gitmo Archives - accuracy.org

George Floyd’s Killing, Martin Gugino’s Abuse and Witness Against Torture

JEREMY VARON, jvaron at aol.com, @WitnessTorture
Varon is professor of history at the New School and an activist with the group Witness Against Torture. He just wrote the piece “Martin Gugino – The ‘Buffalo Protestor’ and our Friend,” which states: “None of us is surprised that it was Martin meeting the police line in a posture of non-violence. Martin is gentle, principled, and undaunted. Allied with the Catholic Worker tradition, he is also deeply committed to a tapestry of causes, from fair housing to immigrant rights. Guiding his activism is belief in the sacred power of non-violent resistance to injustice. If that makes him an ‘agitator,’ as Buffalo’s police chief slandered him, then the world needs more agitators.” [See accuracy.org news release from Monday: “Today, Sentencing for Pacifist Jailed for Protesting ‘Omnicidal’ Weapons — Supported by Activist Thrown to Ground by Police.”]

Varon continued: “In his eulogy for George Floyd, attorney Benjamin Crump named what was done to him as ‘torture.’ It was a striking description I had not heard before. Floyd’s lynching needs no added indignity to stir our outrage. But torture has a special sting, both because of its willful cruelty and its supposed alienness to America.

“For years, we in Witness Against Torture vigorously protested what was in fact America’s systematic use of torture after 9/11. Like other human rights groups, we wanted the detained men to be subjects before the law, with basic protections and access to U.S. courts. In our work, we did not think much about race.

“Yet Black Lives Matter and other activists impressed on us an uncomfortable truth: that many of the abuses in War on Terror prisons, like solitary confinement, are routine in America’s domestic prisons, holding predominantly people of color. Access to the law, moreover, is no guarantee of justice. Sometimes the law is the problem.

“We began to see torture as part of a continuum of state violence, including in its racial aspect. Almost exclusively, the victims of post-9/11 torture have been brown-skinned Muslim men, demonized with the label ‘terrorist.’ Despite the innocence of most of the men historically held at Guantanamo, the law has been all but useless in freeing them. No one responsible for their torture has been held to legal account, including during the Obama administration. Going forward, our group sought to highlight the parallels between domestic and overseas abuses in a vast system of dehumanizing violence.

“Dismantling anti-black racism is today’s urgent priority. But abuses of power crave synergies, making other causes relevant. Recall that President Trump is an avowed supporter of torture.”