On November 11, Veteran’s Day, a group of 80 political activists gathered on the steps of the state capitol to protest the Military Comissions Act. The protest was the result of one politically charged high school student who took her political discontentment and transformed it into a formal protest.
It was supposed to be business as usual for Victoria Gimpelevich, age 17, a senior at Davis High School. Her International Relations class moved onto their next topic for discussion: The “torture bill,” otherwise known as the Military Commissions Act. It was signed into effect by George W. Bush on October 17, 2006. The stated purpose of the Act is to “facilitate bringing to justice terrorists and other unlawful enemy combatants through full and fair trials by military commissions, and for other purposes.”
As Gimpelevich left her class, she was unsatisfied. She needed to know more. She contacted a friend and a political activist for more information who directed her to the Bill Of Rights Defense Committee. After speaking to representatives from the Committee, Gimpelevich decided to organize a protest.
The new bill suspends “habeas corpus” for individuals who are not American citizens. In plain English, that means that non-citizens can no longer challenge their imprisonment. Before October 17, a people’s right to ‘habeas corpus’ allowed them to go in front of a judge if they claimed they had been wrongfully imprisoned. With this bill in effect, a suspected terrorist can be detained for an indefinite amount of time and cannot challenge detainment.
Also, the Act redefines the term “unlawful enemy combatant” as anyone the President says is one. The bill modifies the War Crimes Act, giving the President authority to determine what methods of interrogation are appropriate. Prisoners of the United States can also be tried in special military courts set up by the President. In these courts the prisoners lose their right to know what they are charged with.
With no previous training or experience in a formal protest, Gimpelevich asked for advice from as many people as she could. However, she found most people to be less than supportive. “A lot of people just don’t care enough to get involved.” Gimpelevich said in an interview. “People didn’t really give.”
Despite the political apathy of people, things began to fall into place for Gimpelevich as the protest date drew near. After taking care of the necessary permit from and coordinating the press to announce the protest, the stage was set for Gimpelevich.
Armed with her portable PA, Gimpelevich and some close friends made their way to the Capital in downtown Sacramento.
Veteran’s Day was overcast from a previous rain and the sky threatened the protesters with more rain to come. On the steps of the capital, a group of 80 political activists gathered to protest the Military Commissions Act.
Gimpelevich began the protest by voicing her concerns about the Military Commissios Act. Then, one by one, the protesters took advantage of an ‘open mic.’ California Highway Patrol officers watched from the windows of the capitol.
When everyone had spoken, Gimpelevich declared the protest a success,
Gimpelevich is a politically active student of Davis High School. She belongs to the ACLU, the GSA, Code Pink, and PETA.
She doesn’t have any ideas for another protest, but suggests that there will be more to come.
“I’ll organize another one (protest) when another issue I feel isn’t being addressed comes up,” Gimpelevich said. “I’ll go to other peoples and help how I can.”