San Francisco Protest Against Torture on 7th Anniversary of Guantanamo

By Elizabeth Fernandez, San Francisco Chronicle

Donning orange jumpsuits and black hoods, dozens of demonstrators in San Francisco today urged the immediate closure of the American detention and interrogation camp at Cuba's Guantanamo Bay.

Joined by peace activist Cindy Sheehan, the protesters also called for an end to torture of detainees in U.S. custody.

"It's important that the U.S. not engage in acts of terror," said Joe McAleese of Pleasant Hill. "To me, it is immoral."

San Francisco Torture Protest
Stop Torture Drum at Protest SF











President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to shutter the prison and ban torture, calling it a top priority for his administration. Other high-ranking elected officials, notably U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., have called for the prison's closure.

The demonstrators vowed to hold them to their promises and to halt abusive interrogations. Some also said they want President Bush and Vice President Cheney to be prosecuted for war crimes.

"We're trying to send a message that torture is unacceptable," said Giovanni Jackson, 27, a San Francisco resident and a youth organizer with World Can't Wait, which sponsored the event. "Guantanamo has to shut down, along with other torture apparatus, to bring home the reality of what our government is doing."

The Rev. Louie Vitale, a longtime social justice advocate who has been jailed scores of times on charges related to nonviolent peace demonstrations, described the months he spent behind bars last year after being convicted on federal charges for leading a protest in Arizona.

Vitale, who served as pastor of St. Boniface Church in San Francisco until his retirement in 2005, introduced Sheehan, touting her "great service" as an anti-war leader.

For her part, Sheehan, whose son, Casey, was killed in 2004 while serving in Iraq, had just embarked on a nine-day hunger fast to show solidarity "with people who are being oppressed ... for being detained illegally." She said she has been "up to the gates" of the Guantanamo facility.

"I have talked to people who have been tortured in our name," she said. "We have to repudiate what our government is doing. If we don't stand up for humanity, then we are complicit."


San Francisco's KTVU-2 covered the protest in a 2:40 piece, available to view here:  SAN FRANCISCO: Janine De la Vega Reports On Elaborate Protests Staged Against Gitmo