Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Monday in Washington, D.C. the National Mall was packed with hundreds of thousands of eager people who witnessed President Barack Obama sworn in for his second term. During his speech, President Obama reminded us of our “vow to move forward together” on the challenges we face together as a country. Today, we say to Congress: time for you to move together to pass an inclusive Violence Against Women Act!
The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have just announced that the two chambers are jointly reintroducing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a law that since 1994 has sent the message that violence against women is criminal and that has helped to ensure that the millions of women who experience domestic and sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking receive the protection and support they need.
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Those were the words shouted at me and several hundred other people as we were walking to the National Mall to attend Obama’s inauguration. (More about our petition action there in Zeke’s post). Those words were yelled by some protesters who were unhappy with the views espoused by Obama and concerned about the policies they expect he will implement.
Now, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take some offense at being told I was going to hell simply because I was walking toward an event that made those people unhappy. But I was also glad to see the protesters. They were there on the curb with their signs and their slogans, and no one was bothering them. No police were shooing them away, much less beating them or throwing them in jail. And when I was on the Mall collecting signatures for our 100 Days petition, no one stopped me or tried to arrest me either.
How lucky we all are–me, you, those protesters–to be able to express our opinions without fear of reprisal, imprisonment, or death. So many of our priority cases are not so lucky. If you’ve lived most of your life in places where freedom of expression is “no big deal”, it can be easy to take that right for granted. Has anyone spent time in a place where it was dangerous to express your views? What was it like to live under those conditions?
The Counter Terror With Justice campaign and Amnesty International volunteers were on the National Mall yesterday, gathering 100 Days petition signatures before the inauguration and wearing orange and holding signs on the parade route.
I took this picture of JD with my phone, sorry it’s kinda pixely. It was great meeting so many people from around the country who want GTMO closed, torture ended and accountability for abuse. (Reminded me of the GTMO Cell Tour.)
We’ve been hearing for a few days now that President Obama would act quickly to address some of these points, but I didn’t think about how I’d feel when the time came. Now I’m getting a sense. My Aunt just forwarded me this, from ABC News: “Torture, Gitmo, and the Treatment of Detainees: President Obama’s Three Executive Orders for Thursday.” If this article is correct, these orders would, quote:
- close the detainee camp at Guantanamo Bay within a year and establish a process by which the U.S. government figures out what to do with the remaining detainees;
- establish new rules on interrogation methods moving forward;
- establish new guidelines for the treatment of detainees moving forward.
I have mixed emotions. I’d be thrilled to see such profoundly positive movement on these issues from President Obama, especially so quickly, but I’m already steeling myself for what will be probably be harder than getting to this point:
- getting the details of the above right;
- making sure illegal practices stop not just at GTMO, but also at Bagram, CIA sites and other US facilities in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere;
- ending rendition
- ensuring accountability for torture and other illegal US interrogation and detention practices and policies—whether under Bush, Clinton, or anyone else.
Right now, the best thing we can all do is let President Obama know that we support and care about efforts to bring US interrogation and detention practices and policies in line with international law.
To that end, please take a moment to:
- celebrate. We’ve all put a lot of hard work into this campaign—please give yourself a pat on the back. Have some orange juice. You’ll need a recharge for the fight ahead. Get that orange gear washed, ironed up and ready to go.