Laura Slattery - 2010 Encuentro Local Updates Print

2010 Encuentro Local Updates

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, USA

By LAURA SLATTERY
SOA Watch Partnership América Latina Team


What has been the focus of your efforts?

  • Before I could resist US militarization in Latin America, I had to learn about it. Although I was in the military for seven years (from 1984-1991) I wasn't aware of what the US military was doing in L.A. My first lesson came when I went to live and work in Mexico at a shelter for immigrants and refugees in 1991. Building on what I learned and the stories I heard, I went to live in El Salvador for 6 months in 1992 during the year of the Peace Accords. I had gone to be of service and ‘work with the poor' but learned that without justice, service meant little. Upon returning to the US, I continued to work with immigrants as a chaplain and then a high school teacher. I then worked and lived in community at a hospitality house for immigrants from Guatemala and El Salvador for three years while I was getting my degree in theology and nonviolence.

  • In 2000, I began working full-time for a nonviolence organization called Pace e Bene and got involved with the SOAW Movement facilitating nonviolence trainings for those who were going to Ft. Benning. Over the years, with the SOAW I have written an article and appeared in a video of vets against the school, left my Army uniform on the fence, facilitated nonviolence training for 200 peacekeepers, participated on the Peacekeeping working group, and ‘crossed the line' which led to me serving a 3 month prison sentence. I am currently working with the Partnership America Latina working group, and had the opportunity to go on a delegation to Honduras a week after the coup. While at Pace e Bene, I travelled to Colombia in 2002 with two others and facilitated a three day workshop on nonviolence for 100 people.

What has a been the form of your efforts?

  • In addition to what I wrote in response to the previous question (training, accompaniment, writing, speaking, civil disobedience) through the SOAW, as part of a veteran effort I lobbied with other vets; debated the Commandant of SOA/Whinsec, COL Downey at a university; appeared on talk radio; and spoke at universities. In a bit of theatre, I walked the 30 miles to prison to do my 3 months with another SOAW line-crosser.

What have been the most effective and least effective?

  • The short film, The New Patriots, seemed to be fairly effective in mobilizing others to get involved. On personally going to prison ... while it was effective in getting the word out among those close to me, mobilizing the local community, and reviving hope in many people, it was not the breakthrough that I was hoping for. As a movement, the strategy of civil disobedience and prison time, has been effective at reviving and inspiring the movement. Walking to prison was especially effective in both mobilizing people and getting press.
  • Least effective - hard to say, all of the things that I have listed above have their part to play. I do not think the training that I did in Colombia was especially effective because I did not have the ability to do follow up. A member of my team went down 6 months later and did trainings throughout the country, but a sustained effort was needed.

How have these efforts impacted US militarization in Latin America?

  • I think in drawing attention to the SOA - to its connection to human rights abusers in Latin America and to the material that was taught there - along with all of the solidarity movements in the eighties and nineties has probably had some minor impact on the US militarization in Latin America. They have continued to keep the issue of torture and human rights violations in Latin America on the agenda of the US Congress, and so Congress has had to give at least lip service to human rights in L.A. It is hard to tell how much of an impact it has had because one never knows what the situation would be like if the pressure hadn't been there for the last twenty years.

How have these efforts changed you?

  • Experiencing the effects of US militarization while I lived in Latin America has had life altering effects on me - it basically determined my life for the past 19 years - accompanying those from Latin America, teaching ethics, facilitating and experimenting with nonviolence, going to prison, etc.
  • Being part of the SOAW Movement allowed me, specifically, to put into practice the theories of nonviolence that I was studying and allowed me the opportunity to step into a leadership role. I grew in my understanding of peacekeeping, civil disobedience, networking, and prison work and I also grew in my ability to articulate for myself and others both in writing and in speaking complex and nuanced arguments. I learned what it was to accompany a friend and to try to act as a bridge between competing ideologies.