UC Davis students built a life-sized Guantánamo Bay prison cell on the Quad on Wednesday to mark the 10-year anniversary of the prison’s opening.
Almerindo E. Ojeda, UC Davis Director of the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas, responded to students’ wishes to protest against the maintenance of the Guantánamo Bay facility by approving the construction of the cell on the quad, manned by a volunteer simulating the actions of a prisoner. The building of the cell was initiated by a Flock of Artists, a student organization that supports the Occupy movement.
In 2002, the Bush Administration established Guantánamo Bay — also coined Gitmo, after the military abbreviation GTMO for the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base — as a maximum security prison holding detainees from the Afghanistan War.
Guantánamo Bay is notorious for its widely known use of torture techniques on inmates, including waterboarding, sparking a national cry in defense of human rights. On Jan. 22, 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close down Guantánamo Bay within a year.
Earlier this year, however, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which stifles the process of shutting down the controversial prison.
Ojeda was joined by community volunteer Julia Hunter-Blair, who openly states her opposition to the normalization of the Guantánamo Bay issue.
“I used to say, ‘America has lost its soul when it condones Guantánamo Bay,’” said Hunter-Blair.
There remain 171 prisoners incarcerated on Guantánamo Bay. Many students and supporters agree that Guantánamo Bay is a step backwards for the United States.
“I don’t just want Guantánamo Bay to close down, I want the whole [notorious prison base] culture to shut down; human rights should be respected,” said Ojeda.
“They are continuing to hold prisoners and providing them with very inhumane treatment; as a voting, tax-paying citizen, I am very disappointed in the government and President Obama,” said Peter Menard-Warwick, a Student Housing employee and volunteer.
Senior international relations major Willee Roberts was one of multiple students gathered on the Quad.
“They put an institution like Guantánamo Bay off United States soil so we don’t have to think about it, but with the National Defense Authorization Act, it’s going to hit closer to home,” Roberts said.
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