While thousands were gathered at the gates of Fort Benning, simultaneous actions to close the SOA, to resist militarization and to create a culture of justice and peace took place throughout the Americas. SOA Watch continues to build and strengthen our relationships with social justice movements throughout the Hemisphere. The video message below from the SOA Watch Latin America office was screened during the opening plenary in the Columbus Convention Center.
Pushing the Boundaries at Fort Benning: Is This “The End of the Road for the SOA?” By Clare Hanrahan
It all comes down to how you react Now you're face to face, seeing it all Dispersal warnings, they're making the call They got buses to pack, with people like you When they did that in the 50's the movement grew --Ryan Harvey, lyrics from “See it Through”
Federal, City and State authorities were busy in Columbus, Ga., on the weekend prior to Thanksgiving. Arrests of people from 17 to 90 years old included stilt walkers and puppetistas, four credentialed press, local barber Curtis Thornton, a dozen participants in a planned road blockade, priests, veterans and students, along with many others attempting simply to make it back to their cars outside the “permitted protest area” following the 2010 vigil at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia.
At least five undercover police infiltrated the action.
On Saturday after the rally some members of the School of the Americas Watch community took action within the city of Columbus. They chose to take their message to Columbus instead of the military base. They chose a different space but the reasons for the action were the same: to close the SOA and bring justice to its victims. The police had a strong reaction to what they felt was the abuse of the permit. As people were attempting to leave the vigil site the police responded by arresting more than seventeen individuals who were doing nothing more than leaving the space – all together 26 folks were arrested.
I have attended the vigil for six years and never have I seen anything like what happened on Saturday. The police were directing people to leave and then accusing them of refusing to disperse and placing cuffs on them. They picked up journalists, high schoolers, and even a member of their own Columbus community who simply stepped out of a barber shop near the road.
Shut Down the Stewart Detention Center and Bring Home Pedro
Written by Becca Polk
Wednesday, 01 December 2010 15:37
On Friday, Novemeber 19th, over 100 people gathered at Lumpkin Town Square, in Georgia, to connect the messages of militarization, immigration and detention as being part of a system of injustices surrounding US foreign and domestic polices. The messaging was loud and clear, "Shut Down the Stewart Detention Center and Bring Home Pedro."
The major focus was around the separation of families as a direct result of the private business, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), making a profit off detaining immigrants without official status in the US. One case in particular was highlighted, of Pedro Guzman, who has been detainted for close to a year, leaving his wife Emily and four year old son Logan, devastated. But Emily commented later that "the rally gave us hope and restored some faith in human kind." For more information on the Guzman's story please visit www.logansdad.org.
In tradition with SOA Watch movement, 8 people, including Pedro's mother in-law, put their bodies on the line and crossed over the physical barrier of peaceful protests to the injustices surrounding the business of detention. "Crossing the arbitrary line drawn by CCA today was a necessary step to call our government to its highest ideals," remarks Anton Flores, one of the main organizers of this Stewart Detention Vigil and Rally. For the full press release, please visit http://www.georgiadetentionwatch.com/press-releases/.
This emotional moment of witnessing civil disobedience of those willing to sacrifice and denounce the injustices surrounding the Stewart Detention Center, was accompanied by "We Will Not Be Moved" playing in the background. It was a symbolic reminder of why we engage in civil disobedience, giving us strength from those that came before us, knowing that we are all connected and trapped within this system, and if one of us is locked up, we all are.
Following the procession and vigil at the Stewart Detention Center, Emily Guzman got word that Pedro will have his bond hearing next week, with the hopes that the Board of Immigration Appeals will have made a favorable decision about Pedro's case. Our thoughts and prayers stay with the Guzmans, along with others trapped in this unjust immigration system.
VIdeo of Jessica Sully's targeted arrest from start to finish
Written by Hendrik Voss
Thursday, 25 November 2010 16:08
Last Updated on Friday, 25 May 2012 18:35
six months in prison
Written by Hendrik Voss
Wednesday, 24 November 2010 03:34
Speaking Truth to Power David Omondi and Father Louis Vitale Sentenced to Six Months in Federal Prison -- Incarcerated in Georgia Jail
Four human rights activists were in court on Tuesday, November 23 after being arrested and charged with federal trespassing at Ft. Benning, Georgia on November 20 and 21. During their arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Hyles, Nancy Smith and Christopher Spicer pled not guilty. Their trial is set for January 5. Franciscan priest Fr. Louis Vitale, OFM and David Omondi of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker Community pled no contest and put the SOA on trial through their statements in court. Fr. Louis and David were sentenced to the maximum 6 months in jail. While nonviolent resisters are being sent to prison, those responsible for the use of torture manuals at the SOA have never even been charged for their crimes. Father Louis and David are presently in a Georgia county jail.
Write to the prisoners: Because they may be transferred at any time, cards and letters to David may be sent to his community for forwarding: David Omondi, c/o The Los Angeles Catholic Worker, 632 N. Brittania St., Los Angeles, CA 90033. Louis' mail may be sent to the Nuclear Resister for forwarding at P.O. Box 43383, Tucson, AZ 85733.
On Saturday, November 20, twenty-two others were arrested on city and state charges, including unlawful assembly, failure to disperse, and parading without a permit. Two were charged but not taken into custody. Some were blockading the highway leading into Fort Benning with a sign that read, "Stop: This is the End of the Road for the SOA". Many of those arrested were not intending to risk arrest but were swept up as they walked back to their cars after they left the permitted protest following the vigil on Saturday. These included journalists and a Columbus, Georgia resident who came out of a barber shop to take a photo of the protest. The SOA Watch Legal Collective is collecting testimony and photos of the indiscriminate arrests that took place on Saturday afternoon. Stay tuned!
On Sunday, November 21, Columbus Recorder's Court Judge Michael Cielinski found 21 of the 24 who were arrested by the city guilty on all charges. Two were convicted in a state court the next day. All were released from jail by Monday, with fines and bonds as high as $4,152.50. The SOA Watch community stepped up in a big way, supporters maxed out their credit cards at ATMs to ensure that no one had to stay another day in the Muscogee County Jail. Those who were arrested still have to answer state charges, and expect to be arraigned in January.
For more information about the Ft. Benning protest, visit www.SOAW.org.
On Sunday the Judge found 23 of the 24 who were arrested by
the city guilty on all charges including unlawful assembly, failure to
disperse, and parading without a permit. The total of bonds and fines exceed $75,000 (which does not include appeals). A full legal update will be posted soon from our legal collective,
including on the four individuals who courageously crossed the line onto the
base to protest the SOA and face federal charges.
We have seen extraordinary solidarity in our movement in
raising the money needed through loans and donations to release everyone
arrested. People were trickling out of the jail until 4am this is morning. We have
been able to raise close to $30,000 in an extremely short amount of time. This
is unprecedented for SOAW. We are so grateful for both the people present here in
Fort Benning, and our network across the Americas where donations and loans
have been pouring in to ensure the
speediest release for the arrestees.
We encourage you to help spread the word to ensure the
people who put themselves on the line are taken care of by our community. Please
donate here. We still desperately need to pay back our loans and raise
additional money that will be needed for the state charges and court fees.