long road ahead: members of Witness Against Torture
at the start of their journey.
peace activists travel to Guantanamo Bay and fast to demand
Sunday, a group of 25 American Christian peace activists reached
the gates of the United States naval base in Guantanamo Bay.
For five days, the group, ranging from young adults to the
elderly, had hiked about 50 miles across Cuba. Upon reaching
the Cuban checkpoint to the no-man’s land between Cuban territory
and the U.S. base, they didn’t refresh themselves with food,
water, a shower or a proper place to sleep. They began fasting.
The group, which calls itself Witness Against Torture, is
made up of Catholic Workers from around the Northeast, and
includes activists from Ithaca and Amherst, Mass. Danny Burns
and Clare and Teresa Grady of the St. Patrick’s Day Four [“Blood
for Blood,” Sept. 29] are also participating.
What spurred these people to take it upon themselves to visit
the prison and risk the $7,500 fines levied against American
citizens who visit Cuba? Mike McGuire, a group member, said
human-rights violations at the base drove them. “We said,
‘You know, if this base was in America we would have a presence
outside every day. We wouldn’t let it go. But as it is now,
it is constantly being hidden.’ ” However, McGuire adds, an
invitation from President Bush had a lot to do with the trip.
welcome to go down yourself—maybe you have—and take a look
at the conditions. I urge members of our press corps to go
down to Guantanamo and see how they’re treated,” said Bush
at a June 20 press conference with European Union leaders.
While a number of reporters took Bush up on his offer, none
was allowed to show detainees on camera or even speak to them.
WAT wants to do what no outsiders except for Red Cross members
sworn to secrecy have yet been able to: to see and speak to
is something no one from the European Union [was granted],
something the U.N. Commission on Detention, Disappearance
and Torture was not granted, so we are not optimistic . .
. but we are optimistic that our presence is going to be felt
on the base,” said McGuire.
McGuire noted that he has attempted to contact the Defense
Department and the White House but has received no response.
“I don’t know how they go about responding to things like
this, or if they do,” he remarked.
However, the State Department issued this statement last week:
“These protesters, as they march through Cuba, are ignoring
one of the most oppressive regimes in the world, and its systematic
and institutionalized violations of human rights.” The marchers
counter that they are there to deal with “an American problem,”
something they feel they are responsible for as citizens of
the United States.
Though the group has had no direct contact with the U.S. government,
the Cuban government is a different story. “At first it was
a little bit tense,” said McGuire. “They were initially very
suspicious, but after a few days . . . they came to accept
our action.” McGuire also noted that Cuban authorities have
allowed them to protest directly in front of the checkpoint,
and have explicitly guaranteed that if the U.S. government
allows them access they will be allowed to cross over to the
McGuire said he is surprised by the amount of support WAT
has received through its Web site, www.witness torture.org.
The group has put up a petition and contact information for
Bush and Cheney so that supporters can demand the group be
let into the base. Members of the team have kept blogs with
accounts of their journey. Danny Burns wrote on his blog on
Sunday upon reaching the gates: “So many barricades that were
put in front of us have fallen to the wayside/And we just
kept on walking/we were told we could not walk anywhere/we
marched/no banners/we hung banners . . . no marching through
the city of Guantaanmo/we marched why? the world agrees/No
More Torture/Not in Guantanomo/Not in Iraq/Not in our name!”
At the same time WAT is showing support for the Guantanamo
detainees, it is also praying for the Christian peacemaking
team that has been held hostage in Iraq for weeks now. Two
of the marchers have been members of similar teams. “There
is a 79-year-old nun with us,” said McGuire. She “has been
serving full time with the peace-making teams in Iraq for
the past several years. There is a real connection there.”
He says the Guantanamo mission has a dual purpose. “We are
trying to use this march to make an appeal to the captors
in Iraq for mercy on the peacemakers, just as we are appealing
to our own government to be allowed to practice the works
of mercy on the detainees in Guantanamo.”
Is Getting to Be a Trend
Evo Morales, a popular Bolivian presidential candidate,
has sworn that he will be a “nightmare” for the
United States and its “imperialist” policies if
he is elected. Morales has been an avid supporter
of the Bolivian “cocaleros,” or coca farmers,
for more than 15 years, and has opposed the United
States’ anti-coca policies. The leftist candidate
has gained broad support due to his anti-free-trade
and socialist philosophies. Morales claims that
Bolivia’s free-market relationship with the United
States is responsible for the nation’s debilitating
Lost His Balls?
When he was on the Toronto Blue Jays in 2004,
Carlos Delgado had no problem with openly criticizing
the Bush administration’s actions in Iraq. “I
don’t support what they do,” he told the Toronto
Star. “I think it’s just stupid.” Now he’s
on the New York Mets, and team management is trying
to shut him up. Jeff Wilpon, son of the Mets’
CEO and owner, said in a press conference, “He’s
going to have his personal views, which he’s going
to keep to himself.” Delgado sheepishly responded,
“I will not cause any distractions. . . . Just
call me Employee Number 21.”
Welcome Home, Soldier
The remains of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq are
usually shipped to Dover (Md.) Air Force Base
in flag-drapped coffins. So members of a San Diego
family were distressed to find that their late
son, medic Matthew Holley of the Marines’ 101st
Airborne unit, would not arrive home from Dover
in a flag-drapped coffin, or be met by a color
guard. He was going to be shipped as freight on
a commercial airliner. The arrangements were reversed
when his parents, both Army veterans, protested.
The Army has given no reason for this practice.
Politics as Usual in Afghanistan
Upon returning home to Afghanistan last year,
journalist Ali Mohaqeq Nasab found that the political
climate had not changed since he was exiled many
years earlier. After he published pro-women’s-rights
articles in his magazine, the government locked
him up on charges of blasphemy. Now he is awaiting
a potential execution, unless he “repents.” As
quoted in the Washington Post, Nasab said,
“I came back because I’m an educated person and
I wanted to help. I didn’t know there was still
need of sanctuary: the Church of the Holy Innocents.
Albany Foundation releases first list of endangered buildings
a backdrop of boarded-up windows and an ivy-covered brick
façade, the Historic Albany Foundation released a list of
the city’s most endangered historic resources Monday afternoon
on the steps of one such resource: the Trinity Episcopal Church
in Albany’s Mansion Neighborhood.
is something we hope not to have to do annually,” said Erin
Tobin Bearden, director of preservation resources for HAF.
With stained glass peeking out from behind a missing section
of board and sturdy walls of dark brick, the simple church
is a prime example of the sort of building the group hopes
to preserve, explained various HAF members. A small permit
posted on one of the boarded-up entrances reveals the year
work was last done on the building: some roof repairs in 1990.
Five years ago, HAF released a similar list of 12 sites the
foundation considered to be threatened by neglect or nearby
development. Of those sites, five have been restored, two
are in the final stages of rehabilitation and one, St. Joseph’s
Church on Ten Broeck Street, was removed from the list after
the city seized it from its previous owner and gave it to
HAF. The four remaining sites on the 2000 list—Trinity Church,
a Queen Anne mansion on Madison Avenue, the
Hotel and its neighboring properties on State Street, and
the Third Precinct Police Station on North Pearl Street—carried
over onto this year’s list.
According to Bearden, the organization hopes the list will
drum up support once again for the four buildings that remain
from the 2000 list, as well as introduce local residents and
lawmakers to a few more endangered elements of the city’s
history. Among the new additions on this year’s list are the
Church of the Holy Innocents, located on North Pearl Street
and built in 1850, and the city’s School 17, located on Second
Avenue and built in 1878. Also included on this year’s list
is the 119-year-old Albany Knitting Company building at 373
S. Pearl St. The building once housed the Leiderkranz Singing
Society and the Hinckel Brewing Company before the Knitting
Com pany sign ad orned its façade. All three of these buildings,
as well as the four from last year’s list, are currently vacant.
An entire development district is also included on this year’s
list. Adopted by the Common Council in 1993, the Traditional
Neighborhood Overlay District located around midtown Albany
was created in order to prevent renovation that would harm
the 19th- and early 20th-century architecture of the area.
Now threatened with the rapid expansion of student rental
property, traditional-style buildings are either disappearing
or withering away, according to HAF.
not about what color you’re going to paint your house,” explained
Bearden. “It’s about whether you’re going to tear it down,
neglect it or build that 300-square-foot addition.”
Bearden said the group plans to hold a symposium this spring
to discuss plans for endangered sites, and will continue to
provide technical assistance, advice and various other forms
of support for any groups or communities interested in preserving
Something bad happened there.”
—CDTA Route 18 bus, in the midst of a discussion
of haunted houses.
Nader, at a press conference Tuesday supporting
Alice Green, in response to a question about how
Green could convince Mayor Jerry Jennings to participate
in a debate.
the Dec. 1 Albany Common Council General Services
Committee session, Dominick Calsolaro’s resolution
to donate land in the Pine Bush to the
Pine Bush preserve was sent to the law committee
[“Land Trust,” Newsfront, Nov. 24, 2005]. The Jennings
administration refused the request of the committee
to have General Services Commissioner Bill Bruce
and a city lawyer answer questions about the city’s
commitment to donate land to the Pine Bush Preserve.
Council members Michael Brown, Glen Casey and Sandra
Fox voted to close the meeting to the public, thereby
preventing 40 people gathered from speaking during
a planned public-comment period. Brown then stormed
out and was harangued by the crowd as he went. Calsolaro
insisted the committee was violating the state’s
open-meetings law by closing the meeting. After
Brown left, the remaining committee members changed
their minds, reopened the meeting, and allowed the
comment period. . . . The proposal to reorganize
the Albany County Crime Victims and Sexual Violence
Center by moving its therapists to the Mental
Health Department and its caseworkers to the district
attorney’s office [“Crisis Center Shuffle,” Newsfront,
Sept. 29] was voted down and removed from the county
budget by the county legislature at its Dec. 5 meeting.
. . . We spoke too soon when we reported [“Loose
Ends,” Dec. 1] that Roumen Dimitrov [“Go
Unpublished or Perish,” Nov. 13, 2003] had left
his troubles with academia behind him. In a follow-up
e-mail message, his wife reported that he may soon
lose his job at the University of Sofia for failure
to publish a sufficient number of papers. . . .
William Bonanni, one of the two Albany police
officers involved in the shooting that resulted
in the death of bystander David Scaringe on New
Year’s Eve 2003 [“Death and Disbelief,” Newsfront,
Jan. 8, 2004], has returned to work with the Albany
Police Department and will soon return to active
patrol duty, reports the Times Union. He
will be assigned to North Station. Officer Joseph
Gerace, who has not pushed for a reinstatement as
Bonanni did, remains on leave.