New York, NY – May 19, 2007. New York City’s Times Square military recruiting center – the busiest in the nation – was the site of a Witness Against Torture (WAT) street theatre action Saturday, May 19th.
The vigil featured a street theatre performance that told the story of capture, torture and indefinite detention. Organizers “called on the American people to take responsibility for the cruelty and inhumanity being perpetrated in our name.” A colorful skit was repeated several times. The skit featured a critique of the US payment of “a bounty” to Afghanis – prompting them to turn in their neighbors as “enemy combatants”. This was followed by a graphic illustration of the torture procedure known as “waterboarding” – used at the Guantanamo concentration camp to elicit forced confessions. “Prisoners” were clad in the familiar orange prison jump suits and black hoods while “guards” wore all black uniforms and black combat caps. Actors sat atop stepladders at either end of the stage – holding aloft signs reading “Guantanamo”, “A Bounty”, “Enemy Combatant” and “Beatings”. Dramatic tension was palpable when the “inmates” held signs stating “Habeas Corpus = Fair Trial” and “Geneva Convention” – only to have these signs snatched away in a rough manner by guards. The presentations concluded with the waterboarding of prisoners – first with actual water being dripped onto hoods and finally with a bucket of paper scraps being dumped on the head of a prisoner. Tourists and New Yorkers walking by stopped and crowded the sidewalk to see the torture scenes played out in a surreal setting – behind the street theatre were the bright billboards of Times Square and a news ticker with stories from the Wall Street Journal.
Live music lightened the mood between performances. Members of WAT engaged with tourists as well – distributing educational materials and asking passersby to sign petition to shut down GuantÃƒÂ¡namo.
Next Left Notes was there shooting stills and video.
Witness Against Torture organizers hold monthly vigils and encourage interested parties to get involved in their campaign. The next meeting is Wednesday, June 6, 7pm. The next vigil is Sunday, June 10 (the day a year ago that three GuantÃƒÂ¡namo prisoners were found dead, apparently the victims of suicide). See witnesstorture.org for more information.