|Hard Sought & Then Realized Meeting - Sen. Coleman, MN|
An idea for how to finally get that meeting with your Member of Congress.
Eight members of the MN SOA Watch met with Sen. Norm Coleman, his Regional Affairs and Policy Liaison staff person James T. Smith and a local aide at the St. Paul, MN office last week. Although we were told we had only 15 minutes of his time, we covered the key issues:
Senator Coleman stated that he had read the Board of Visitors report and that he seemed satisfied with their report that the new WHISC was a change from the old SOA and not involved in human rights problems.
Our group informed him that, indeed, graduates of WHISC courses had been involved in human rights abuses. We subsequently sent him (and Jim Smith) copies of the 5/6/04 SOA Watch article "New Research Further Incriminate the Notorious SOA/WHINSEC"
We also informed him of our concerns that the Board of Visitors did not comprise an independent investigation. We gave him a copy of the Amnesty International report "Unmatched Power" and stressed that the school should be shut down and an independent investigation by outside investigators take place. We also shared Katherine McCoy's analysis of human rights violations by SOA graduates and presented him with a copy of the thesis. Sen. Coleman said he'd read them. Sen. Coleman stated that he regularly brought up various human rights issues during committee meetings.
We informed him that this issue is big in Minnesota, that over 100 bishops have called for the closing of the school, that thousands of Minnesotans have gone to the vigils at Ft. Benning. We also let him know that three among us (Tom Botolene, Sr. Rita Steinhagen and Sr. Betty McKinzie) were SOA Watch prisoners of conscience. (Others of us in the meeting were: Mary Swenson, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, Joe and Pat Downey)
We asked for a longer meeting sometime soon with James Smith, his policy liaison, and they seemed agreeable to that.
During the meeting in which they allowed eight of us into the meeting, we had about 20 other SOA Watch supporters, some with signs, waiting in their lobby.
This meeting took TWO YEARS to finally tack down! We were always given the run around. But we learned that: if you get a group of people and GO TO the Senators offices, ask to schedule a future meeting when the Senator is in town, and then if they give you so many excuses, tell them that you're prepared to STAY in their office UNTIL you get a future date for an appointment, then make yourself at home in their waiting room and just WAIT (it may take a while!) and don't leave, you get your appointment date!
Prepared by Mary Swenson, MN SOA Watch
PO Box 4566
Washington, DC 20017