Today Amnesty International UK organized another by now annual protest against the Guantánamo Bay prison and detention facility run by the U.S. government. It’s been six years since the first prisoners were taken there, and according to Wikipedia, "775 detainees have been brought to Guantanamo, approximately 420 of which have been released. As of August 9, 2007, approximately 355 detainees remain." Amnesty International says it "was one of the first to call for the closure of the Guantánamo detention facility. New voices have taken up the demand each year as more and more people have come to recognize the unlawfulness of the detentions."
Amnesty International protest
The protest today was in two parts. Overnight, in the small hours of the night, activists braved the rain to spend an hour each caged up. At 10:30am the main event got underway. Hundreds of participants dressed in orange overalls and goggles lined up as if they were prisoners. Imposing men dressed in army uniforms barked out orders. Given the way they talked and moved about, they seemed like real soldiers. A couple of them had dogs. It was easy to imagine it being not so different for it to be all too real.
As is the case with many protests run by professional activist organizations like Amnesty International, the main audience for the protest was not bystanders in the street or the officials in the US Embassy — it was the media. Photographers and television crews were in abundance. There were television crews representing channels in the Middle East and Pakistan, as well as media companies like Reuters. The event was staged to be friendly to media deadlines (and therefore distinctly unfriendly to people doing a regular 9am – 5pm job). Clusters of photographers gathered round a scene when something "happened", such as when a prisoner was ordered to lie face down on the ground.
I felt a curious affinity with the television crews. I can’t say why, but I enjoying watching them film their newsclips after the protest had finished. Considering I rarely watch the news on TV it was a bit strange. It might be because from my own experience on working with audio slideshows I know it’s not easy to say something into a microphone, all the while keeping the content coherent and the voice interesting. Doing so in front of a camera would make it doubly difficult.