Human Rights Advocates to Report to Prison for Civil Disobedience Opposing Controversial Training Facility for Latin Americans Print
Washington, DC ? Eleven human rights advocates ? including a Maryknoll nun, a 79-year-old retiree, students, and a farmworker ? will report to federal prisons around the country today to begin serving three- to six-month sentences for acts of nonviolent civil disobedience opposing the US Army?s School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC). The eleven were arrested at Fort Benning in November of 2004 as part of an annual demonstration calling for the closure of the controversial training facility.

The SOA, now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC, is a military training school located at Fort Benning where over 60,000 Latin American security personnel have been trained in courses including counterinsurgency, psychological warfare and interrogation techniques. Graduates of the school have been consistently linked to human rights violations and to the suppression of popular movements in Central and South America.

?The SOA/ WHINSEC claims to promote democracy,? said Fr. Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch. ?What message are they sending to the militaries and governments of Latin America when they jail these nonviolent protestors who are exercising their rights as citizens in a democracy?"

The eleven people reporting to prison today were among 16,000 gathered at the gates of Fort Benning, home of the SOA/ WHINSEC, on November 20-21 to call for the closure of the institution. At the culmination of a solemn ?funeral procession? memorializing the victims of graduates of the school, fifteen people peacefully crossed onto the military base and were arrested. Since protests against the SOA/ WHINSEC began fifteen years ago, more than 180 people have served prison sentences of up to two years for nonviolent civil disobedience.

?There is no jail that can contain the truth,? stated Elizabeth Nadeau, 27, of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Nadeau, a Steelworker and graduate student, will report to Pekin Federal Prison today to begin serving a 90-day sentence.

Last week Representative James McGovern (D-MA) introduced a bill to the House of Representatives calling for the closure and investigation of the SOA/ WHINSEC. The bill was introduced with more than 75 bi-partisan co-sponsors.

SOA Watch is a national, grassroots, faith- and conscience-based organization committed to nonviolence. SOA Watch has held a demonstration at the main entrance to Ft. Benning each November since 1990 calling for the closure of the SOA/ WHINSEC.