Mara & Enzo Bard - 2010 Encuentro Local Updates Print

2010 Encuentro Local Updates

LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK, USA

By MARA & ENZO BARD
SOA Watch Activists


Our organization, Long Island SOAW, is a chapter of the national SOA Watch. Based on the principles of peace of the SOAW, our mission is to spread the truth and to educate the public about the true mission of the School of the Americas, a military school created to train assassins and to maintain a foreign policy based on raw power in order to impose conditions that benefit the US without any consideration of the right of people to self determination.

Almost since the beginning of the vigils in November at Fort Benning, Georgia, where the SOA is based, and before the formation of our organization, some of our members participated in the vigils. During the 1997 vigil, Bill McNulty "crossed the line" in Fort Benning, was found guilty of trespassing a military installation, condemned to six month in Federal Prison and fined $3000. This event had ample local repercussion, Newsday, the paper with a big circulation in the island published in the first page of its supplement an extensive note about the vigil, Bill McNulty and his conviction.

Motivated by this action, and responding to a call by Bill, a group of activists met, adopted the principles of the SOAW, and founded the Long Island SOAW, electing two coordinators, one for the western part of the island (Nassau County) and one for the eastern part (Suffolk County). Goals were set up and activities were planned. Currently the Board in constituted by the following people: Bill McNulty (Suffolk coordinator), Mara Bard (Nassau coordinator),  E. Babian, E. Bard, E.L. Barnett, E. Campisi, H. Cottin, A. Dowling, J. Dowling, E. Duncan, R. Duncan, I. Ipolito, M. Hipolito, A. Kelly, G. Kelly, A. Lampe, L. Longmire,  and D. Urlaub.

In order to achieve our goals we have developed different activities:

Annual conference:

Every year, during the month of October we organize a conference in order to promote participation in the vigil at Fort Benning. Through the years we had the following distinguished speakers:

Fr. Roy Bourgeois, visits the island every year, he was the key speaker, talking about the terrorism carried on by the SOA, and about other hor subjects. He spoke in different venues: at the Cinema Arts Centre (CAC) in Huntington, when we also presented the film "SOA: Guns and Greed", at Ste. Brigid Catholic Church in Westbury, at St. Joseph College in Patchogue, at the Bellmore Public Library, at Nassau County Community College, at Ste. Mary Catholic Church, and in several other institutions. Besides we have promoted, although not organized, his appearance at  Hofstra University.

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton spoke at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation (UUC) at Shelter Rock about the terrorism promoted by the SOA. In that event other speakers were the Chicano activist Teresa Gutierrez, and Bill McNulty.

The journalist and professor Mario Murillo spoke at Ste. Brigid Church about the influence of the military intervention and human rights in Colombia. In another year he spoke, together with the radio journalist Tiokasin Ghosthorse, about the Minga and Colombia's indigenous people struggle for their rights.

The ex US Army Officer, Ellen Barfield, gave a talk titled "Why I was a soldier and now I am a peace activist", at the CAC. At this event we presented the movie "Convictions-Prisoners of Conscience" produced by Robert Richter.

Jennifer K. Harbury, whose husband, leader of the Mayan resístance in Guatemala, was tortured and killed by the military, is a lawyer and writer about the violations of human rights in Guatemala. She spoke at the Public Library in Hewlett on the subject "Torture patrocinated by the US, from Vietnam to Latin America and Abu Ghraib".

Fr. Bernard Survil, who also "crossed the line" at Fort Benning and suffered imprisonment for three months, spoke at St. Brigid Church about the legacy or Archbishop Juan Gerardi of Guatemala, who was assassinated by a graduate of the SOA in 1998.

Professor and writer Lesley Gill spoke at Hofstra University and also at the UUC at Shelter Rock about "War, torture and US foreign policy."

Lisa Sullivan, SOAW coordinator for Latin America, spoke at the CAC about her experiences in Honduras after the coup, and about the people's resistanse to it. In the same event we presented Juan Mandelbaum's movie "Our disappeared," and Gustavo Moreto, the movie's music composer, commented it and answered questions.

Professor Luis Barrios, who also "crossed the line" at Fort Benning and spent time in prison, spoke at the CAC about civil disobedience; that was the subject of Robert Richter's movie "The new patriots" shown in the occasion. The program was completed by the musical duet "The Last Internationale.

Documentary movies and debates

Together with the Freeport Community Worklink Center, an organization supporting day laborers, we have shown, at the Freeport Memorial Library, documentaries relating the SOA with the problems of forced migration and displacement of people. During that cycle we presented "War in Colombia and the SOA", "Dying to Live, a migrant's Journey", and Voces Inocentes" (Inocent Voices), with Juan Carlos Molina of the FMLN as a moderator.

Carlos Mauricio, of the San Francisco SOAW and ex-professor of the University of El Salvador spoke about his own experience, having suffered torture in El Salvador during that country's dirty war.

Bill McNulty spoke about US foreign policy and immigration problems.

At Nassau Community College, in collaboration with Professor J. Dowling we presented the movie "SOA: Guns and Greed."

At Hofstra University, under the auspices of professor Takashi Kanatsu we presented the movie "Hidden in Plain Sight," accompanied by a dissertation of Bill McNulty.

At the Massapequa Park Public Library the following movies were shown: "The revolution will not be televised" and "Weapons of Mass Deception", with presentations by Bill McNulty, and "The Oil Factor. Behind the War on Terror", with a presentation by Heather Cottin.

We have also promoted presentations by Carlos Mauricio at Hofstra University and at Nassau County Community College.

Mara Bard spoke at various opportunities in colleges and other venues about "The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, Years of resistance against state terrorism."

In 2008 Andy Kafel of New York City SOAW spoke about his experiences in Haití.

Lobbying, locally and in Washington, D.C.

Some of our members participate in the lobbying activities in Washington, D.C., while locally we promote a network of phone calls to the representatives in order to ask them to support the bills to close the SOA.

In numerous occasions we visited the offices of our representatives in Congress, leaving with them literature, we also carried on letter and telephone campaigns.

Of the five representatives in the island, only Peter King does not vote to close the SOA; his attitude induced our organization, together with PeaceSmiths, South County Peace Group, and other organizations, to demonstrate frequently through the years in front of his district office. During the November vigils we communicate by phone between the vigil participants and those demonstrating in front of Peter King's office.

Alliances and coalitions

In 1999 thirteen local organizations adopted a resolution addressed to Congress and to President Clinton demanding the closing of the SOA. Besides LISOAW the signatories were: PeaceSmiths, South County Peace Group, LI Alliance, LI Catholic Peace fellowship, Casa de la Paz, Pax Christi LI, Great neck Peace Action, Li War Resisters league, Students from Friends World program at South Hampton College, Bill McNulty defense Account, St. James Peace and Justice Community and Nassau County Tax Revolt Coalition.

Not long ago we have joined a coalition with peace and justice organizations that promote solidarity among people: Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives, Pax Christi LI, Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, Peace Action Network LI and several others. This coalition recently organized an event with Fr. Roy Bourgeois at the UUC at Shelter Rock.

It should be noted that for our events we have had the co-sponsorship of several local organizations, and we had co-sponsored many of their events.

Marches and demonstrations

Every year we help to organize and provide financial assistance to students at Hofstra University, for the attendance of the November vigil at Fort Benning. Luckily we count with the support of some of their professors, like Professor Linda Longmire.

In many occasions we have either organized or participated in demonstrations in front of the district offices of our representatives in Congress. These demonstrations were not only related to the closing of the SOA, but also against one or other of the wars, against military recruitment in the high schools, against torture, during the graduation of navy officers, in support of immigrant rights, and other worthwhile causes. In these occasions the media were contacted, and letters and articles were sent to local newspapers that some times were printed.

We participated in the 2003 march on the Pentagon.

On June 25, 2006, during the international month against torture, we organized a demonstration in front of representative Peter King's district office, with the theme "Not in our name. Speakers in the occasion were Thomas Brindson, Guillermo Chacon and Bill McNulty.

Last year we participated in the first World March for Peace and Non-violence.

Media

Thanks to Long Island Alternative Media, we had, whenever possible, filmed the presentations of our speakers, and broadcasted them in the public access channel of the Woodbury system of Cablevision. The following producers have our heartfelt thanks: R. Goldberg, T. Morrone and R. Summerville.

In different occasions our speakers have been interviewed in radio programs at Pacifica Radio WBAI, the radio of Hofstra University and the radio of State University at Stony Brook.

Additionally, the program "La Voz Latina" on WBAI, presented news about LI SOAW activities.

Finally, we are distributors of "Presente."

Educational projects

Hofstra University students from Professor Maney's course, had chosen during the last two years to work with us in order to develop projects related to the influence of our activities in the community.

We had carried on a campaign against military recruitment in the high schools.

We sent letters to the principals asking them to alert parents of their right to deny the inclusion of their children's names in the lists that the schools provide to the military recruiters.