|November Vigil: 16-18, 2007|
Convergence of Hope and Resistance (Slideshow Photos: Tom Bottolene) The 18th annual Vigil to Close the SOA was one of the largest and most vibrant yet. On Sunday, November the 18th, as early as 7 am, Veterans for Peace and supporters began marching along Victory Drive to the gates of Fort Benning where Gennaro Jacinto Calel from the International Mayan League offered a Mayan Blessing.
SLIDESHOW: Sights and Sounds from the November 16-18, 2007 Vigil to Close the SOA/WHINSEC (Photos: Mike Haskey - Columbus Ledger Enquirer)
Watch short clips about the SOA and the campaign to shut it down.
U.S. presidential candidates Dennis Kucinich and Cynthia McKinney, Sister Mary Waskowiak; President of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and Rabbi Michael Lerner addressed the crowd, and Adriana Portillo Bartow gave a tribute to Rufina Amaya, the sole survivor of the El Mozote massacre of over 900 men, women and children in El Salvador. In 1999, Rufina traveled from El Salvador to the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, where 19 of the 26 people later found responsible for the massacre were trained at the School of the Americas. She told the story of the massacre and worked for justice until her death of a heart illness earlier this year. Rufina Amaya – Presente!
While thousands commemorated the martyrs in a solemn funeral procession at the main gate, 10 SOA Watch activists entered the Fort Benning military base through a side entrance in an attempt to carry the protest to the site of the SOA/WHINSEC: Le Ann Clausen, Diane Lopez Hughes, Stephen Schweitzer, Gus Roddy, Ozone Bhaguan, Arthur Landis, Chris Lieberman, Michelle Yipe, Ed Lewinson, and Joan Anderson were arrested by military police. Tiel Rainelli, 25, climbed the barbed wire fence at the main gate of Fort Benning during the funeral procession, raising the number of arrested to 11. The SOA Eleven, ranging in age from 25 to 76, are scheduled for federal criminal trial January 28, 2008 for trespass - punishable up to six months in federal prison. Over two hundred people have served federal prison time for civil disobedience at prior protests - dozens of others arrested have served years of supervised federal probation. The movement to close the school started in 1990 when about twenty people held the first protest outside Ft. Benning. In an incident that illustrates the increased harrassment by the Columbus police, three more SOA Watch activists were arrested and face charges for refusing to relinquish crosses at the vigil site whose size exceeded Columbus police regulations. (Watch a video of them standing their ground)
Click here for a Sunday morning report by the Columbus Ledger Enquirer (incl. photos)
Click here to read a report back from the vigil on Saturday
Simultaneous actions took place throughout the weekend in Santiago, Chile; Fort Huachuca, Arizona; Monterey, California; San Francisco, California; and Toronto, Canada; and other places. We have received SOLIDARITY STATEMENTS from across the Americas.
More than three hundred people rallied against torture outside the gates of Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, home of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and school for interrogation. Three people were arrested during the rally as they tried to bring their witness against torture onto the base. Betsy Lamb, Mary Burton Riseley,, and Franciscan Fr. Jerry Zawada were taken into custody and charged with criminal trespass on a military installation and failure to comply with a police officer.
- 11/13/2007: History of the Vigil
- 11/14/2007: Interview with Hector Aristizabal for WRBL News
-11/14/2007: "Thousands Expected at Benning Protest" by Gina Cavallaro
-11/15/2007: "Latin America's Shock Resistance" by Naomi Klein
People from all walks of life traveled to Fort Benning, Georgia to take a stand for human rights. Among them were torture survivors, students, social movement leaders, religious workers, the Indigo girls, civil rights veteran Ruby Sales, Congressman Jim McGovern, presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, the 1000 Grandmothers, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Carrie Newcomer, Students for a Democratic Society, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Veterans for Peace, Aimee Allison, Josefina Lazo from El Salvador, Jim Schmitz of AFSCME, Miguel Ángel Vásquez de la Rosa from Oaxaca and thousands more who are denouncing SOA/WHINSEC-sponsored violence in Latin America and demand a radical change in U.S. foreign policy!
Please donate to support the campaign and the convergence to close the SOA.
LOCAL GROUPS: Do you know others in your area that are working to close down the School of the Americas? Connect with others now before heading to Georgia. Click here for a listing of SOA Watch local groups. If your group is not listed, please add your contact information.
After a close vote in the house of representatives on an amendment that would have cut funding for the SOA/WHINSEC, a series of very successful delegations to Latin America, and the Bolivian and Costa Rican governments’ announcements that they would cease all training at the school; this years vigil is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in recent years!
Photos by Tom Bottolene, Joao Da Silva, Randall Pfleger, Cally Golding, Andi Gelsthorpe and Ted Stein
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