|Nov. 19-21: Converge on Fort Benning|
**Update SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 20th:
Amidst a heightened police presence around the gates of Ft. Benning, today thousands heeded the call of "We are One America!" and manifested their opposition to the School of the Americas and oppressive U.S. foreign policy. The voices of torture survivors, immigrant farm workers, people of faith, students, musicians and activists carried the message of peace with justice over the barbed-wire fences, guns, and lies that protect the School of Assassins.
After an uplifting day of speakers and cultural showcases, groups and individuals followed the Puppetistas towards the corner of Victory Drive and Ft. Benning Road, where several activists had temporarily blocked the street that is leading towards the highway entrance of Fort Benning, Georgia. Father Louis Vitale (4th time line crosser) and Nancy Smith crossed the line onto Ft. Benning property at the highway entrance in order to carry their protest to the School of the Americas. Their action was a response to the three layers of barb-wired fences in the area surrounding the main gate that keeps human rights activists from being able to carry out their nonviolent action at the vigil site. Among the participants who will be charged with the action were ordained woman Catholic priest Janice Sevre-Duszynska and 90 year-old Jesuit Bill Brennan.
A police blockade at the corner of Torch Hill Road and Ft. Bennning Road police indiscriminately arrested some people with very little and no warning, starting with a person of color who had dreadlocks, impeding the Puppetistas and activists from proceeding further. The arrests including four members of the Russia Today news agency who were filming the arrests. A half-hour after people dispersed, police singled out SOAW organizer Charity Ryerson from a small group headed to their cars and arrested her.
SOA Watch has a long history of nonviolent civil disobedience that continues to bring the life and death of the people of Latin America to the site of the historic US tool of violent militarism, the School of the Americas. We are committed to putting ourselves in the way of the war machine until the School is closed and a formal truth commission investigates the impact of its violence on the countries of Latin America that have suffered under the 11 military dictators who have graduated from the school.
Some News Coverage:
** Friday, Nov.19
More and more people are arriving in Columbus for this weekend's vigil and rally at the gates of Fort Benning. Together, we will speak out for justice and call for an end to oppressive U.S. foreign policy. We will close the School of the Americas. Nonviolent civil disobedience has a long tradition within the movement to close the SOA and other movements for social change. Tomorrow, following the Saturday rally, people of consciece will take the call for peace, justice and dignity into the streets and back into their communities across the Americas.
The vigil at the Stewart Detention Center this morning was a powerful witness for immigrant justice. 8 people were arrested when they engaged in civl disobedience (Check back soon for a detailed report back). Stewart Detention Center is one of the largest immigrant prisons in the United States. Many of the immigrants who are incarcerated are victims of U.S.-sponsored military training and atrocities in Latin America. They fled their home countries becuase of the conditions that are being enforced by repressive militaries only to be tageted here in the United States by unjust immigration policies. We ally ourselves with those most affected by SOA violence and their families in our effort to create a better world.
Latin America Solidarity Coalition's Organizers Conference report back
Sixty organizers for groups affiliated with the Latin America Solidarity Coalition (LASC), met Thursday, Nov. 18, in Columbus, GA, in advance of the annual SOA Watch vigil at the gates of Ft. Benning, GA. The LASC conference was an action focused conference with the aim to build a stronger movement to oppose US militarism and the militarization of relations with Latin America. Break-out groups made specific proposals of campaigns and organizing tools to build the movement around issues such as US bases, the Pentagon budget, and the coups in Haiti and Honduras. Plans were also made to enlist greater support within key sectors such as students and youth, women, labor, etc. One of the most exciting proposals to come out of the conference was to organize an activist training school on confronting US militarism. In the final plenary participating organizations and individuals volunteered to take responsibility for various pieces or the proposed projects. The work of the conference will be deepened in a weekend conference in Washington, DC April 8-10, 2011.
**Thursday, November 18th, 10am:
The Latin America Solidarity Coalition's Conference against Militarization kicks-off today at 1pm at the Quality Inn (1325 Veterans Parkway). Puppetista march through Columbus at 5pm (gather at 1353 23rd St). The weather is warm, sunny and perfect for celebrating the resistance at the gates of Ft. Benning! Join us!
From November 19-21, 2010, thousands will gather at the gates of Fort Benning to stand up for justice and call for the SOA/WHINSEC to be shut down! Below are some helpful links for your trip planning, and a sneak peak into what SOA Watch has lined up for this year! (para información en español, haga click aquí)
Still looking for a place to stay in Georgia? Check out hotels, motels, and camping in and around Columbus, GA!
This year there will be different ways for people to be involved in the Saturday action including crossing the line of the base of Fort Benning which risks federal arrest, or a city side action, outside the permitted area. But note that you may also participate without risking arrest. SOA Watch has permits for the activities in front of the base, and the acts of civil disobedience for those risking arrest will be clearly marked.
The stage program at the gates of Fort Benning will take place on Saturday, November 20, 2010 from 11:30am - 4pm and on Sunday, November 21, 2010 from 8am - 2pm. The program will feature leaders from the resistance against the illegitimate U.S.-supported government in Honduras; Padre Jesus Alberto Franco, a renowned leader from Colombia, risking his life working with Afro-Colombian, indigenous and mixed-race farmers in resistance; Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit; Marie Dennis, director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns and Co-President of Pax Christi International; United Auto Worker president Bob King; the Hip Hop group Rebel Diaz from the Bronx; the puppetistas, musicians and many other beautiful people.
Above: Rebel Diaz
Workshops and Vendors:
The vigil at the gates of Fort Benning has become one of the largest annual progressive gatherings in the country. This year, 60+ tables hosted by progressive organizations and fair trade retailers will line Fort Benning Road throughout the weekend. Pick up a cup of fair trade, organic coffee at the Café Campesino tent, check out empowering literature at the Catholic Worker Bookstore, and learn about Witness for Peace's fall campaign at their table.
Dozens of workshops and other events will be held throughout the weekend at the Columbus Convention Center. Organizations and individuals such as Ann Wright, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Símon Sedillo, the Colombia Support Network, Pax Christi USA, and MANY others, will hold infomative sessions throughout the weekend. There will also be concerts, student meet-ups, a Catholic liturgy at which Bishop Thomas Gumbleton will preside, a hip hop show case, film screenings including The Coca Cola Case and Quién Dijo Miedo (Inside the Coup in Honduras), nonviolence trainings, and other exciting events to look forward to! For a full list of events, click here.
**Please join in on Nonviolence Trainings Friday morning and afternoon. The practice of nonviolent direct action is an essential part of the movement to close the School of the Americas and it is only successful if we are constantly practicing and improving our nonviolent pressure.**
Friday, November 19th @ 10AM in Lumpkin, Georgia
SOA Watch calls for justice for all immigrants including those held inhumanely and without due process at the Stewart Detention Center, an isolated, for-profit facility. We contend that many immigrants to the United States, particularly those from Latin America, are victims of U.S.-sponsored military training and other atrocious policies around issues like trade and immigration. Click here to read more...
YOU can make this year's vigil even better: VOLUNTEER TODAY!
Donate to the SOA Watch Silent Auction
Make History: Endorse the November Vigil
With less than a month to go, many organizations have expressed their support for the closing of the SOA/WHINSEC and for our 2010 vigil. We are heartened by the solidarity and support felt across the Americas!
Current endorsers include: the United Auto Workers; the Student-Farmworker Alliance; Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán (M.E.Ch.A); Fellowship of Reconciliation; United for Peace and Justice; Catholics United; Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW); Womens' International League for Peace and Freedom, US Section; A.N.S.W.E.R.; Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); and dozens of other faith, community, worker and peace groups from around the country.
Would your organization like to endorse the vigil and campaign to close the SOA/WHINSEC today? Click here to see a list of current endorsers and to add your organization in one, easy step!
PO Box 4566
Washington, DC 20017