Monday, December 14, 2009

School of the Americas Watch Report 2009

by Rev. Don Coleman

Thousands demonstrated again this year (Nov. 20-22, 2009) at the entrance into Fort Benning.  It was an inspirational event with singing and dancing and speeches.  People from Latin American countries told stories of family members being killed and villages razed to he ground by the military whose officers were trained at the U.S. military base located at Columbus, Georgia.

Healing was facilitated as people shared their tragic stories, found comfort and support and when all united in cries to close the Western Hemispheric Institute for National Security Cooperation. (WHINSEC) – formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA).  Hundreds of thousand Latin Americans have been killed or disappeared by action of military personnel trained in the United States.
Four people courageously crossed the line entering into Fort Benning.  They were immediately arrested: Nancy Gwin of Syracuse, NY; Ken Hayes of Austin, TX; Fr. Louis Vitale of Oakland, CA; and Michael Walli of Washington, DC.  Michael is refusing to put up bail and will remain in custody at least until the trial in January 2010.  Nancy, Ken and Louis posted bail and were released.  They will all return to Columbus to be tried in  Federal Court..  If history is repeated and they are found guilty they can expect a fine and imprisonment.

All of us can continue our support of these four committed folks by supporting the passage of HR 2567.  This bill, authored by Rep. McGovern of Massachusetts, calls for suspending operations of WHINSEC until an investigation takes place.  Illinois sponsors of HR 2567 include Jan Schakowski, Bobby Rush, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Melissa Bean and Luis Guitierrez.

The crowd erupted with joy when informed that Fr. Roy Bourgeois and the School of the Americas Watch have been nominated by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) for the Nobel Peace Prize.  The nomination is made “for our (SOAW) sustained faithful nonviolent witness against the disappearance, torture, and murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians by foreign military personnel trained by the U.S. military at taxpayers expense at the School of the Americas.”

La lucha sigue!   The struggle continues!

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