SOA Watch Update
October 27, 2005
=== VIGIL TO CLOSE THE SOA: NOVEMBER 18-20! ===
Things are starting to get busy here in DC as we prepare for the November 18-20 Vigil to Close the SOA ? and we know there?s lots of excitement building around the country as we continue to hear from all of you!
Public opinion is shifting and we have entered a ?teachable moment? in US history. As support for the Iraq war and the Bush administration continues to crumble, as Katrina fallout has sobered our nation, and as more and more people continue to speak out against a military training school that?s out of line with their values ? the time is ideal to push Bush and Congress to stand up for human rights and close the School of the Americas.
The story of the SOA and of you and your community traveling to Fort Benning, Georgia for this year?s ?Close the SOA? demonstration is not only newsworthy but A GREAT STORY! Let local media outlets ?- newspapers, TV, community radio stations -- know about the vigil, the SOA, the upcoming vote in Congress and your group?s plans to be part of this exciting and historic gathering.
Here are some suggestions and resources for your media work:
- Contact your local newspaper to tell them of your group?s plans to travel to the vigil. Invite a reporter to your next meeting. Ask the paper to request the AP or Reuters article on the protest if they are unable to send a reporter to cover the protest with you. See below and/or click here for a sample press release to use in your media outreach.
- Follow up with a phone call to the media outlets that you contacted.
- Be prepared to be interviewed. Learn the two or three most important points you want to make about the SOA and your group?s plans. Click here for tips on working with the media.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. This can be especially powerful when your letter about the vigil is connected to a recent article about Latin America, foreign policy, dissent or another relevant issue. Click here for a sample letter.
- Read some talking points.
Contact Christy Pardew in the SOA Watch office with questions at cpardew(at)soaw.org or 202-234-3440.
Template for Local Press Release
Fill in the [areas in brackets] with your local info.
for immediate release
Local contact: [Name and phone number (cell phone, if possible)]
SOA Watch contact: Christy Pardew, 202.903.7257
[Your Town] Residents Travel to Georgia to
Demand Justice and Respect for Human Rights
[Your group?s name] will participate in Demonstration to Close
School of the Americas
[your town, state] ? This month [or This weekend, etc] residents of the [your town] community will pile in cars [vans, buses] and travel hundreds [thousands, etc] of miles to join thousands of other people from across the country in Columbus, Georgia. Once there, they will attend workshops, caucuses, concerts and a large demonstration calling for the closure of the controversial School of the Americas (SOA), a combat-training facility for Latin American security personnel located at Ft. Benning.
Graduates of the SOA, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC, continue to be implicated in human rights violations throughout Latin America. Despite the release in 1996 of manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution and hundreds of allegations of human rights abuses connected to soldiers trained at the school, no independent investigation into the training facility has taken place.
[Quote from local organizer ? for example: ?People here in [your town] and around the country are standing up more and more to say no to war and to call for more military accountability, from Iraq to Colombia,? said [local organizer] of [your group]. ?When we gather at Fort Benning in November, we?ll be taking a stand for human rights.?]
[Person?s name] and [number of others traveling] others will leave for Georgia on [date of departure]. [One or two sentences about your group]. Last November, more than 16,000 people gathered at the gates of Ft. Benning to call for the closure of the school.
Since 1946, the SOA/ WHINSEC has trained over 60,000 Latin American security personnel in courses such as commando tactics, military intelligence, psychological operations and counter-insurgency warfare. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution.
Current legislation to close the school and to investigate the development and use of these training manuals, HR 1217, has over 120 bi-partisan co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, and a vote to suspend operations at the school is expected next summer.
[quote from a different local organizer ? for example: ?This year?s demonstration is important in light of the upcoming vote in Congress and the growing movement opposing the spread of U.S. militarism around the globe,? said [local person]. ?The first step towards justice and accountability is to close the school once and for all.?]
The Congressional and grassroots campaigns to close the school continue to grow. A broad movement of human rights groups, people of faith, students, veterans, unionists and others maintain that the underlying purpose of the school remains the same: to control the economic and political systems of Latin America by aiding and influencing Latin American militaries.
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School of the Americas Watch [or your local group?s name]
www.soaw.orgsroom [or your local group?s website]