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November Vigil Concludes with Solemn Funeral Procession & Two More Civil Disobedience Arrests PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   
Monday, 24 November 2014 16:48

Reportbacks, vidoes, photos of the 25th Annual Vigil:
Communities in Resistance, Presentes!

Grassroots Mobilizations Connect Struggles against State Violence and Injustice

Columbus, Georgia – 2,500 human rights activists braved the rainstorms on Sunday, November 23 and converged at Fort Benning to call for an end to militarized state violence in the US and abroad. Featured presenters came from Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Venezuela, and the US.

Following the stage program, a solemn funeral procession commemorated those murdered at the hands of School of the Americas/WHINSEC graduates, including the two women and six Jesuit priests who were massacred in 1989 at the University of Central America (UCA) in El Salvador, as well as activists from Honduras, Mexico and Colombia killed earlier this year.  

Eve Tetaz, an 83-year-old author, veteran peace and justice activist and retired public schoolteacher from Washington, DC, crossed the line onto Fort Benning in solitary nonviolent witness at 9 am, carrying with her a poster of one of the 43 students disappeared in Ayotzinapa, Mexico this September, and the prophetic Isaiah verse, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares.” After the procession concluded, longtime SOA Watch activist Nashua Chantal, a 62-year-old human rights defender from Americus, Georgia, carried a ladder to the fence which military police erected to keep our peaceful message from entering the base. This is the third arrest at Fort Benning for Chantal, who previously served a three-month sentence in 2005 and six months in 2013 for crossing the line.

Five other solidarity activists were arrested yesterday on Saturday, November 22, 2014 at the gates of the Stewart Detention Center. The five carried their nonviolent message of justice and dignity for all onto the property of the Corrections Corporation of America, which warehouses 1,800 men at Stewart for profit in horrific conditions which have led to the death of at least one detainee.

The civil disobedience action followed a procession of about 1,000 human rights activists from Lumpkin, Georgia to the Stewart Detention Center. Activists called for an end to the unjust imprisonment of immigrants and denounced the clear connection between US militarization and forced migration.

SOA/WHINSEC training is among the roots causes which force people to migrate and flee their countries. Many immigrants to the United States are victims of US-sponsored military atrocities in Latin America. In its fight to close the School of the Americas/WHINSEC, SOA Watch continues to work towards a world that is free of suffering and violence. SOA Watch considers deportation quotas, mandatory detention, for-profit immigration detention centers, the militarization of the border, the drug war and the training of repressive forces at the SOA/WHINSEC, as all parts of the same racist system of violence and domination. A dismantling of these and other policies is needed for there ever to be true "Comprehensive Immigration Reform."


for photos and videos of the November Vigil weekend, visit http://SOAW.org/november

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 November 2014 16:07

For updated information from the November Vigil, visit SOAW.org/november

Activists Protest one of Largest US Immigrant Prisons, Caravan to Fort Benning, home of the School of the Americas

5 Human Rights Activists Arrested

On Saturday, November 22, hundreds of human rights defenders converged in the remote town of Lumpkin, Georgia, whose largest employer is the Corrections Corporation of America at the Stewart Detention Center. Stewart is one of the largest immigrant prisons in the US, currently warehousing 1,800 men for profit. These detainees' only “crime” was to flee the economic and political violence in their home countries, violence created by US policies and training like at the SOA/WHINSEC. In the wake of President Obama’s announcement about his executive actions in regards to immigration, the activists marched 1.7 miles from central Lumpkin to the Stewart Detention Center.

At a vigil in front of the prison, the activists demanded the release of the immigrants who are imprisoned at Stewart, an immediate end to mass deportations, and the closure of the Stewart Detention Center. Five activists were arrested for their nonviolent civil disobedience at the gates of Stewart: long-time union activist Maureen Fitzsimmos; Rebecca Kanner, former SOA Watch prisoner of conscience from Michigan; Anton Flores, the vigil organizer from the Alterna community and the Georgia Detention Watch coalition; Jason McGaughey, of Washington, DC; and Kevin Caron of the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition. Bail was set at $25,000 for Anton Flores, and $1,000 for each of the others, but the SOA Watch Legal Collective negotiated bonds down to $250 each.

"Love crosses borders -- fear erects walls," said organizer and Georgia Detention Watch coalition founder Anton Flores, lifting up his Alterna community slogan. "The depth of a loving society is going to be marked by how quickly we can close these facilities down."

Following the protest at the detention center, a caravan drove to the main gates of Fort Benning, the military base that is home to the US military training camp known as the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or SOA/WHINSEC). The activists call out the connection between US-sponsored military repression in Latin America and forced migration.

SOA training is among the roots causes of migration, which forces people to flee their countries in Latin America. Many immigrants to the United States are victims of US-sponsored military training and atrocities in Latin America. In its fight to close the School of the Americas, SOA Watch continues to work towards a world that is free of suffering and violence. SOA Watch considers deportation quotas, mandatory detention, for-profit immigration detention centers, the militarization of the border, the "War on Drugs," and the training of repressive forces at the SOA/WHINSEC, as all parts of the same racist system of violence and domination. A dismantling of these and other policies is needed for there ever to be true "Comprehensive Immigration Reform."

Tomorrow, on Sunday, November 23, thousands will converge again at the gates of Fort Benning, for a solemn funeral procession to commemorate all victims of US militarization and violence. Visit http://SOAW.org/november for updates.

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The 25th Vigil, One Struggle - TAKE ACTION Online and in the Streets! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Arturo J. Viscarra   
Saturday, 15 November 2014 00:35

We are days away from the 25th November Vigil in Columbus and Lumpkin, Georgia! This week also marks the 25th anniversary of the UCA massacre in El Salvador, the atrocity that involved at least 19 SOA graduates and prompted the 1st November Vigil. We will honor the martyrs from years past, but our hearts will also be heavy due to the continued ravages of U.S.-led militarization in the Americas.

Take Online Action Now!

The enforced disappearances of 43 students from Ayotzinapa, Mexico once again proved that the disastrous results of U.S. military aid and training in Latin America are ongoing. As the U.S. stubbornly imposes the Drug War on the rest of the hemisphere, the line between police and military inside the U.S. is also being blurred. Ferguson has reminded us that police militarization and the treatment of some communities as internal enemies are also major problems in the U.S., while putting into context what militarization looks like on the ground for so many in Latin America and beyond. Come out for the Vigil and meet residents of Ferguson, activists from Mexico, and thousands of others joining in the call for accountability and justice. Book your hotel now!

SOA Watch has taken the decision to not only support legislation to combat the U.S. role in the militarization of Latin America, but to also support legislation to combat the rapidly increasing militarization of the U.S.

Please email your Representative to let them know that thousands will soon converge in Georgia, and that you want them to go on record against militarization at home and abroad by cosponsoring HR 2989, The Latin America Military Training Review Act, and HR 5478, the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act.

It is important to not only pressure your Members of Congress to act justly, but to emphasize the connections between militarization, immigrant detention, and mass incarceration to them. Despite the sad state of U.S. politics, we cannot give up the legislative strategy as one tool in our collective arsenal. Of course, we must continue to physically make the connections and agitate in the streets as well!

This week, SOA Watch and Georgia Detention Watch will  further emphasize the connections between forced migration and militarized foreign policy after moving the 8th"Shut Down Stewart Detention Center Vigil" from the Friday to the Saturday (11/22 from 9:30 AM - 12:15 PM) of the Vigil weekend so that more Vigil-goers can participate. For more information on the Stewart Vigil, including how one official is connected to both the SOA and Stewart, please visit http://soaw.org/november/stewart-detention-center-vigil/

Recent migrants are being fed to the criminal injustice system that has for so long decimated the Black and Brown communities of the U.S. We must loudly denounce this intertwined system of militarization and mass incarceration at home and abroad.

Contact your Representative now, and hope to see you at the gates! For more information click below!

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 17:29
Victory: First Amendment Rights Triumph Over Columbus Police and Fort Benning Officials! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Karolina Babic   
Thursday, 04 September 2014 20:45
We did it! Fort Benning officials and the Columbus police tried to shut down the November Vigil by attempting to limit the number of participants and by denying SOA Watch a permit to set up a stage and sound system, but justice prevailed. We will return to the gates of Fort Benning from November 21-23. Following a coordinated grassroots pressure campaign, and negotiations with the Columbus Police Department and their team of private and public attorneys, they backed down and ended their efforts to curtail our constitutional rights.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 September 2014 21:11
12 Members of Congress, 75+ Organizations & 7,000 Human Rights Activists Demand Justice PDF Print E-mail

For immediate release
SOA Watch Contact:
Hendrik Voss, National Organizer,202-234-3440

Constitutional Rights Under Attack in Georgia: US Representatives, 75+ Organizations Demand Protest Restrictions Be Lifted

Columbus, Georgia – The Columbus police department has received some national and international attention after Columbus police chief Ricky Boren announced unconstitutional restrictions on the annual November 21-23, 2014 Vigil to Close the School of the Americas (SOA, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) at the main gates of Fort Benning, Georgia. According to the police, the annual gathering of thousands of should be limited to 200 people. The permit to set up a stage and sound system has been denied.

The suggestion by the Columbus police that SOA Watch should abandon plans for a protest at the main gates of the base, and instead apply for a new permit for a side road near a back entrance, was rejected by organizers, who vow to continue the 24-year tradition of honoring those killed by SOA/WHINSEC graduates at the main gates of the base.

This week, 12 Members of Congress intervened in the conflict. In a letter to the Columbus mayor and police chief, Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (MI), Jim McGovern (MA), John Lewis (GA), Hank Johnson (GA), Sam Farr (CA), Danny K. Davis (IL), Barbara Lee (CA), Michael Capuano (MA), Peter DeFazio (OR), Jan Schakowsky (IL), Maxine Waters (CA), and Luis Gutierrez (IL) asked the local authorities to lift the restrictions and to let the Vigil go forward unimpeded. The lawmakers write “While the demonstration may impede traffic and constitute an inconvenience to Ft. Benning, these types of disruptions are part and parcel of our country’s proud tradition of vigorous free speech.”

Thousands of activists and more than 75 national and international human rights and social justice organizations have signed petitions and written letters to Columbus authorities in support of SOA Watch’s first amendment rights.

Thousands have gathered every November for the nonviolent demonstration since the first anniversary of the 1989 SOA graduate-led massacre of 16-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos and six Jesuit priests at the University of Central America in El Salvador. SOA Watch calls for the closure of the institute, which exports the militarization of police, perpetuates coups, torture, extrajudicial killings, and human rights abuses in the face of social and political problems. The SOA/WHINSEC made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released SOA training manuals that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Among its graduates are at least 11 dictators as well as leaders of infamous Central American death squads. SOA/WHINSEC graduates are currently linked to the Honduran military coup and the repression campaign against social movements there, among other humanitarian crises.


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