Don Coleman Print
Don Coleman is a co-pastor with his wife, Ann Marie, at University Church in Chicago. University Church is a member of two denominations: the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. Don and Ann Marie came to University Church and Chicago in September 1, 1991. University Church played a pivotal role in the Sanctuary Movement in the early 80s. Virgilio Vicente and Isabel Canu and their family came to University Church from Guatemala as part of the movement. Virgilio's parents were killed when their village Saq Ja was razed by the Guatemalan military trained by the School of the Americas.

His decision to cross the line at Ft Benning is not unrelated to this congregational history.

Don has been part of several delegations to Central America including trips to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and southern Mexico (Chiapas). These trips outside the country have helped provide Don with a critical perspective on US foreign policies. He is a member of the Illinois Mayan Ministries of the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ.

Ann Marie and Don were co-directors of the Guild House Campus Ministry at the University of Michigan for sixteen years. He was a campus minister at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas (1968-75) and began his ministry serving two rural churches in Springville and Payson, Utah (1963-68).

Don was born in Provo, Utah June 1, 1937, attended Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah, and graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1963.

On Monday, January 29 - 2007, Don Coleman was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison, he reported toChicago's Metropolitan Correctional Center on April 17, 2007. He was released on June 14, 2007

Don Coleman's Statement:

Don Coleman's Statement given at the trial of the SAO 16 on January 29, 2007. We received demeanor charges for the non-violent action of climbing through the fence onto the federal property at Fort Benning. This statement is written from notes used in the testimony at the trial and may not be word for word the spoken testimony.

Your honor and friends:

My name is Don Coleman. I am co-pastor, with my wife Ann Marie, of University Church in Chicago. I come to this court room with support and encouragement from members and friends of University Church.

University Church has been involved in matters of Central America for 25 years. Members have traveled to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Colombia. We have spent hours in study groups learning about Central America. Members of the congregation were active in the creation of the Sanctuary Movement in Chicago in the early eighties.

We have been blest by Virgilio Vicente, Isabel Canu, and their family of four children, who became active at University Church when they came to Chicago in 1986 through the Sanctuary Movement. Virgilio is from Saq Ja, one of four hundred villages destroyed by the Guatemalan military. Saq Ja was razed to the ground; plants were uprooted and burned, animals killed, people slaughtered, and a few escaped into the jungle, Guatemala City, or with help from the Sanctuary Movement came to the United States.

Virgilio and Isabel have become American citizens. But they are caught in the contradiction of citizenship and knowing that it was they United State's military (namely, School of the Americas) that trained the military leaders in Guatemala responsible for the destruction of their village and the slaying of their family members.

University Church has sent people to these demonstrations at the gate of Ft. Benning since 2002. Last year (November 19, 2005) a delegation of 13 people attended the demonstration. Virgilio placed a cross against the fence blocking people from entering the base. I was moved to tears for on the cross were the names of his father and mother who had been killed in the destruction of the village of Saq Ja.

Those of us at University Church know that there are consequences to the training that takes place here. We know names and see faces of people brutally slaughtered by Guatemalan military personnel trained here. They keep the upper class in power, protect corporate interests, rob the poor of their land, and are responsible for killing or disappearing church leaders and labor organizers and teacher and community leaders.

I have pleaded not guilty but have agreed to the stipulations of the government that I did cross through the fence on November 19, 2005. Let me plead guilty, your honor, to what I accept guilt for:

I plead guilty to respecting the law. I have been a law abiding citizen all my life and have never had any convictions for actions like this before. But the comparison of climbing through a fence with no damage to physical property or harm to another human being cannot be compared to the injustice and brutality that is the consequence of the training that takes place at this base. And I believe the focus on the petty misdemeanor that we are accused of makes this court complicit in the brutal acts of the Western Hemisphere Institute of Internal Security / School of the Americas.

I plead guilty of thinking long and hard about my decision to participate in this action. I could find no other way of putting WHINSEC/ SOA on trial for the crimes committed because of their training than this action. I consider what the sixteen of us have done as a way of holding the military in this country accountable for the injustice created by their actions. This act of civil disobedience on my part is really an act of holy obedience to the God who called me to respond.

I plead guilty to this action as a way of closing the WHINSEC / SOA. My act is the act of one person but it supported by members and friends of University Church and people from around the country. There will continue to be people from University Church joining with the thousands committed to closing this institution. And we are confident that in God's long arc of justice its will be closed. So let justice roll down like an ever flowing stream.