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ND students stage Gitmo protest

Kaitlynn Riely | Monday, October 6, 2008

Clad in orange jumpsuits, some with their hands bound and others with black hoods covering their heads, a few Notre Dame students stood imprisoned Friday inside a barrier of chicken wire at the base of the flagpole on South Quad. The all-day demonstration was intended to raise awareness and protest U.S. actions at the military prison at the American naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where persons alleged to be militant combatants are being held, said senior Catherine McKinney, the president of Human Rights-ND, the student chapter of human rights organization Amnesty International. “The basic goal was to make it as shocking as possible,” she said. Sophomore Mary Dewey was standing against the flagpole in an orange jumpsuit, with a black hood covering her head, at 2 p.m. Friday as students, alumni, parents and visitors walked around South Quad. The experience of being “imprisoned” for four hours was “pretty intense,” she said. Most people who walked by wanted to talk more about the issue of the detention of prisoners at Guantanamo, she said, but a fair number of people came up and argued with the demonstrators, asking if they support terrorism. “Our response to that is we absolutely do not support terrorism,” Dewey said, but that they do support human rights. Dewey said she does not think the Guantanamo Bay detention center is effective, nor does it make the United States more secure. “The way the United States treats so-called enemy combatants has a negative impact on our security here and around the world,” she said. The main point of Friday’s demonstration was to get people to talk about the situation in Guantanamo Bay, said sophomore David Rivera, who was standing inside the chicken wire in an orange jumpsuit with his hands bound and his feet bare. Torture, he said, is not an effective tactic through which to obtain information. Following the terrorist attacks of 2001, people said the war on terror was a different type of war and the old rules don’t apply, he said. “We can’t, if we are going up against a new enemy, throw away our morals,” he said. The demonstration was intended to protest two components of Guantanamo Bay – the alleged use of torture or mistreatment as a means to illicit information from prisoners and the indefinite detention of detainees without due process, McKinney said. People who stopped by the table in front of the demonstration were asked to sign a global petition sponsored by Amnesty International to end the military’s use of Guantanamo Bay as a detention site. Those interested could also sign letters to Indiana’s two senators, Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar, asking them to create legislation or to back bills that called for the end of the United States’ use of the detention facility. By 2 p.m., McKinney estimated that 100 people had stopped by the table to talk to her or another demonstrator. For most people, McKinney said, Guantanamo Bay has fallen off their radar, with new issues, like the economy, the election, and the war in Iraq taking precedence. “We want to interject it back into the public discourse,” she said. Guantanamo Bay has not been at the forefront of issues in the 2008 presidential election, she said, but she hopes the presidential candidates start talking about it, and that the next administration does something about it. “What we’re looking for is action,” she said. “Words are just words. We’re looking for actions on behalf of political leaders.”