43 Human Rights Activists Charged On Eve of Massive Demonstrations Print
A federal prosecutor filed charges against 43 human rights activists yesterday in Columbus, Georgia. The group was among 10,000 who gathered last November to call for the closure of the notorious School of the Americas, (renamed “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation”). The 43 nonviolent protesters crossed onto Ft. Benning, site of the school. They face up to six months in federal prison and $5,000 in fines. A June trial date is expected.

School of the Americas (SOA) Watch, a national grassroots movement with a 12-year history of uncompromising nonviolent direct action, is among the groups that have been organizing for the protests in Washington DC this weekend. SOA Watch is mobilizing thousands to lobby, rally, march and engage in nonviolent direct action to call attention to the SOA and US policy toward Colombia.

Seventy-one people have served a total of over forty years in prison for engaging in nonviolent resistance in a broad-based campaign to close the school. Last year 26 people were prosecuted, including Dorothy Hennessey, an 88 year-old Franciscan nun who was sentenced to six months in federal prison.

“Those who speak out for justice are facing prison time while SOA-trained torturers and assassins are operating with impunity,” said SOA Watch founder Fr. Roy Bourgeois.

The SOA/WHISC is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers. Its graduates are consistently involved in human rights abuses and atrocities. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals used at the school that advocated the use of torture, extortion and execution.

“The SOA is the terrorist training camp in our own backyard,” said Bourgeois.

SOA Watch works to stand in solidarity with people of Latin America, to change oppressive US foreign policy, and to close the SOA/WHISC.