Rich Wekerle's Court Statement Print
Statement at Trial
January 2004

My name is Rich Wekerle and along with my wife, Dana, I have been involved with the SOA Watch movement for about 8-9 years and have been actively involved in the demonstrations at Ft Benning since 1998. I received a Ban and Bar letter in 2000 and was bussed off the base in 1999.

The prosecution has determined that I have broken the law, that what I have done is wrong and needs to be punished. However, I maintain, and firmly believe as Martin Luther King has so eloquently stated, in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail, that any just law that upholds an unjust structure or institution is, of itself, unjust.

I am a law-abiding citizen. I am a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and a retired New York City firefighter. My wife and I have served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Sierra Leone for two tours of duty. Two weeks ago I led a group of 12 Catholic college students on a motor trip from Idaho to work in a barrio in Tijuana, Mexico. I am also the Chairman of the St. Augustine Peace and Justice committee. I have served my community and my country well. I also serve when I stand in witness to those of Latin America who have been killed, maimed and oppressed by the action of our country, through the existence of the SOA/WHISC.

Do I regret my actions of November 23? Not in the least, your honor. I believe that along with all those others that actively protest the SOA/WHISC, we are true citizens and patriots, doing what a free and moral society calls for when justice for others is threatened or eliminated. As Rosa Parks was quoted recently in the local paper, ?I will no longer act on the outside in a way that contradicts the truth that I hold deeply on the inside.?

We are not alone in this movement. Amnesty International has called for a full investigation of the SOA/WHISC by an independent commission. The U.S. House of Representatives has 103 co-sponsors to Bill #1258 that has this as the centerpiece of that legislation.

The SOA/WHISC is a failed foreign policy tool. It has led to the death and destruction of hundreds of thousands. In all of Latin America, its only proponents are the rich and powerful who stand to gain from the status quo.

The SOA/WHISC needs to close its doors.

For these reasons, for those of my Latin American brothers and sisters who are being killed, oppressed and denied, for a more peaceful and just world, I stand by my actions.

Thank you.