Ken Kennon is completing a 6-month prison term for walking onto Fort Benning as part of a silent funeral procession to close the School of the Americas.
"In Germany they first came for the communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me -- and by that time no one was left to speak up.
Pastor Martin Niemoller
The Niemoller quote is one I used in November 1989. I was at a national conference of Disciple regional ministers (read bishops) and moderators. I was serving as moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Arizona in those days and as vice-chair of this national conference. It was right after the massacre of the six Jesuits and two women in San Salvador. The executive committee prepared a resolution regarding that event in condemnation of the act and in support of an investigation. It was very unusual for this particular group in our church to bring forth any resolution on any social matter as those mechanisms are lodged elsewhere in our denomination, but this was the national group meeting at this time. When the resolution was brought before the membership of the group, it was being talked to death: "It's not for us to pass such a resolution," etc. -- very institutional considerations. The discussion made me angry, and it looked as though the institutional bootlickers were going to win. We would not so much as speak out in protest to such an outrage? I don't remember what I said just before the vote; it wasn't much. Then Niemoller's words came to me and I applied it to that contemporary situation. The resolution passed overwhelmingly.
When I got back to Tucson, I learned a demonstration and civil disobedience (C.D.) action was planned at the Federal Building the next day at 4 p.m. I took my new national resolution to the event to distribute to the local media. I had not planned to participate in the C. D. action because we had a rule that to participate one had to be present and participate in the planning session and covenanting leading up to it. I had been out of town. I knew from previous experience that I could enter the building and proceed with the C.D.'ers to the office of the IRS where they would demand that our tax money not support death squads in El Salvador, and they would sit-in until arrested. There would be a moment when the local police would say, "If you don't leave, you will be arrested." and I would leave then.
At the demonstration outside, organizers hung large posterboard name tags with the names of the massacred around the necks of eight people. I happened to get Seguno Montes' name plate placed around my neck.
When the C.D.'ers made their move, I went with them. Once inside, I noticed that I was the only clergy person in the group, so when the police made the arrest announcement, I couldn't bring myself to leave and was arrested with 15 others.
When we were processed by the officers, they had a series of questions they asked everyone. As they got around to me, all the questions were asked but one. "Don't you want to know my name?" I inquired of the officer who interviewed me. "I already know your name," he said, "Seguno Montes."
We were taken to court, found guilty, and served one year supervised probation. It was the only other time I served a sentence from a court. The experiences were, of course, a factor in my participation in School of Americas Watch actions.
I have had a special attachment, it seems, to Fr. Montes ever since. The next spring I was in El Salvador with Pastors for Peace. We went to Morazan and participated in the inauguration ceremony for a new community of repatriated refugees -- Cuidad de Seguno Montes!
Grace and peace always,