“When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid” - Audre Lord
On November 18, 2007, eleven human rights activists were arrested after carrying the protest to close the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) onto the Fort Benning Military Reservation, publicly defying the laws which prevent political speech on military bases and making a bold call for justice and accountability.
The eleven were held at Ft. Benning and charged for "unlawful entry" by the federal court. The eleven were released after bail money ($500 - $1,000/per person) was posted. The eleven appeared in federal court in Columbus on January 28, 2008 and recieved sentences ranging from 30 to 90 days in federal prison.
If you are interested in writing to the SOA 11 if and when they face prison witness, please read tips on writing to prisoners.
Click on the names below to read statements and biographical information of the SOA 11:
Joan Anderson, 65, of Casper, Wyoming
Joan was sentenced to serve 30 days in prison and pay a $500 fine. She was released on May 1, 2008.
Ozone Bhaguan, 33, of Duluth, Minnesota
Ozone crossed the line at the SOA for the second time in 2007, and was again sentenced on January 28, 2008 to serve 90 days in prison.
Le Anne Clausen, 29, of Chicago, Illinois
"I am a candidate for ordination in the Presbyterian church & a former human rights worker in Iraq, working to uncover abuses such as those at Abu Ghraib. I also have family in the military and I care about them. I believe that the only path to peace and security in our world is through human rights. For all those things, I have chosen civil disobedience today."
Le Anne was released in early May.
Art Landis, 74, of Perkasie, Pennsylvania
"The SOA is a terrorist camp, and terrorism and torture and killing are things I don't approve of, whether we do it or our friends do it or it's done in other parts of the world."
Art was released on May 8, 2008.
Ed Lewinson, of Newark, New Jersey
Ed has crossed the line at the School of the Americas protest four times, and the state has refused to prosecute him until now, because he is blind.
Chris Lieberman, 54, of Albuquerque, New Mexico
"This action is to bear witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ in the world. For me this is an act of obedience to the Lord who calls me to love as Christ loved us."
Diane Lopez Hughes, 58, of Springfield, Illinois
"It is an honor to follow those who've acted on their convictions in years past and it is a blessing to be able to act on my faith, to witness to the injustice of the School of the Americas, to witness to hope for an end to torture."
Diane was released from Muscogee County Jail on March 11, 2008.
Tiel Rainelli, 25, of Ohio
"To my slum livin' young people search'n for meaning in a society that isolates and oppresses us, I call upon your critique, your lived experience, and your participation in the struggle. No longer should we allow others to speak for us, it is indeed time we spoke and organized for ourselves. Oppression has left us with a sickness that disrupts and perverts our capacity to love and resist and we have an undeniable responsibility to ourselves and each other to decolonize our minds and rebuild our communities."
Gus Roddy, of Chicago, Illinois
"I am a prisoner of my conscience."
Gus was released in early May 2008
Stephen Schweitzer, 45, of Binghamton, New York
"There's just too much misery in this world and this HAS to change."
Michelle Yipé, of Argonia, Kansas
"I want to leave a legacy for my niece and nephew, that I stood up for peace, and stood up for what I believed in. I did my best so that I could provide a better world for them. I believe the SOA is a threat to our national security and that we're making more enemies than we are friends."
Michelle was released on April 30, 2008.
Support those Facing Prison for Speaking Out Against the SOA
Prison witness has been a core element of the SOA Watch movement since its beginning. In the tradition of Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., Aung San Suu Kyi and countless others, SOA Watch activists have used peaceful, nonviolent resistance to expose the horrors of the SOA/ WHINSEC and to express solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Latin America.
As a result, 226 SOA Watch human rights defenders have collectively spent over 95 years in prison. Over 50 people have served probation sentences. Their sacrifice and steadfastness in the struggle for peace and justice provide an extraordinary example of love in action and have given tremendous momentum to the effort to change oppressive US foreign policy and to close the SOA/ WHINSEC.
Click here for actions to take in solidarity with those in prison and on probation.
Read the chronology of past SOA Watch prisoners of conscience.