Columbus, GA Thirty-seven human rights activists will stand trial in federal court next week for civil disobedience at the School of the Americas (renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) in Columbus, Georgia. They were among 10,000 who gathered last November to call for the closure of the notorious school. The defendants peacefully crossed onto Ft. Benning, site of the school. They are charged with trespass and face up to six months in federal prison and $5,000 in fines. Trial is scheduled to start July 8 before Judge G. Mallon Faircloth in Columbus.
Judge Faircloth is known for giving the maximum of six months to opponents of the SOA/WHISC. Seventy-one people have served a total of over forty years in prison for engaging in nonviolent resistance in a broad-based campaign to close the school. Last year 26 people were prosecuted, including Dorothy Hennessey, an 88 year-old Franciscan nun who was sentenced to six months in federal prison.
“Those who speak out for justice are facing harsh prison sentences while SOA-trained torturers and assassins are operating with impunity,” said SOA Watch founder Fr. Roy Bourgeois.
The SOA/WHISC is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers. Its graduates are consistently involved in human rights abuses and atrocities. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals used at the school that advocated the use of torture, extortion and execution. In December 2000 Congress authorized the WHISC to replace the SOA. The renaming of the school was widely viewed as an attempt to diffuse public criticism and to disassociate the school from its reputation. SOA Watch maintains that the underlying purpose of the school, to control the economic and political systems of Latin America by aiding and influencing Latin American militaries, remains the same.
“The SOA is the terrorist training camp in our own backyard,” said Bourgeois.
SOA Watch works to stand in solidarity with people of Latin America, to change oppressive US foreign policy, and to close the SOA/WHISC. For more information visit the SOA Watch website.
The 37 SOA Defendants
(listed in order of state)
Fr. William O’Donnell Berkeley, CA, 72, Catholic priest. Member of the San Carlos Foundation.
Leone Reinbold, Oakland, CA
Fr. Louis Vitale, San Francisco, CA, Franciscan priest. Works with marginalized children and the homeless.
Toni Flynn Valyermo, CA, 56, High Desert Catholic Worker member and a Benedictine Oblate.
Jonna Cohen, Denver, CO, 20, MacAllister College student. Student of Maharaji, an Indian spiritual teacher.
Michael Sobol Golden, CO, 18, Graduates HS in May. Plans to defer college for a year to work in Guatemala.
Kathy Shields Boylan, Washington DC, 58, Catholic Worker at Dorothy Day Community. Plowshares activist.
Richard Ring, Atlanta, GA, 33, Paralegal/human rights investigator. Witnessed trial of SOA grad in Guatemala.
Mary Dean, Chicago, IL, 37, Former husband tortured by G-2 (SOA grads) in Guatemala.
Kathleen Desautels Chicago, IL, 64, A Sister of Providence of St. Mary of the Woods for 42 years.
Brigid Conarchy Grayslake, IL, 23, Catholic worker with Little Flower Community in Goochland, VA.
Fr. Jerry Zawada Cedar Lake, IN, 65, Franciscan priest and Ecumenical. Just returned from Palestine.
Janice Sevre-Duszynska Nicholasville, KY, 52, High School ESL teacher. Women’s ordination activist.
Ralph Madsen Newtonville, MA, 68, Retired elementary school teacher. Stationed at Ft. Benning in 1956.
Palmer Legare Springfield, MA, Student at Springfield College. Low-income housing issues organizer.
Rev. Charles Booker-Hirsch Ann Arbor, MI, 41, Presbyterian minister.
Maxwell Sadler Edwards Waterville, ME
Summer Nelson Missoula, MT, 26, Environmentalist active in Buffalo Field Campaign & Earth First.
Tom Mahedy, Wall, NJ, 39, Former Navy ROTC. Traveled to Central America with Pastors for Peace.
Linda Holzbaur Ithaca, NY, 45, Mother of four. Peace activist. Part time journalist. Catholic Worker.
Rae Kramer Syracuse, NY, 55, Domestic violence activist. Member of Jewish Peace Fellowship.
Laura MacDonald Syracuse, NY, 23, Works with children with disabilities. Syracuse Peace Council.
Mike Pasquale Syracuse, NY, 33, Catholic. Program Director at Family Center.
Chani Geigle Salem, OR 19, Student. Works with Oregon Peace Works mobilizing youth for social justice.
Shannon McManimon Philadelphia, PA 26, Catholic Worker at Martha House Community.
Rev. Erik Johnson Maryville, TN, 57, Presbyterian Church minister. Father and grandfather.
Kenneth Crowley Houston, TX, 60, Parent educator. Catholic. Member of Pax Christi.
Niklan Jones-Lezama Blacksburg, VA, 38, married to Nicaraguan Sandinista. Part of fact-finding delegations.
David O’Neill Elkton, VA
Lee Sturgis Elkton, VA
Peter Gelderloos Harrisonburg, VA 19, Involved in community organizing around numerous justice issues.
Abi Miller Harrisonburg, VA, 23, Involved in a community center, community gardens, and tutoring ESL.
Sue Daniels Pembroke, VA, 41, a doctoral student in avian conservation biology.
Nancy Gowen Richmond, VA, 68, Member of Pax Christi and Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation.
Lisa Hughes W. Hartford, VT, 36, Worked in El Salvador as a nurse. Member of War Resisters League.
John Heid Luck, WI, 47, Quaker, living and working on social justice issues. Member of Veterans for Peace.
Kate Fontanazza Milwaukee, WI 53, Teacher. Catholic. Member of Pax Christi and Peace Action.
John Entwistle’s Heaven and Hell