Police have arrested over a dozen activists in Washington, DC protesting to mark the 15th anniversary of the opening of the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
A coalition of groups of protesters and activists marched from the Supreme Court to the Senate on Wednesday, demanding that President Barack Obama close the prison before leaving the White House on January 20.
The protesters, who were dressed in Guantanamo-style prison suits, demanded an end to the indefinite detention of about 60 men who are still behind bars at the prison.
“We recognize that there have been many obstacles put in [Obama’s] way,” said Elizabeth Beavers, senior campaigner for Amnesty International, one organization participating in the Close Guantanamo Bay Coalition. “[the Republican-dominated Congress has been incredibly obstructionary, but the Obama administration made some really key missteps, and they missed moments when they had a political mandate.”
Obama “will tell you to the end he failed [in closing the prison] because of members of Congress,” said Andy Worthington, co-founder of the Close Guantanamo Coalition.
He added that although Obama is right to acknowledge Republican opposition, but the president “should have acted much earlier to overcome that resistance.”
“When it comes to Guantanamo, this is a time of a double disappointment, there is no other way of looking at it,” Worthington said. “President Obama failed to fulfill the promise he made eight years ago. I think Donald Trump is going to shut the door on Guantanamo immediately.”
Obama has failed to keep his promise during the 2008 presidential election campaign to close the prison, citing its damage to the US reputation abroad, but has set free some of the inmates and relocated some others.
Maha Hilal, executive director of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, said, “As a Muslim I am calling for the prison to be shut, for the torture to end. As a Muslim, I can no longer accept this treatment.”
Police arrested a number of activists claiming that they staged an unauthorized protest in the US Capitol.
Later in the day, the activists tried to deliver a petition with 60,000 signatures to the US Senate, but the Senate staff rejected the letter of protest.
Closure of Guantanamo prison was one of the main campaign promises Obama made after he got elected the president of the United States in 2008.
Earlier on Wednesday, dozens of Democrats sent a letter to the outgoing president, urging him to make a last-ditch effort to keep his promise to close the notorious prison.
“With only days before your term ends, we ask that you definitively close the site by rapidly pursuing any and all options within your existing authority to seek lawful disposition of all of the 55 remaining individuals languishing in the camp,” wrote 40 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the letter, obtained by The Guardian. “Mr. Trump must be deprived of the use of Guantanamo Bay.”
While campaigning for the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump embraced Guantanamo and promised to bring back water-boarding, one of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques used on suspects of the US alleged war on terror after the 9/11 attacks.