A blog by Amanda Alcantara

Sunday, December 22, 2013

45,000 lights for Prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and the US

On the evening of Friday, December 20th, 2013 a group of activists brought attention to the issue of solitary confinement and Guantanamo Bay at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. The activists peacefully marched to the front of the tree while singing a remixed version of "O Come, All Ye Faithful". The caroling began at the East entrance of 30 Rockefeller Plaza where tourists and families were gathered taking pictures of the Christmas tree, and ended on the South side of the street after security asked the protesters to move.


Six of the activists wore orange jumpsuits to represent different detainees from Guantanamo Bay. These activists said 2 to 3 lines that were repeated using people's mics, detailing the conditions and stories of the detainees whom they were remembering that night. For example, Shaker Aamer who was sent to Guantanamo in 2002 and has been cleared for release; or Saifurah Palacha, who used to own two businesses in New York City and has never been charged with a crime. Both have illnesses that are being left untreated.

Two of the activists led a powerful mic check that outlined the reasons for the group being in that location. The mic check brought attention to the 160 prisoners held in Guantanamo, men and women held in deportation centers and the 80,000 prisoners who are in "the box". The mic check brought specific attention to a culture that ultimately allows torture while it indulges in holiday festivities. The lyrics of Christmas songs were changed to remember that this is a time of the year when solidarity is needed the most. If we must sing, let us sing to those who society has forgotten. If we must pray, let us pray for those who have been forgotten. If folks choose to celebrate their love of life more than ever during this time of the year, then let us also choose to celebrate and fight for those whose right to celebrate life has been taken away. The activists sang the songs listed below to bring light to this injustice. As the mic check said, How does solitary confinement rehabilitate people in our community? 

President Obama broke his campaign promises of closing the prison. We are demanding that the government closes Gitmo and that the prisoners are treated with humanity, justice and respect during that process. We demand an end to torture, an end to solitary confinement, and the closing of Guantanamo Bay!

While hundreds gathered in front of a tree that holds 45,000 multicolored lights, the prisoners in Guantamano had nothing but scraps of paper to create a blue lantern. To them that lantern was a way of sharing their light to the world. One of the songs, a remix to "Silent Night" asked the prisoners "When was the last time you looked at the stars?". The Blue Lantern Project is determined to continue shedding light on the issues of criminalization, torture, and injustices; especially in cultural spaces through art and direct action. The Blue Lantern Project does this as a way of signifying that Americans are complicit in allowing our government to commit atrocities in our name. We may not indulge in a culture of consumerism and festivities without acknowledging that there is also a deep seeded culture of torture in the United States.

Below find the lyrics to the songs and ways to take action:

Lyrics:

"O Come All Ye Faithful"

Oh, come, all my people,
All we want is freedom!
Oh come ye, oh come ye
Stop torture tonight!

"Silent Night"

Silent night, violent night
As we sing, as you fight,
Round your people free from those bars,
When was the last time you looked at the stars?
When will justice be born?
When will justice be born?

Silent Night, violent night,
As we sing, as you fight,
Muslim brothers with you we rise,
Close Guantanamo, close it tonight, 
When will justice be born?
When will justice be born?

Here's what you can do:

About Guantanamo: Call or email your congressperson to ask them to sign on to Rep. Jim Moran's (D-VA) "Dear Colleague" letter to President Obama.
Chuck Schumer: 202-224-6542
Kirsten Gillibrand: 202-224-4451
U.S. Southern Command: 305-437-1213

About NY State: Write to the Governor at,

The honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, 
NYS Capital Building
Albany, NY 12224

Visit nycaic.org for information on NY State.

Stay updated and joint the movement:

closegitmo.net

witnesstorture.org

On Facebook: The Blue Lantern Project 

For more information on this action, please contact Amanda Burgos at mandieburgos@gmail.com 

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