Protestors demand Guantanamo closure on facility’s eighth anniversary

On the eighth anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay prison, activists dressed in prison suits took to the streets of Washington demanding closure of the facility – something that President Obama promised to do a year ago.

“End torture – yes, we can! Restore the rule of law – yes, we can! Close Guantanamo!” These slogans can be heard from protestors who have gathered just outside the fence around the White House.

But should they be here protesting?

“No. We should be here in celebration of this closure as President Obama promised nearly a year ago today," one the activists says into a loudspeaker.

Eight years ago today the Guantanamo prison opened in Cuba for detainees in the "war on terror." Activists are speaking out against the same policies they say were practiced during the Bush administration.

When the US first brought prisoners captured in Afghanistan to Gitmo, it said they could be considered outside US law and that their international humanitarian and legal rights were minimal.

But according to lawyer Stephen Truitt, his client – a prisoner at Gitmo captured in a raid in Pakistan in 2002 – shouldn’t be there.

"I’ve met his family, he is not a terrorist and in my estimation he poses no risk whatsoever. He wants to return home and watch the grass grow,” Truitt said. “I filed a lawsuit for habeus corpus 5 years and 5 days ago, and there has been no hearing yet.”

And no word on if that will happen. His client, like almost half of the Gitmo detainees, is from Yemen, a country under fire from US lawmakers since its connection with the failed Christmas Day bombing. Obama announced he was suspending sending detainees held at Guantanamo back to Yemen.

The rallies are taking place in major cities across America. The protesters are dressed in prison suits and are marching in silence, in solidarity, they say, with the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Also in solidarity, they will begin a 10-day hunger strike afterwards, like they say so many at Gitmo have also done.

“We just to try to be a voice for the voiceless people in Guantanamo who have been fasting, many of them have been forcibly fed. Yet their voices aren’t getting out to the American public,” said peace activist Joshua Brollier, who is protesting in Chicago.

The public is polarized on this issue, with some lawmakers, pundits, and citizens saying releasing Gitmo detainees poses a threat to US national security. While these activists speak loudly, there is another segment of society that says otherwise.

“I feel like if we keep people detained without any due process, we get the blowback – which is more people hating us, more terrorism, more violence and an endless cycle," said Medea Benjamin, a protestor from San Francisco.

As for Truitt, he says his client’s attitude remains positive, and he retains lawyers for his cause.

“He believes that Allah will ultimately release him,” Truitt says.

The question is whether the US government will.