Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Soaking wet but still there



There were easily 50 to 60 umbrellas huddled loosely together under a gloomy grey sky. The rain was starting to pound and the temperature was hovering low enough to create talk bubbles.

Come rain or shine, Fahad Hashmi's supporters' had made it once again. Bryan Pickett, from Theaters Against War,  had rallied hard in the past few weeks to get supporters to join hands one last time before Fahad's trial begins this Wednesday, April 28.

I bumped class early, much to the annoyance of my professor (how many vigils are you going to cover?), and headed down umbrella-less to the subway station. Carrying camera equipment though New York's underground subways never fails to turn into a nightmare.

By the time I emerged from the green line and onto Brooklyn Bridge, I was ready to turn back home. The camera bag and tripod holder are badly made with straps that never sit steady on one's shoulders. They knock into people and the weight of the equipment goes largely unsupported by the weak harnesses.

By the time I walked up to Center street and passed Foley square, I was drenched through my thick peacoat. I saw Jeanne Theoharis, Fahad's undergrad Pol Sci professor from brooklyn college. She's been one of the core organizers behind the FreeFahad campaign. She gave me a cheerful wave as she got ready for a video interview with one of the many TV networks covering the event. Al Jazeera was supposed to be there but I didn't see any name tags; Eyewitness news had made it with their DSNG.

Pickett started with the bad news as if the weather wasn't enough. Today, Judge Loretta Preska, the federal judge appointed to this case, accepted the prosecution's motion to keep the jury anonymous and under extra security.

Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International and Council for American Islamic relations has protested against the decision calling it unfair and a means of manipulating the jury. The human rights groups call it "a clear attempt to influence the jury by creating a sense of fear for their safety and to paint Mr. Hashmi as already guilty." For more, click here for their press release.


The news was followed by the distribution of white flowers instead of candles because of the relentless rain. Pickett requested the supporters to drop the flowers in front of the Metropolitan Correctional Center where Fahad has been detained for the past 3 years.






Like always, Theaters Against War had arranged performances by artists who support Fahad's cause. At each vigil, different New York artists perform in front of an ancient and unwired microphone. The mic is used more as a symbol of the broken instrument that doesn't pick the voice of the masses than a prop. 


This time round, critically acclaimed soprano Christine Moore performed. I was able to catch her on tape after much hustling with cameramen who were completely devoid of any kind of media coverage etiquette. The fact that my plasticy Panasonic HD is covered under a garbage bag instead of a custom made water proof sleeve does not mean you can blatantly step in front of my lens for your shot. 


The sound of pounding rain on plastic distorted most of the sound but its still worth listening to.


Take a look at the event here: 



Vigil Held Fahad Hashmi from ayza omar on Vimeo.


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