Miami-Dade County

Protesters at Southcom demand Guantánamo be shut down

On the 15th anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay prison facilities, about 30 people walked to U.S. Southern Command demanding the prison’s closure.
On the 15th anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay prison facilities, about 30 people walked to U.S. Southern Command demanding the prison’s closure. sgross@miamiherald.com

Protestors in orange jumpsuits and black hoods stood outside U.S. Southern Command in 90-degree heat Sunday, holding signs with phrases like “Close Gitmo now” and “I am still waiting for your humanity.”

Around 30 protestors marched from Trump National Doral to Southcom in a call to shut down the prison in Cuba.

This marks the 15th year since the first war-on-terror detainees were sent to Guantánamo. The first group arrived Jan. 11, 2002.

South Florida protesters from groups including People’s Opposition to War, Imperialism and Racism (POWIR), Students for a Democratic Society and Anti-Trump Action Committee took part in the march.

As of January, 41 detainees were still being held at the prison. Of the 41, five are approved for transfer and 26 are approved “forever prisoners” by a periodic review board. The last 10 captives have cases being handled through military commission proceedings — two through plea bargains and one who had been convicted of war crimes that were overturned although he is still held as a convict serving a life sentence.

The protesters gathered outside the gates of Southcom at 9301 NW 33rd St., holding signs and giving speeches through a megaphone.

POWIR organizer Conor Munro said he hashelped stage this annual protest for five years.

“People have been gathering in front of Southern Command every year on the anniversary of it opening,” said Munro, 26, of Miramar. “The main reason is to protest the gross human rights violations that have been taking place inside Guantánamo Bay.”

However, Munro said this year’s protest is different.

“We have a new president,” he said. “A president who says he wants to fill Guantánamo instead of empty it. That’s a new context for us.”

Cassia Laham said that for her, the protest means sending a “loud and clear message to Donald Trump.”

“He’s not allowed to do this,” said Laham, 27, of Miramar. “It goes against every moral being in this world to lock people up without trial, without a charge and torture them.”

The Miami Green Party was one of several organizations who joined the protest. Steve Showen said as a Green Party member, he’s protested Guantánamo “at least a half dozen times.”

“It’s a sore spot on the U.S. reputation,” said Showen, 69, of Miami. “It’s extra judicial operation to have a place where we can torture people who haven’t even been convicted. It’s a disgrace. What does it take to end something like that?”

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