It wasn't your usual Friday night in Waikiki as thousands of tourists aiming to escape the realities of the world were instead forced to think about the horrors of Guantanamo. Confronted with pictures of detainees who have been "released" but continue to be detained at the world's most notorious torrture prison 12 years after being illegally kidnapped, reactions were mixed. Some hurled ugly epithets: "Kill them all!," "Nuke all those countries," "If they look like that, they're terrorists!
Many more stopped to take pictures, ask questions, or thank us. A Pakistani woman who stood away for a time finally came to us saying: "I saw those pictures and was sure you were saying bad things about them, but then I felt so good when I saw you were with us!" She asked if she could take pictures to put up on her facebook. Others from Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan thanked us enthusiastically. Japanese tourists smiled broadly and quietly gave us a "thumbs up." Many took pictures to post on social media.
An ex-Army Ranger was passing by on his bicycle when he stopped and said he'd actually accompanied prisoners to Guantanamo but had no idea what he was really doing. He'd been in the Army for 11 years, and had gone on 7 deployments. He quit the military because he couldn't stand the killing. He was now has PTSD and is unemployed. Groups of soldiers read the signs, studied the pictures, and stood around in groups to talk among themselves and with us. Many knew nothing about Guantanamo. One shook his head and quietly said: "I thought there wouldn't be another war when I signed up 6 months ago but now I'm worried about the Ukraine."
We were a small crew, but we had a big presence. Our signs and photos were seen by thousands; we distributed about 300 leaflets. As we left a couple who had been watching us stopped us saying: "Thanks so much. What you're doing is an inspiration to all of us who should be standing out there with you."