If... the machine of government... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. - Henry David Thoreau
On November 19, 2006, sixteen human rights activists were arrested after carrying the protest to close the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) onto the Fort Benning Military Reservation, publicly defying the laws which prevent political speech on military bases and making a bold call for justice and accountability.
The sixteen were held at Ft. Benning and charged for "unlawful entry" by the federal court. Fifteen of the sixteen arrested were released after bail money ($500 - $1,000/per person) was posted. One person, Margaret Bryant-Ganer, opted to remain in prison, awaiting trial; she was held at Muscogee County Jail in Columbus, Georgia. The sixteen appeared in federal court in Columbus on January 29, 2007.
Click on the names below for addresses and to read statements and biographical information of the SOA 16. The "SOA 16" are:
Margaret Bryant-Gainer, 38, of Shenandoah Junction, West Virginia
Margaret, 48, of Shenandoah Junction, West Virginia; was arrested on Sunday, November 19, 2006 for crossing the line at Ft. Benning, Georgia to protest the continued presence of the School of the Americas/WHINSEC. Margaret chose not to post bail and was held at Muscogee County Jail.
She appeared in federal court on January 29, 2006 and was sentenced to 71 days time served. She was released on January 29, 2006.
Tina Busch-Nema, 48, Kirkwood, Missouri
Tina Busch-Nema is a stay-at-home mom who describes herself as a "very ordinary person". She loves to garden, hike, canoe and watch St. Louis Cardinal baseball.
In her ?other life? she was a School Sister of Notre Dame for 11 years. While in the convent, she visited Honduras and at Mesa Grande, a refugee camp on the Honduran/Salvadoran border. It is there that she witnessed some of the effects of the tactics of terror and intimidation taught at SOA/WHINSEC.
On Monday January 29,2007 Tina was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison, she reported to FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, TX on April 17th. She was released on June 14, 2007
Read Tina's On-line Blog about the trial!
Don Coleman,69, a co-pastor at the University Church, from Chicago, Illinois
Don and his wife, Ann Marie, are co-pastors at University Church in Chicago. University Church is a member of two denominations: the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. Don and Ann Marie came to University Church and Chicago in September 1, 1991. University Church played a pivotal role in the Sanctuary Movement in the early 80s. Virgilio Vicente and Isabel Canu and their family came to University Church from Guatemala as part of the movement. Virgilio's parents were killed when their village Saq Ja was razed by the Guatemalan military - trained by the School of the Americas.
On Monday, January 29 - 2007, Don Coleman was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison, he reported toChicago's Metropolitan Correctional Center on April 17, 2007. He was released on June 14, 2007
Valerie Fillenwarth ,64, a homemaker from Indianapolis, Indiana
Ed and I have been married for 42 years. We have seven children, five of whom are married, and their spouses we love as our own. We have seventeen grandchildren.
I am a member of Witness for Peace and was part of the 2003 delegation to Mexico to study the effects of NAFTA on the Mexican people, Pax Christi USA, the 1000 Grandmothers Group, and St.Lawrence Parish. Every week I volunteer at Miracle Place, a neighborhood outreach house, where I help the kids with their homework and provide healthy snacks after school. I've been participating in the SOAW vigils since 1998.
On Monday, January 29 - 2007, Valerie Fillenwarth was sentenced to 3 months and 10 days in federal prison, she reported to Danbury Correctional Center on April 17, 2007. She was released on July 24, 2007
Philip Gates, 70, a retired school superintendent from Prescott, Arizona
Philip E. Gates, a member of Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF), recently returned from Colombia where he served as a Presbyterian Church (USA) accompanier to the Colombian Presbyterian Church (IPC) from June 30 through August 30, 2005.
On Monday, January, 29 - 2007, Philip Gates was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison. He reported to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center on March 21, 2007 and was released on May 18, 2007.
Alice Gerard, 50, a freelance journalist from Grand Island, New York
Alice E. Gerard is a freelance writer/photographer. She likes to draw, do needle crafts, sing with choral groups, and take long walks. She lives with her parents and with two cats, Smokey and Zoe, in Grand Island, New York.
On Monday, January 29 - 2007, Alice Gerard was sentenced to 6 months in federal prison. She reported to the Danbury Federal Correctional Center on March 21, 2007 and was released on September 19, 2007
Click here to read Alice Gerard's online blog.
Joshua Harris, 30, from San Diego is a graduate student at Claremont University
Josh first learned about the SOA in 2003 while hearing the Prince Myshkins perform their SOA-related song "Mimi LaValley and 100 Nuns". At the time, Josh was an undergraduate at California State University San Marcos studying Sociology and Women's Studies with an emphasis in feminist and queer theory. His studies inspired his involvement with social justice issues, and since then, he has been active with anti-war movements and an advocate for immigrant and queer/transgender rights.
On Monday, January 29 - 2007, Joshua Harris was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison. He reported to TAFT Correctional Institute on March 21, 2007 and was released on May 18, 2007.
Melissa Helman, 23, a student from Ashland, Wisconsin
I am a 23 year-old student attending Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, about one mile away from breathtaking Lake Superior. I am currently studying Native American Studies with a self designed emphasis in social justice and lifeways. After spending over a year meditating and reflecting upon my experience at the SOA Protest in 2005, I consciously decided to "cross the line" for a small indigenous village of the Way'uu people, in Bahia Portete, Colombia, whom in 2004 expereinced a massacre, killing 12 women and children, and for every being who has suffered from harmful actions.
On Monday, January 29 - 2007, Melissa Helman was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison. She reported to Pekin Federal Correctional Center in Illinois on March 21, 2007 and was released on May 18, 2007.
Martina Leforce, 22, Berea, Kentucky
Martina Leforce is an adopted daughter of Kentucky, living in a tree house at the foot hills of the Appalachian Mountains. Formerly a student at Berea College, she spends most of her time pontificating over the state of the world and just trying to keep it in perspective. The local is global, so keep it at home...personal accountability as a means of activism has proven to be the most positive means of keeping the energy happening. Friends keep her inspired and fresh, elders of the community help keep her grounded, and she works because she thinks people are worth it.
On Monday, January 29 - 2007, Martina Leforce was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison. She reported to Philadelphia's Federal Detention Center on April 17, 2007. She was released on June 14, 2007.
Julienne Oldfield, 69, Syracuse, New York
Julienne came to the US from the UK in 1978 with her husband and four children. The following year she enrolled in the Arts School at Syracuse University, completing her Bachelor of Arts degree within a few years. After finishing school, Julienne became involved in Peacemaking in her church and in the Presbytery, joined Peace Action CNY, and met local activists in the Syracuse Peace Council.
On Monday, January 29 - 2007, Julienne Oldfield was sentenced to 3 months in federal prison. She reported to Philadelphia's Federal Detention Center on April 17, 2007 and was released on July 13, 2007
(Katherine) Whitney Ray, 17, Indianapolis, Indiana
After living blissfully as a social-justice-loving kid in Indianapolis, Whitney now attends Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa. She enjoys dancing, poetry, pie, and "The Godfather." She decided to cross the line during her second SOA protest in honor of the thousands of women and men massacred by U.S. imperialism.
On Monday, January 29 - 2007, Whitney Ray was sentenced to 1 year probation and community service.
Sheila Salmon, 71, Sebastian, Florida
Sister Sheila Salmon, 70, is a member of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, headquartered at Villa Maria, PA. Sister Sheila, a registered nurse, has ministered in the greater Cleveland, OH area, most recently with Hospice of the Western Reserve. She was also a missionary in Chile and worked with AIDS orphans in Kenya. She currently serves as an outreach worker with Mexican migrants, abused and neglected children and hospice patients in Sebastian, FL.
On Monday, January 29 - 2007, Sister Sheila Salmon was sentenced to 3 months & 10 days in federal prison. She reported to Tallahassee Federal Correctional Institute on April 17, 2007. She was released on July 24, 2007.
Nathan Slater, 23, Berea / Edmonton, Kentucky
Nathan Slater, 23, resides in Berea, Kentucky. He is a committed activist for human rights and social justice.
On Monday, January 29 - 2007, Nathan Slater was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison. He reported to FCI Ashland, KY on April 17, 2007. He was released on June 14, 2007.
Mike Vosburg-Casey, 32, Atlanta, Georgia
Mike is married with Amy Vosburg-Casey. They live with their chickens in Atlanta, GA. Mike is a self-trained piano tuner who spends lots of time on Atlanta's streets with homeless people & others demonstrating opposition to our country's failed belief that for every problem a military solution exists. Mike is a member of the Open Door Community, a house of hospitality & resistance in the Catholic Worker tradition. Raised in the Catholic church, Mike attends the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, in Atlanta's Auburn Avenue neighborhood, home to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
On Monday January 29, 2007, Mike Vosburg-Casey was sentenced to 3 months & 10 days in federal prison. He reported to FCI Jesup Satellite Camp, GA on April 17, 2007. He was released on July 24, 2007.
Graymon Ward, 20, Raleigh, North Carolina
"I am a 20 year old kid who wants to make the world a better place, and who hopes he's on the right path".
On Monday, January 29, 2007, Graymon Ward was sentenced to 1 month in prison. He was released on Monday, April 23rd.
Cathy Webster, 61, Chico, California
Cathy Webster has been active with school, civic, and church affairs during the 23 years she has lived with her family in Chico, CA. After 9/11 she was a founding member of PeaceWorks, a direct action peace group associated with the Chico Peace and Justice Center, as well as a founding member of the North Valley Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Cathy has two daughters and four grandchildren. She began a successful campaign to bring 1000 Grandmothers to the SOAWatch vigil this year, inspired by the song by Holly Near. She continues to collaborate with grandmothers across the world to use wisdom and soulforce as agents for justice and peace.
On Monday, January 29 - 2007 Cathy Webster was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison. She reported to Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Elk Grove, CA on March 21, 2007 and was released on May 18, 2007.
Support those Facing Prison for Speaking Out Against the SOA
Prison witness has been a core element of the SOA Watch movement since its beginning. In the tradition of Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., Aung San Suu Kyi and countless others, SOA Watch activists have used peaceful, nonviolent resistance to expose the horrors of the SOA/ WHINSEC and to express solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Latin America.
As a result, 226 SOA Watch human rights defenders have collectively spent over 95 years in prison. Over 50 people have served probation sentences. Their sacrifice and steadfastness in the struggle for peace and justice provide an extraordinary example of love in action and have given tremendous momentum to the effort to change oppressive US foreign policy and to close the SOA/ WHINSEC.
Click here for actions to take in solidarity with those in prison and on probation.
Read the chronology of past SOA Watch prisoners of conscience.