|Why We Come to Fort Benning|
Voices from Movement Activists - Why Do We Mobilize Each Year to Fort Benning?
We asked several movement activists why they return each year to Fort Benning, and why they continue demanding the closure of the SOA/WHINSEC. What are your reasons for mobilizing? WRITE US YOUR THOUGHTS!
Kathleen DeSautels, 8th Day Center for Justice, Chicago; former SOA Watch Prisoner of Conscience
The SOA Watch November week ends since 1997 have become for me a kind of spiritual homecoming. The November event renews my spirit of hope that a better world is possible. What could be more enlivening to one's spirit than enriching educational workshops, riveting political insights, and enlivening music at the stage in front of the gates all Saturday afternoon. The culminating event on Sunday morning of the sacred ritual procession commemorating the lives of our sisters and brothers in Latin America who have been disappeared, murdered, abused by the graduates of the SOA/WHINSEC continues to haunt me each year. To be perfectly honest I join SOA Watch at Ft. Benning gates not because the SOA Watch movement needs me as much as I need the creative and welcoming spirit of the community that gathers to feed my resolve to keep on, keeping on in the struggle for justice.
Bob King, United Auto Workers President, Detroit
Our union sisters and brothers in Colombia are being murdered at the hands of SOA graduates. Union solidarity demands that we speak up and stop the killing.
Ka Rodríguez, Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana
During the past three years I got involved with the SOA Watch Movement on campus either by helping organize the 10 hour ride to the vigil, distributing “¡Presente!” or screening documentaries. I am part of this movement and participate at the vigil because I believe that too much money and resources have been and still are invested in militarization, violation of Human Rights and setting up military bases Latin America. In this, the School of the Americas has a crucial role. TOGETHER at the vigil we can say NO! to this and shut down the School of the Americas.
Mario A., metallurgist and torture survivor from Guatemala
I am Guatemalan and a world citizen. I am a metallurgist and a torture survivor. Twice in my country, I was kidnapped by paramilitaries and brutally tortured. One of my friends with whom I was kidnapped the second time, is dead. He committed suicide when they released us, as he couldn't deal with the trauma of this terrifying experience. Two of my children live in exile; they were also kidnapped when they left school, still minors. Now they are adults, but despite the years, they cannot overcome that horrendous episode.
Fr. Luis Barrios, John Jay College; Director of Pastors for Peace; former SOA Watch Prisoner of Conscience
Our annual peaceful journey to Columbus, Georgia is an expression of our solidarity, love and spiritual resistance to close the SOA; it is God’s mandate that we rise up against oppressive structures.
Karina Macias, SOA Watch Los Angeles
Globalization has placed the actions of United States in the fore front for our immediate action. We can't sit idle and watch as Latin America and our regions are militarized and stripped of their rights. This is the main reason that I mobilize for the SOA Vigil and am involved in the effort to close the SOA. It is the duty of citizens to stand up for our fellow brothers and sisters. Somos Una America!!
One of the great travesties in American politics is the way our leaders of both parties proclaim America to be the great champion of human rights while simultaneously engaging in activities that systematically undermine those rights around the world. The use of torture, the incarceration of young people of color in massive numbers, the drone attacks on civilians in the elusive search for terrorists, the president's "kill list" of people (including US citizens) never convicted by any jury is only part of the story. At the School of Americas at Ft. Benning in Georgia,the US trains Central and South American police and military in the techniques of repression, subversion, and torture that get used against democratic movements and governments that are perceived as a threat to American corporate interests. The annual vigil sponsored by the School of Americas Watch, led by progressive Catholics, but welcoming to people of all faiths or none, has become the one place in which these hypocritical policies of the U.S. get brought to public attention. It is morally incumbent for those of us who can to be there each year and force our governmental leaders to address the ways that the US continues to defy universal standards of human rights and to sully the vision of what America could and should be in the world.
Chantal DeAlcuaz, White Rose Catholic Worker, Chicago
My commitment to attending the School of the Americas vigil developed during my years at Su Casa Catholic Worker – a community founded to offer hospitality to political refugees from Central America, many of whom were survivors of torture.
Years of disciplined inquiry into the SOA have revealed shameful facts about the US military’s culpability in the torture and murder of countless people throughout Central America. Under a new name the SOA (WHINSEC) continues to train soldiers in violence, and additionally, the school is an important symbol of an ongoing military policy that wreaks havoc on our brothers and sisters throughout the world.
The annual vigil at the gates of Fort Benning is a gathering place for a wide and diverse community, from the seasoned activist to the first-time protester. We bring our bodies – our very selves – to this particular seat of destruction. We honor and re-member the dead, we beg for mercy and forgiveness, and we hope and pray for a world without the SOA.
Simon Sedillo, film-maker based in Oaxaca, MX
Attendance to the SOAW November vigil at the gates of Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia is extremely important. The overwhelming amount of detailed information shared at the vigil is nothing less then irrefutable proof of consistent covert US military strategies throughout Latin America in order to secure political and economic interests for the US and their allies in those countries. Furthermore we see substantial evidence of a continuing US military counter insurgency strategy in Mexico, Central America, and South America, which targets indigenous communities who practice traditional forms of self governance and self determination. The imposition of US political and economic interests through militarism and direct financial and political support for corrupt and violent governments throughout Latin America, is the number one reason for the destabilization of the entire region. This is also the number one reason for mass migration to the United States. It is all of our responsibility to change this, and the November vigil against the SOA is a perfect place to start.
Adrienne Pine, Professor of Anthropology at American University
The movement to close the School of the Americas has provided not only solidarity but also indispensable tools in the popular Honduran struggle for justice following the 2009 coup, carried out by SOA graduates. Thanks to the hard work of SOAW activists who have organized and participated in actions like the November vigil, the nature of U.S. complicity in the coup and in subsequent, ongoing state violence against Hondurans has been exposed. This solidarity work greatly strengthens the position of those who risk their lives to fight the U.S. war machine from within Honduras.
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