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Greetings from the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   
Saturday, 19 November 2016 19:05

On this sunny Saturday, we are once again standing vigil at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia - home to the notorious School of the Americas / Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/ WHINSEC) - calling for justice and accountability.

As we are gathered here today, we are hopeful and encouraged by the fact that thousands across the country have have been mobilized following the election of an openly racist bully, and have taken to the streets in cities across the US in protest. We need to organize, take action, and build broad-based grassroots power to push back against racism and xenophobia, and against the militarization of our communities at home and abroad.

Please support SOA Watch today with a donation for our joint efforts for justice.

Later this afternoon, we will caravan together with our friends from the Interreligious Task Force on the Americas to the Stewart Detention Center, to demand an end to the incarceration of migrants. People from Latin America continue to be forced to flee from US trained repressive security forces, only to be confronted with a militarized border and racist policies.

Call to Action: The Repression Continues so the Resistance can't Stop! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   
Wednesday, 09 November 2016 15:42

Saturday, November 19, 2016: Converge in your community and at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia

SOA Watch has organized protests against the training of repressive militaries at Fort Benning since 1983, when three activists -
Father Roy Bourgeois, Linda Ventimiglia and Father Larry Rosenbaugh - scaled a tree next to the El Salvadoran troop barracks and blasted Archbishop Oscar Romero’s last homily with a portable sound system into the night. Starting in 1990, on the one-year anniversary of the killing of 16-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos, and six Jesuit priests at the University of Central America (UCA) in San Salvador, El Salvador, SOA Watch has stood vigil at the gates of Fort Benning to demand the closure of the SOA-WHINSEC and remember the victims of US militarization in the Americas.

This year, we moved our annual mobilization to the US/Mexico border, to take a stand against the militariz
ation of the border, to shine a light on the connection between US militarization abroad and the forced migration of thousands who are fleeing North, as well as racist immigration laws. The Convergence at the border took place in October to commemorate the 4th Anniversary of the killing of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez by a US Border Patrol agent in Nogales. Over 1,000 people came together, raised their voices for justice, and the convergence at the border was big success for our movement. Click here for videos and photos, check out the media coverage, and see the list of participating groups, speakers and musicians

As we approach the weekend in November where we have traditionally gathered at Ft Benning, members of SOA Watch will once again bear witness.  The gates of Fort Benning remain sacred ground for our movement, where we have shed tears, celebrated the successes of movements for justice, mourned the dead, spread the ashes of our friends, crossed the line, been arrested, booked, tried, and sentenced, and taken a stand for justice the past 26 years. A small group will gather this year at the main gates of Fort Benning on Saturday, November 19 at 12noon. We won't build the big stage that we had in past years, and there won't be workshops or concerts at the Columbus Convention Center, just a presence at the gates with a speak out and vigil, where we will hold banners and the posters with the faces of the victims of US militarization. This year we will especially call out Presente for those who have been murdered this year in Honduras and demand an end to US military funding and training in Honduras. There will also be a presence at the Stewart Detention Center at 6pm on Saturday, November 19, which going to be organized by our friends from the Interreligious Task Force (IRTF). IRTF is organizing a Caravan for Justice from November 17-20.

Help us make that demand heard loud and clear -- and you do not need to travel across the country to do so.  We are asking communities across the country to hold your own actions to speak out against US military training and funding in Honduras. Here are a few action ideas:

Son of Honduran Human Rights leader assassinated PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   
Monday, 31 October 2016 15:27

In Honduras, the son of a prominent human rights leader was shot dead yesterday in what appears to be the latest assassination targeting campesino organizers fighting massive palm oil plantation companies in the valley of Aguán in northern Honduras. Fernando Alemán Banegas was shot several times as he exited a nightclub in the city of La Ceiba. He’s the oldest son of Elsy Banegas president of the Coordinating Committee of Popular Organizations of Aguán. This comes after two campesino leaders in the Aguán region were also assassinated earlier this month (see our message from last week).

Fernando Alemán Banegas ¡Presente!

Enough bloodshed. Click here to ask Congress to cut off US military and security aid to Honduras!

Last Updated on Monday, 31 October 2016 15:41
Double assassination of movement leaders in Honduras PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   
Thursday, 27 October 2016 20:35

On October 18, José Ángel Flores, the President of the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguan (MUCA) in Honduras Jose Angel Floresand fellow MUCA leader Silmer Dionisio George were assassinated in front of doezens of people as they came out of a meeting.  The Agrarian Platform of the Bajo Aguan denounced that they were murdered by a paramilitary group that colaborates with high ranking military officials.  They also report that the United States Special Forces have trained Honduran special forces units at the 15th Battalion base in Rio Claro, which is linked to the death squads.  Earlier this year, a former soldier with the Xatruch Task Force, which operates out of the 15th Battalion base, reported that the military unit had been given hitlists with names and photos of campesino leaders in the Aguan.

Ask Congress to cut off all US security aid to Honduras NOW!

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 October 2016 20:51
Update from the Convergence at the Border

At the heart of the 2016 School of the Americas Watch Encuentro is increasing awareness of the militarization of the US-Mexico border and Latin America, as well as the criminalization of migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and people of color.

We moved our annual convergence this Fall from the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia to the militarized US/Mexico border. The Convergence at the Border took place from October 7-10, 2016 in Nogales, Arizona/ Sonora, at the Eloy Detention Center and in Tucson, Arizona. The change of the location goes along with the broadening of the issue and our expanded fight against US militarization at home and abroad.

Visit SOAW.org/border for photos, videos and more about this powerful encuentro, and read our report back:

Friday, October 7

Hundreds of migrants, students, members of religious communities, veterans, and human rights activists gathered outside of the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, to call for the release of the incarcerated migrants, for an end to profiteering of human suffering, and for justice for all.

Speakers addressed the connection between US militarization in Latin America and forced migration to the United States, and described the horrors of living inside detention centers like private, for-profit CCA-run Eloy.

“To those of you who don’t vote, who don’t change these laws, you are allowing children to die here inside places like Eloy,” spoke Berta Avila, a woman who was detained while pregnant, denied medical care, and who lost her child in detention.

Following the moving speakers and songs of resistance, after the sun had set, the crowd processed closer to the detention center with candles and instruments. Inmates, who had organized on the inside, greeted those gathered on the outside by waving pieces of cloth and turning the lights in their cells on and off, while the crowd outside created a wall of sound, chanting, drumming and singing.

In the Nogales, Sonora side of the border, people came together from all across the Americas. Deported Veterans, the dance group Abya Ayala, migrant aid workers Las Patronas, the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, Brothers on the Road, Border Patrol Victims Network and frontline communities in resistance demonstrated that the war has not been able to separate all our struggles.

“The border is an open wound that we can only close with everyone’s help. Activities like this remind us that more than a region, we are a people injured but not defeated. We are a wounded but honorable people,” commented Ana Enamorado, member of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, who began her struggle after the disappearance of her son, Honduran national Óscar Antonio López Enamorado, in 2010 in Mexico.

Saturday, October 8

Concurrent veteran-led marches led from both sides of the border to the US/Mexico border wall, where a rally with speakers and musicians bridged the high wall.

Shena Gutierrez, from the Border Victims Network, spoke from the stage about the struggle to hold Customs and Border Protection agents accountable. In 2011, Shena’s husband, José Gutierrez, was brutally beaten by CBP agents near a port of entry in Southern Arizona. Since this tragedy, which her husband survived, Shena has become a spokesperson for border communities and victims of border patrol abuse, and inspires and educates border communities about their rights

Also on Saturday, all day in Tucson, Frente X for International Liberation held a plenary, workshops and breakout groups for people of color (POC), re-imagining mutual solidarity against state-sanctioned violence, upholding racial and gender justice. The Encuentro provides a unique opportunity for those most directly impacted by state sanctioned violence in the US, Latin America, and other parts of the world to learn from one another, and begin building inter-racial, transnational solidarity networks. The moral necessity to make the Encuentro accessible to our undocumented family led us to create the POC Space in Tucson, AZ, where people are not forced to traverse a Border Patrol checkpoint in order to arrive.

Partner organization Puente leader Carlos Garcia held a powerful talk on Arizona’s War of Attrition on Migrants and Brown People, giving valuable context on how the crisis in Arizona came about. “When you talk about the territories we’re in, they’re O’odham territories, they are Yaqui territories,” said Garcia. “This was, is, and always will be indigenous land.” Garcia led us through the rise of anti-immigrant legislation and policies since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994, and the concurrent rise of community struggle and resistance that birthed the Puente movement into a force to be reckoned with, which recently was able to defeat 12 out of 13 newly proposed anti-immigrant laws.

"We raise our fist and fight back, but we also have this open hand where we’re trying to counter-balance that attrition. When the state is trying to make your life so miserable that you self-deport, what is it that we need to do so that we’re there for each other, we’re supporting each other. We have our programs, we try to have health programs, community programs, know your rights workshops, anything that helps people feel like they don’t have to self-deport. So we’re stopping our people from being grabbed, put in cages, we’re trying to get them out of cages, and we’re also making them stronger and organised and making sure that they don’t leave."

Saturday afternoon we also participated in the Anniversary Vigil for José Antonio Elena Rodríguez (photo at right by Steve Pavey, Hope in Focus photography) in Nogales, Sonora: starting with a march from the Plaza de las Palomas in Nogales, Sonora to the site where Jose Antonio was killed by Border Patrol forces and a mass with the Nogales Bishop. An interfaith ceremony at the border wall & candlelight vigil was held, and followed by an energizing cross-border concert featuring Charlie King, Colleen Kattau, emma’s revolution, Natalia Serna La Muna, Olmeca, Pablo Peregrina, the Peace Poets, and Son Jarocho.

Sunday, October 9

We commemorated those whose lives were lost as a result of state violence with the traditional SOA Watch ¡No Más! No More! & Presentes at the border wall. Speakers included Shannon Rivers, a member of the Akimel O'odham tribe; Padre Prisciliano Peraza, coordinator of CCAMYN in Altar, Sonora; Carlotta Wrey, a founding member of People Helping People from Arivaca; Hector Aristizabal, Colombian human rights activist and torture survivor; Mariela Nájera Romero and Uriel Gamaliel Guzmán, Las Patronas; Marleny Reyes Castillo, Maria Guadalupe Guereca Betancourt and Araceli; Carlos Garcia, Puente; Frier Tomás González Castillo coordinator of La 72, Hogar Refugio para Personas migrantes y refugiadas, en Tenosique, Tabasco; George Paz Martin, peace and justice and climate activist and educator; and there were musical performances by Francisco Herrera, Natalia Serna La Muna, Gabino Palomares and others. (photos left and below, Steve Pavey)

Following the ceremony at the border wall, more than 200 activists including Father Roy continued their demonstration in a march to the US Border Patrol interior vehicle checkpoint on the I-19 highway 20 minutes north of Nogales. Challenging the legitimacy of such checkpoints, when not only are they notorious for rampant human rights abuses towards Arizona residents but also directly responsible for the deaths of more than 3,000 human beings forced to traverse the desert to avoid them, we lift up Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees all human beings freedom of movement, the right to leave and the right to return to their countries. Calling out, "we remember all the people these checkpoints kill, we can feel their spirits, they are with us still," we staged a nonviolent die-in. Click here to view video clips from the action.

Monday, October 10

We joined the block party that was organized for the Indigenous People Day 2016 at the Global Justice Center in Tucson, Arizona.

Our gathering this weekend reinforced solidarity and the realization that we are going to change the racist system of violence and domination.

Can you make a donation to support our work? We rely on contributions from people like you to see mobilizations like this through.

La lucha sigue,

SOA Watch

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phone: 202-234-3440
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