"There is but one law for all: the law of humanity and justice" - Jimmy Carter
Those words adorn the wall inside the courtroom of Judge Stephen Hyles at the Columbus courthouse. And there they remain, strong words that ring hollow in face of injustice, merely adornments. For her act of peacefully crossing the line at Fort Benning, Georgia - a misdemeanor offense - a 6-month sentence was imposed on Theresa Cusimano. Those who train men with guns at the SOA/WHINSEC, those who created those torture manuals, have never had to defend their actions, yet Theresa is being sentenced to six months in prison for nonviolently calling attention to the US military's role in the violence carried out against her sisters and brothers in the Americas.
The SOA Watch movement continues its struggle to close the SOA/WHINSEC and end US militarization. Theresa follows in a long line of peacemakers who have put their bodies on the line to call attention to the continued injustices. Indeed, Theresa served a 2-month sentence in 2009 for her peaceful actions at the SOA/WHINSEC at the 2008 November Vigil.
The National Office of the SOA Watch movement is looking for inspired, interesting and innovative interns starting now!! If you want to help organize the April mobilization as well as fuel the movement to close the SOA/WHINSEC and end oppressive US foreign policy, read on!
After serving more than 20 years in French and American prisons, Panama's ex-military leader and School of the Americas graduate Manuel Noriega will be extradited to Panama to serve three 20-year sentences for crimes committed during his 1983 to 1989 rule.
In February 2012, the SOA Watch movement will take the US
Government to court over its refusal to disclose the names of graduates and
instructors at the SOA/WHINSEC.Following the 2001 name change from the "School of the
Americas" to "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security
Cooperation", independent grassroots investigations found that the "new" school continued to train known
human rights abusers, and that WHINSEC instructors were implicated or investigated in
their countries for human rights abuses and other crimes.In response, the US Government broke its
nearly 60-year tradition of releasing the names, and instead, opted to hide the
names from public scrutiny.
Solemn voices lifted up the spirits of those killed by graduates of the School of the Americas and filled the air as the music team sang out their names from the stage during this morning's funeral procession in front of the entrance to Fort Benning. The crowd of thousands responded, "PRESENTE!"
Joining actor Martin Sheen on stage this weekend was Georgia NAACP State President Edward DuBose, who told the crowd many had asked him why he'd come here.
“I made a promise to Troy Anthony Davis that I would continue to speak out against any system that takes any innocent life,” DuBose told the crowd. “However long it takes, we'll be here. We're on this road until justice is served!”
United Auto Workers President Bob King also addressed the gathering, lifting up the voice of organized labor standing in solidarity with workers all across the Americas.
Social movement leaders from Colombia, Haiti, Honduras and Costa Rica joined the thousands of activists who made the trek to this year's vigil. Jimena Paz, who helped organize the SOA Watch Encuentro in Venezuela, and who, as a young member of the Honduran Resistance, has lost friends to the SOA-led repression campaign, shared her compelling story from the stage.
Dr. Luther Castillo, a young, Afro-indigenous Garifuna doctor and community organizer, directs the foundation For the Health of Our People ("Luagu Hatuadi Waduheñu" in the Garifuna language), and is the founder and director of the First Popular Garifuna Hospital of Honduras. Exposing the effects of SOA training of Honduran soldiers since the 2009 graduate-led military coup, Luther shared that he and the hospital have been subject to many threats of closure and other attacks by the military and coup government.
Jani Silva, a community organizer from La Perla Amazonica, Putumayo, Colombia, addressed the reality of US foreign policy in her country, which has sent more than 10,000 soldiers to be trained at the SOA with chilling results. Mario Joseph, a prominent Haitian human rights lawyer, is representing political prisoners and victims of political violence in Haiti. He spoke from the stage, urging solidarity with Haitian struggle to keep the army from being brought back.
Also present among those giving testimony to SOA violence was Nelly del Cid, one of the Sisters of Mercy Associates from Honduras. She shared her deep concerns about the huge number of femicides since the coup. Costa Rican lawyer and peace advocate Luis Roberto Zamora also gave updates about the lawsuit he filed against the Costa Rican government for sending police to the School of the Americas/WHINSEC.
Theresa Cusimano, 43, of Denver, Colorado, crossed the line for the second time following the morning's solemn funeral procession. She was arrested by military police and faces up to six months in prison. Click here to read a message from Theresa!
See Photos from the November Vigil
Tom Bottolene of MN SOA Watch shared these images from the weekend.
Watch the video of the stage performance by JAROCHICANOS, a Son Jarocho group from Chicago:
Friday, November 18:2 arrested in front of Stewart Detention Center at the immigrant rights vigil in Lumpkin, Georgia. SOA Watch understands that many immigrants to the United States are victims of U.S.-sponsored military training and atrocities in Latin America. In our fight to close the School of the Americas and to end U.S. militarization in the Americas, we continue to work towards a world that is free of suffering and violence. The SOA and the unjust immigration policies are parts of the same racist system of violence and domination. Now more than ever, we must be joined together in our fight to create a better world.
Click here to read Father Roy Bourgeois' op-ed about Haitian President Michel Martelly's plan for the reconstitution of the Haitian army, which was published yesterday. Martelly punted his army reconstitution plan - saying a commission needs to be drawn up first. A new survey shows that a big majority of people "strongly disagree" that the Haitian army should be brought back, while less than 1 percent "strongly agree" that it should. Stand with the Haitian people in the anti-militarization struggle. Prominent Haitian human rights lawyer Mario Joseph, who is representing political prisoners and victims of political violence in Haiti, will speak from stage at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia this afternoon.