021 (1/6/21) is a date that will go down in history as a day of shame for the US, comparing it to December 7, 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. The latter was perhaps a little over the top, as that attack killed 2,403 US personnel, while the death toll after police let Trump supporters in to protest currently stands at five, three of these from health-related issues. But certainly it was a shameful day for US democracy – and a date that might well have been better compared to 1/11/02, 11th January 2002, the date when the first prisoners were held in illegal detention at Guantánamo Bay.

It was five years later than I first photographed a protest against this illegal detention, outside the US Embassy in London, still then in Grosvenor Square, where Amnesty International had brought over a hundred people dressed in orange jump suits to represent the detaines, forming them up into a large block in front of the embassy.

The following year on the sixth anniversary I photographed rather more demonstrations around London. Amnesty were back again outside the US Embassy, though the area in front of the embassy had been sealed off, presumably to prevent the protest taking place there. Instead it was on the street just to one side.

My next stop was the Regents Park Mosque, where I met a group of campaigners, some dressed in the now familiar orange jump suits, from the London Guantánamo Campaign and Cageprisoners who were handing out fliers calling for the closure of the Guantánamo prison camp at various sites around London all day. After giving them to people leaving the Mosque after Friday prayers I went with them to Paddington Green Police Station, where terrorist suspects were normally detained and questioned.

From there I returned to the US Embassy, where the pavement in front was now open again, and a small group from London Catholic Worker had come to hold a vigil. A man from the US Embassy came out and tried to get them to move away, but they stood their ground, lighting a circle of candles as it grew dark.

The final event of the day was a rally in Parliament Square, with speakers including former Guantánamo detainee Moazzam Begg (above) and leading campaigners for the closure of this illegal prison which has cast huge shame on the claims of the USA to be a freedom-loving democracy which upholds international law. Of course those claims have long been known to be largely sham, with the USA backing many of the world’s most repressive regimes, taking part in shady affairs such as the Bay of Pigs attempted invasion, and sponsoring coups such as the 1973 Chilean coup d’état that deposed the Popular Unity government of President Salvador Allende on ‘9/11’ 1973.

Although many detainees have been released – there was no evidence against the great majority who were simply foreigners who far various reasons in the wrong place at the wrong time, many held by militias and sold to the US who were offering considerable bounties – the camp remains open. President Trump in 2018 signed an executive order to keep the detention camp open indefinitely, and currently 40 prisoners remain there, still subject to torture and degrading conditions. Guantánamo remains a shameful blot on the United States.

2007
Close guantanamo 5th anniversary demonstration

2008
Six years of Guantanamo: Amnesty
London Guantanamo Campaign / Cageprisoners
Guantanamo – London Catholic Worker
Guantanamo – Parliament Square Rally

There are reports on many later protests calling for the closure of Guantánamo on My London Diary.

Human Rights Day

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

Today, 10th December is UN Human Rights Day. I think the 10th December 2016 may have set a personal record in that I covered seven events, although one was only a fleeting meeting with a Rhino as I passed through Parliament Square. But five were human rights protests.

My work began in Old Palace Yard, in front of the House of Lords and around the rather ugly statue of George V. On 10th December 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and since then the day has been celebrated in countries around the world as Human Rights Day.

The UK was one of the countries that played a large part in both the establishment of the UN, whose first General Assembly was held in the early months of 1946 just a few hundred yards away in Methodist Central Hall, and in the UDHR, which “proclaims the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being”.

But our current government finds some of its provisions inconvenient and one of the driving forces of Brexit is that it will provide the opportunity to weaken compliance with the UDHR, threatening our human rights including workers rights to paid holidays, maternity leave and fair treatment at work, disability rights and the right to freedom from discrimination.

Supporters of the UK remaining in Europe were protesting in silent chains in towns and cities across the country and several hundred had come to do so in the centre of London. I didn’t find it easy to produce interesting pictures of what was a rather static event.
Silent Chain for Europe


As I walked across the front of Parliament towards Westminster tube station I came across two people in rather impressive rhinoceros costumes who were being photographed in front of the House of Commons, and paused briefly to take a couple of pictures.

What rather surprised me was the almost total lack of interest in them shown by the many tourists walking past. After all it isn’t every day you pass two rhinos on the street.
Save the Rhino


People from various campaigns had come to Broadcasting House to protest and hand in a letter about the BBC’s failure to report on political prisoners held unjustly in jails around the world. They accuse the BBC of an institutional policy of ignoring such cases, including a hundred Irish Republican prisoners, former Black Panther Mumia Abu Jamal held on Death Row in the USA for over 30 years, many Palestinians held in Israeli jails, the victims of Erdogan’s purge in Turkey, the many hanged in Iran and other cases of illegal imprisonment around the world.
BBC censors prison struggles


From the BBC I made my way north to Mornington Crescent, where I met one of the four groups of Santacon; the north London group had met up in Camden and were coming down into Central London and soon stopped in a small park.

I found it a little disappointing – as I wrote then,

“this year the event did seem rather more organised and tame, lacking some of the anarchic charm and chaos that brought much of London’s traffic to a halt in previous years – or perhaps I just took these pictures earlier in the day before the Christmas spirits, wine and beer had really kicked in. “

London Santacon 2016

I think police had leaned rather heavily on the organisers and insisted that they move off the streets into areas such as this for much of the event. I didn’t stay with the Santas long because there were other Human Rights Day events to photograph.


I took the tube back to Westminster where I found Balochs protesting opposite Downing St, calling on Theresa May to speak up for the Baloch people and their freedom against the Pakistan regime which they claim has a policy of genocide against the Baloch people and has killed thousands of Baloch activists and abducted more than 25,000 of them.

They say those abducted are tortured and then killed, with their bodies being dumped in deserted areas. Balochistan was an autonomous kingdom on the border of Pakistan and Iran, and was merged with Pakistan in 1948, the year after Pakistan was created. Since then there have been various Baloch separatist movements which have been brutally repressed by both Pakistan and Iran.
Balochs UN Human Rights Day protest.


I’d come to Whitehall to report on the Guantanamo Justice Campaign protest on UN Human Rights Day opposite Downing St calling for an end to torture, the closure of Guantanamo and an end to British complicity in torture.

It wasn’t a well attended protest probably because there had been relatively little publicity, but also reflecting the problem of keeping up interest in long running issues such as this which no longer attract much if any attention from our news media. They will argue that it is no longer news, but that is only because they choose not to cover it, instead filling pages and programmes with empty speculation and inconsequential affairs of insignificant so-called celebrities rather than matters of importance.
Human Rights Day call close Guantanamo


Another issue which has slipped almost completely off the news agenda is the plight of the Yazidi women and girls targeted and captured by ISIS (Da’esh) in Iraq. According to UN reports, more than 5000 Yazidis had been murdered and 5-7,000 abducted. Over 3,400 are believed to be still held, the women subjected to physical and sexual violence, including systematic rape and sex slavery.

The visit to the UK by UN goodwill ambassador Nadia Murad Basee Taha for 16 days of action prompted little or no news coverage.
Save Yazidi women and girls


More about all these events and more pictures on My London Diary.

Save Yazidi women and girls
Human Rights Day call close Guantanamo
Balochs UN Human Rights Day protest
London Santacon 2016
BBC censors prison struggles
Save the Rhino
Silent Chain for Europe


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


November 2014

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

I had a busy week at the end of November 2014, with protests on Monday, Tuesday, two on Wednesday and three on Friday. Fortunately there was only one event I felt I needed to cover on the Saturday and I took the Sunday off; I think there were some things happening but I needed another day of rest.

2020 is rather different. The only real event in my diary is a visit to the health centre for my regular six-monthly diabetic review, though there are a couple of virtual events. Back in 2014 I got plenty of exercise covering events, but this week I’ll be going out for my now usual 10 mile bike rides most mornings. Otherwise I’ll be stuck in front of a computer writing things like this or digitising, editing and contextualising pictures I made in the 1980s, sometimes a tricky process. Back then we didn’t have metadata or geolocation and I wasn’t always good at record keeping. And when I start falling asleep at the keyboard I’ll probably watch a film.

Roger Waters, Clive Stafford Smith and Caroline Lucas hold a banner

Monday’s protest, on 24th November 2014, We Stand With Shaker, was in Old Palace Yard, Westminster in front of the Houses of Parliament. Present were two of my favourite MPs, Caroline Lucas and John McDonnell, as well as civil rights activist including Peter Tatchell and Clive Stafford Smith, my favourite comedian Jeremy Hardy and of course people from both the We Stand With Shaker campaign and the ‘Free Shaker Aamer Campaign’ whose regular protests I’ve often photographed.

Jeremy Hardy, Peter Tatchell and John McDonnell

Attracting a little more media attention (though not much) was music legend Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s chief songwriter, who had become involved in the campaign after hearing that Shaker Aamer recited some of his lyrics in his Guatanamo prison cell to help him keep sane in long spells of solitary confinement.


And there was Shaker Aamer. Not the man himself, still held in Guantanamo seven years after being cleared for release, but a giant inflatable figure of him for people to be photographed with holding the message ‘I stand with Shaker.‘ Someone took my picture too, but I don’t think it was ever seen again. You can see more at We Stand With Shaker. Thanks to the long campaign, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident to be held in Guantanamo was finally released on 30 October 2015.


Protesters meet in front of Newham Council’s Housing Office

I caught the train rather earlier than I liked on a cold Tuesday morning to travel across London to Stratford where I met with a small group of protesters from the housing protest group Focus E15 and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) to support a young mother and her child. Newham council had a statutory obligation to rehouse Candice and her child, but were trying to do so by sending her over 200 miles from the borough and her community to private rented accommodation in Liverpool.

Candice is allowed into the offices for her interview

The group accompanied her to the Housing Office to support her claim to be rehoused locally. Candice wanted two of them to go in with her as support in her meeting with the officials to discuss her case, but they were refused entry by council staff. Something of a ruckus with security staff on the door eventually led to the two, Jasmine and Sam, being pushed past them along with one other protester, but the rest of the group were kept outside, along with myself and two videographers.

Security stop Jasmine and Sam from going in to advise Candice

It was difficult to take photographs, though I made a few through the windows and doors despite the security staff attempting to block the view of what was happening inside.

Sam and Jasmine argue with a council official to be allowed to support Candice

I was also restricted by wanting to respect the privacy of other clients inside the office. The police arrived and went inside – and I think told the council officials to It wasn’t easy to know what was happening inside, though Sam did occasionally come to a window to try and tell us what was going on.

Sam tries to speak through a window to let those outside know what is happening

The protest continued outside the door, and unfortunately the security staff decided not to admit others who had come for interviews, despite promises by the protesters outside not to impede them or rush in.

Sam and Stan at the door to the meeting – with Jasmine sitting inside

The meeting with a housing officer was taking place inside, and through a window when Sam held the door open I could see Jasmine’s back as she sat giving her support and advice.

The protest continued outside the door, and unfortunately the security staff decided not to admit others who had come for interviews, despite promises by the protesters outside not to impede them or rush in.

Eventually one of the protesters negotiated with security to allow clients to enter by a rear door which they would not protest outside but would direct the clients too. The protesters were rather more concerned than council staff at allowing them access.

There was a bitter wind and it was wet outside, and after the meeting had been going on inside for over an hour I was shivering, despite being warmly dressed. I would have liked to have photographed the group coming out and sharing the news that Candice would be rehoused in the borough at Canning Town but decided I had to leave. By the time I was home and writing up the story I’d got the news on the group’s Facebook page.

More pictures at Focus E15 Support Homeless Mother


My week in November 2014 continues in another post…