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Dec 15th
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Moving the Vigil to DC? PDF Print E-mail
Ad your opinion about the proposal to move the 2010 November Vigil from Fort Benning, Georgia to Washington, DC.

ImageNovember 2009 marks the 20th anniversary of the massacre of 14-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos, and six Jesuit priests at the University of Central America in San Salvador. The movement to close the SOA will gather for the annual November Vigil in 2009 at the gates of Fort Benning in Georgia, to commemorate the victims of the SOA/WHINSEC, to call for the closure of the school and to demand a change in foreign policy.

Vermont SOA Watch has proposed to move the following November vigil (2010) to Washington, DC, if the school has not been closed by then. The proposal has initiated a dialogue within the movement about the vigil location and about the best strategies for our campaign. What do you think?


Dolores Prez-PriemDolores Perez Priem
SOA Watch West

"Yes, I like that idea.  There seems to be less national media coverage of the annual Fort Benning event anymore.  With a new administration, we should make ourselves more prominent at our nation's capital, since that is where the policy is made, and only through a policy change will this military training school be closed!  It has many possibilities."

 

Francisco HerreraFrancisco Herrera
Trabajo Cultural Caminante

" We have been committed with Ft. huachuca during the last two years, but had not been able to be there on the acutal date as we have been going to benning. However, because of schedules this year we will be able to be at both. Ft. Huachuca, as many of you know, is the place where the imfamous torture manuals used at benning were created. It is also the place from where Abu Graib has been run since the u.s. invasion of iraq in 03. It is also the central listening headquarters of all military personell calling there families from around the world and the training ground for "interogators," around the world.  It is a very important place for us to be witnessing and makes sense for the connection between benning and huachuca to grow. "

 

Gail TaylorGail Taylor
Farmworker from DC

"Until the SOA/WHINSEC closes, we should continue to have a presence at the school. Converging at Fort Benning, where the killers are being trained sends a powerful message that they will be held accountable.

On one hand, I think that the work that happens in DC is important, and we should continue to come every year to Washington to lobby our Members of Congress and demand that funding for the school be cut. As a movement, we could also discuss how many resources go into planning the fall event in Ft. Benning and the spring event in DC. Perhaps we would reach the conclusion that a balance needs to be found so that more emphasis and effort is put to pushing the legislative strategy forward, since it is currently very strong.

Nevertheless, I think moving the vigil would be a bad idea. We cannot abandon the possibilities that space offers for remembrance, accountability, and the solemnity that is apart from any one tactic. Whether direct action or legislative action or whatever else we pursue, we go back to that place to show that we have not forgotten. We can do something different in another space, but we cannot bring our ritual to another place.

I think that there is an opportunity for us to show maturity and wisdom as part of a broader social justice movement rooted in grassroots strength. We might be able to reflect on the last 20 years of SOA Watch organizing and make strategic decisions about how the vigil is organized and presented publicly, so that we are not so worried about our numbers being the most important thing. None of us can say that our lives weren't transformed by being in that place. Every year we participate in a ritual that reminds us of what the SOA/WHINSEC has given to the world. And there is an open invitation for people to come into the circle and remember the pain and suffering in their own, creative way. That space is sacred, lobbying is quite separate from that."

 

 

 

Lorraine KrofchokLorraine Krofchok
Grandmothers for Peace

"A DC protest will be just another protest in a very, very large stew pot of protests in DC.  Ft. Benning was/is unique.  If the focus is changing, well, that is another issue.  Also be reminded that the weather in DC at the end of November is cold.  Yes we "sacrifice", but then some of us cannot really tolerate the extreme cold for long periods of time.   True, GA sometimes is cold and rainy, but other times it is tolerable November in DC is cold, period. And the price of accommodations is much higher in DC than in Columbus, along with mobility problems. Unless things drastically change in our government not much would be accomplished with a move closer to them.

An action at  Ft Huachuca, AZ would again call attention to the issues and be a unique location.  Fort Benning is the focus on where the murderers were trained.  While moving to DC where the symbol of our "democracy" is, I fear a loss of purpose and yes, maybe tradition until SOA is closed.  I attended the early protests, from 1996 to 1999 when we came back to CA.  Since I have not been back to Benning, the location is not the issue with me--just the idea of the movement changing.  To leave Ft. Benning is defeating the purpose of why we vigil at the gates. To think that some members of Congress might wander out, well if they REALLY wanted, they could come to Benning. "



Joshua Cade HarrisJoshua Cade Harris
Religious scholar

" I don't think this has to be an either/or issue. My hope is that, in the coming years, the movement to close the School of the Americas will mobilize and congregate at multiple sites around the US. I feel it is important to maintain a presence at Ft. Benning and all of the military bases that play a role in training torture techniques. That being said, I am excited at the prospect of taking the message to DC in a massive mobilization that will allow for new opportunities of direct action and pressure politics." 

 

 

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Comments (10)Add Comment
soaw poc 1995, 1998-99
written by ed kinane, January 04, 2009
soaw friends,

not having read the vermont proposal, i'm not sure what the arguments in favor of moving the annual soaw convergence from the gates of ft. benning to washington d.c. are. but here are some arguments that strike me:
~ with its savings in time, travel and money, organizing an event in dc would be logistically easier for soaw staff there.
~ dc may be closer geographically (via cars, busses and planes) than columbus, ga for a larger share of the soaw movement (including campus groups).
~ the ultimate decision re closing the soa resides in or near dc: with the congress, the pentagon and with the president. we should be confronting those decision makers more directly.
~ having the annual convergence in dc might well lead to far more anti-soa citizen lobbying -- which after all is the main mission of the dc soaw office -- on thursday, friday, monday and tuesday.

arguments for continuing to converge at benning include:
~ "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
~ food and lodging, etc. are cheaper than in dc.
~ we already know the territory: lodging, parking, meeting & concert facilities, local media, federal court, etc. we have court-mandated access to ft. benning drive.
~ as lorraine krofchok points out above, november weather is generally milder in georgia than in dc. not a minor matter when much of the weekend is spent out of doors.
~ compared to dc, columbus is a small town -- more conducive to focus and a sense of community among soaw folks.
~ benning fence and grounds are key elements in sunday's liturgy. could such reverence and remembrance be generated in dc?
~ as a target of direct action, benning is far more vivid and meaningful than any of the dc institutional monoliths.
~ the columbus, ga federal court has a long history of playing into soaw hands in terms of court and prison witness -- the cutting edge of our movement.

la lucha continua,
ed





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written by Ken Hayes, January 04, 2009
It seems clear to me that we are far from consensus on this issue. And it seems to me that it is too important to be left up to the council. We need to find a process to ensure that whatever decision is made actually represents the wishes of the SOA Watch movement. We have time to do that before 2010 but that process should start immediately.
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written by Mary-Lee, January 08, 2009
We have already a visit to our legislators scheduled in February. Unless our representatives are actually in D.C., our protests are mainly a demonstration. That's fine, but I think the protests in Georgia reach their mark better.

We could schedule another protest for early or late summer in D.C., but again, unless Congress is in session and our representatives are in D.C., we risk missing the opportunity to be heard.
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Yes, protest in Washington
written by Chris, January 27, 2009
I am far away on the other side of the Atlantic but I support the suggestion of protesting in Washington. That is where the power is held. I welcome some of the actions relating to human rights already taken by President Obama but I am still waiting for him to take action on the School of the Americas. I see that the annual vigil for this year is already planned to be at Fort Benning. Maybe some people might want to protest in Washington at the same time as the vigil in Georgia? It would be nearer and easier for a lot of people to reach.
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written by JoAnn Sturzl, February 10, 2009
I like the idea of having gatherings in more than one place. For now, I prefer to continue having the rally at Fort Benning, for reasons already mentioned by others. JoAnn Dell Rapids, SD
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written by Sr. Frances Murray, OSF, April 03, 2009
Friends, my reasons for wanting to move our Presence to DC is for more practical reasons. We have been journeying to Fort Benning since 1997, and we have a significant number of our Sisters and College students go. The cost for us is getting to be too much given travel, motels, etc. I realize that we all invest and it's worth every penny, but given the economy right now, we will not be able to go to Fort Benning. It's self serving on my part, I know, but I would either like it moved (since I live on the East coast), or have gatherings in more than one place. However, there is strength in numbers so my preference is the former. In addition, a lobby day could be added were it to be in DC. Our legislators are the ones with the power to close the SOA; they need to be inundated with visits. Thanks for your consideration.
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keep it in GA
written by leigh, June 29, 2009
the history of the demonstration as well as the established traditions are important reasons for keeping it in GA. additionally, a march in DC may not be as out of the ordinary as is one in GA. something is to be said for so many people converging on a town with nothing else drawing them, with a rather out of the way location. for what it is worth, the annual protest also significantly helps the economy there.

can a focus be placed on getting more media attention some how? that might be an area we could work instead of making plans to move. also, in order to make the trek easier on people coming from far away it would be great to have improved online connections for housing and rides from the surrounding cities with larger airports. as someone living in Atlanta (and having been involved in the SOA demonstrations for over 10 years) i would be and have been willing to house folks overnight and carpool down to SOA. perhaps other people fly into airports in Florida and Alabama and would encounter similar ride/ housing connections?
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Timing
written by Marc Schuler, July 01, 2009
If you hold the protests in Dc, then be careful about doing it on a weekend. Back when I used to live back east, I would go up to weekend protests in DC. All you do then is march down empty streets between empty office buildings on a Saturday or Sunday. The city is mostly empty around you, and it seems very few people pay attention. You have to draw a really, really big crowd to make an impact.

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Director
written by Theresa Cusimano, POC 2008-2009, July 12, 2009
For what my two cents are worth recently having been released from prison for my November 2008 SOA witness, I believe DC is the way to go.

For the 20th Anniversary we should do something different. The dialog and decision makers are in DC. There are no opportunities for dialog in Ft. Benning, Judge Faircloth made that painfully clear in our last round of hearings.

I think we'd have the opportunity to really turn out all of the religious coalitions if we held it in their hub which is DC, for the most part just about every major human rights group has a presence there.

Perhaps those who feel strongly that it should remain in Ft. Benning could organize the GA protest. But we need to do something different, more visible, and impactful. I feel that the Ft. Benning, GA protest is a gathering of believers with only the local Ledger newspaper reporting on the event.

Let us combine our protest with Congressional visits to assist the understaffed legislative efforts. We are getting close, we need a bigger DC push on a grand scale.

Peace,

Theresa Cusimano
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Two Pronged Attack
written by Ray Comeau, July 17, 2009
First of all, I am a canadian, living in New Brusnwick Canada. However our present Prime Minister is a big fan of G.W. Bush , and Canada is providing funds to train foreign troops in foreign countries. So, I am as concerned as you are about seeing that The School of The Americas is closed for good.

I believe The School of The Americas was/is located at Ft. Benning, to give it a low profile. But, since the vigil has been held therefrom the beginning, I believe one should still be held there. And, another should be held simultaneously held in washington DC.. Since Obama said the coup was illegal, the theme of the vigil should promote that statement to the N(th) degree.
Ray
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