As “Converge on Fort Benning” continues, we hear from Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of School of Americas Watch: “…we cannot be silent.”
About Father Roy (from SOA Vigil)
Vietnam veteran, Purple Heart recipient, a Roman Catholic priest and founder of SOA Watch, Father Roy Bourgeois has dedicated his life to the cause of human rights. While working with the poor in Bolivia for five years, where he was imprisoned, he witnessed and experienced first hand the brutal dictatorship of SOA grad General Hugo Banzer.
It was in 1980 that Fr. Roy became more involved in issues surrounding US policy in El Salvador after four US churchwomen–two of them his friends–were raped and killed by Salvadoran soldiers. As a result, Roy became an outspoken critic of US foreign policy in Latin America, and in 1990, founded the School of Americas Watch. He has since spent over four years in US federal prisons for nonviolent protests against the training of Latin American soldiers at Ft. Benning, Georgia.
I was able to participate in a march and direct action to close the School of the Americas this weekend in Washington D.C. It was amazing to be there while the entire country was watching the debate on the “budget crisis” go down and never once hear a single congress person talk about cutting military spending.
Over 70 million dollars a year could be saved by closing the School of the Americas let alone the human lives home and abroad that would thrive with less military intervention and spending.
We gathered as a group at Dupont Circle and marched with an artist collective that had made puppets honoring the resistance of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Led by the grandmother puppet we walked to the White House and 27 of us laid down in a “die in” front of the White House to symbolize the death and destruction that comes from the School.
We prostrated ourselves and begged from the heart to stop funding the military training that has led to torture, disappearances, death, dictatorships and the destruction of whole economies in Latin America.
The National Park Police who have jurisdiction over the sidewalk in front the White House arrested us for failing to obey a police order to move. We felt that by staying we could call – even if only for a moment – the attention of the White House and our Congress to the importance of the issue and give them a way to save money without cutting schools, health care or PBS!
It was an honor to take a step of resistance and hold up the memory and resistance of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo as we called to close it down. Click on the link below and you can see the puppets, march and even the arrests!
p.s. A quick note about my arrest: an arrest for civil disobedience is handled very quickly. I was held in a room (not in a jail cell) for about two hours and paid a small fine ($100) before my release.
Tomorrow, January 5, 2011, SOA Watch activists Nancy Smith from New York and Chris Spicer from Illinois will appear in federal court in Columbus, Georgia. They will stand trial for crossing the line during the 2010 November vigil to close the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation).
The two carried the protest against the SOA atrocities onto the Fort Benning military base. They now face up to six months in federal prison for their courageous act of nonviolent civil disobedience.
Nancy and Chris will use the courtroom to put the SOA itself on trial and to take a stand against the SOA, torture, militarization and oppressive U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.
The presiding judge, Stephen Hyles, sentenced two other human rights advocates last November to the maximum allowed prison sentence for the same action. Father Louis Vitale and David Omondi, who also crossed onto the base during the November vigil are each currently serving six months prison sentences.
Please write to our Prisoners of Conscience David and Father Louis and send Nancy and Chris good thoughts, strength, courage and love as they speak truth to power in the Georgia Middle District Court tomorrow.