|SEVEN ARRESTED FOR SCHOOL OF THE AMERICAS PROTEST|
A Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, a 60 year old Catholic and six others were arrested today at Fort Benning, GA., home of the U.S. Army School of the Americas. The group of veterans, church leaders and peace activists from around the country were apprehended by military police as they staged a protest against the Army school that trains Latin American soldiers.
The group painted anti-SOA Messages on the Fort Benning main gate and threw a blood-like substance on the brick wall that marks the entrance to the Army base. The Medal of Honor recipient and another protester from Tacoma, WA, climbed 30 feet up near-by trees and hung banners demanding the Closure of the school that has been dubbed the School of Assassins.
The group planted crosses as grave markers to commemorate victims of SOA graduates, and presented as evidence large photographs of the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests and two women co-workers in El Salvador. Nineteen of the 25 Salvadoran officers cited by the U.N. Truth Commission for the massacre were SOA graduates.
The School or the Americas, which moved from Panama to Ft. Benning in 1984, trains hundreds Of soldiers from Latin America each year with U.S. taxpayers' money. Graduates of the school have included some of the most notorious dictators of Latin America and soldiers involved in numerous human rights abuses. Last September the Pentagon announced that training manuals used at the SOA from 1982 through 1991 advocated "payment of bounties for enemy dead, beatings, false imprisonment, executions and the use of truth serum."
Religious organization, such as the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Church of Christ and Roman Catholic groups, along with the Veterans For Peace national organization, are calling for the closing of the school.
A recent vote in the U.S. House to cut funding to the School or the Americas was narrowly defeated by seven votes (217-210).
On November 16, over 1,000 people are expected to gather at the main gate of Ft. Benning to commemorate the 8th anniversary of the Jesuit massacre.
"We will keep coming back in greater and greater numbers until Congress shuts down this School of Assassins," predicted Fr. Bill Bichsel, a Jesuit priest and one of those arrested today.
Charles Liteky, 64, San Francisco, CA. Recipient of Congressional Medal of Honor in Vietnam. Stationed at Fort Benning from 1985 - 1967. Former Catholic chaplain in U.S. Army. Presently working as carpenter and Peace educator.
Sr Marge Eilerman, 60, Booneville, KY. Catholic nun with Sisters of Saint Francis Community of Tiffin, Ohio. Served the poor as missionary in Chiapas, Mexico for four years. Presently working as pastoral associate.
Rev. Bill Bichsel, S.J, 69, Tacoma. WA. Catholic priest with Jesuit order. Worked with the poor and homeless in the U.S. for decades. Presently member of Catholic Worker community in Tacoma.
Mary Trotochaud, 47, Atlanta, GA. U.S. citizen concerned about School of the Americas training dictators and human rights abusers with her tar money. Presently working as potter in Atlanta.
Christopher Jones, 23, Portland, OR. Graduate of Hampshire College, MA. Worked with the poor of Central America after college and is currently a member of the catholic worker community in Tacoma which serves the poor and homeless.
Kathleen Rumpf, 46, Syracuse, N.Y., has been an activist in the Catholic Worker movement for over two decades and worked with the homeless in New York and Baltimore. This year Kathleen received the Civil Liberties Kharas Peace Award in Syracuse.
Ed Kinane, 52, Syracuse, N.Y. Educated at Jesuit university and worked with Peace Brigades International In El Salvador, Haiti, Guatemala and Sri Lanka. Presently working as writer, editor and educator for peace and justice.
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