‘We shouldn’t be here, we shouldn’t have to be here’, protesters gather outside of the US to demand Guantanamo Bay’s closure.

An estimated group of 100 protesters converged outside the United States embassy to mark the 13th anniversary of Guantanamo Bay’s opening alongside voicing their discontent towards a prolonged torture operation that US President, Barack Obama claimed would be closed in 2009.  The protest, organised by ‘The London Guantanamo Campaign’ was titled, Is This Who We Are? which derives from an actual quote made by President Obama during a press conference in March 2013.

The protest boasted a rather unique layout as traditional speeches were blended with live re-enactments of various statements made by President Obama during both his election campaign and subsequent time in office. One specific re-enactment, based around an unnamed female protester’s altercation with Obama, effectively conveyed the anger of opposition to Guantanamo, which ultimately resulted in her being escorted from the vicinity.

A number of protesters wore bright orange jumpsuits, which have become an unforgettable image of repression and torture hidden behind Guantanamo’s barbed wire fences throughout its history.

A notable speaker was ‘Veterans for Peace’ campaigner Ben Griffin, who spoke in great detail about Britain and MI5’s involvement with torture programmes calling for attention to be aimed at detention camps utilised during the Iraq War. A well-known Iraqi detention camp that I found personally disturbing was ‘Camp Cropper’, as this compound utilised by British troops to torture individuals unfortunately shares my family name, something that is not all that pleasing to know.

Griffin claimed that Britain’s attempts to redact part of the historic CIA torture report, released in December 2014, was a ‘clever trick’ because the UK’s involvement in torture goes ‘further than MI5 and MI6’. This was a major point within Griffin’s speech as he emphasised that Britain’s torture operations are not a ‘post 9/11 phenomenon’, which he elaborated on by explaining his experiences when meeting prominent ex-IRA personnel who claimed to have been detained by British forces in Northern Ireland without charge during the 1970s.

Griffin also stated his belief that Guantanamo Bay’s prolonged operation can be attributed to one sole reason, which he claimed was President Obama’s ‘lack of courage’ to actually shut down the detention camp permanently. As the protest took place in London, the majority of speakers emphasised how British governments complicit with torture should be held accountable for their actions, which resulted in several individuals stating that a demonstration outside Downing Street would be just as crucial.

A prominent subject throughout the protest was that of ‘Shaker Aamer’, a British resident who has been detained at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 despite being cleared for in 2007. To promote the efforts of organisations actively campaigning for Shaker’s release, Joy Hurcombe from the ‘Save Shaker Aamer’ group read out 10 specific demands addressed to individuals and governments complicit in torture alongside echoing Shaker’s own words about life inside Guantanamo walls.

The protest maintained a peaceful environment throughout its duration with a minor argument between one specific protester and an armed policewoman, being the only notable disruption.

(Photographs of the protest can be found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/128750739@N04/sets/72157650237906161/ )

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