Moving the 2016 November Vigil to the Border?
The 2015 Vigil is still going to take place at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, but there are discussions within the SOA Watch movement to move the 2016 vigil to the militarized U.S./Mexico border. What do you think?
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So let's take the vigil to the border - with humility and conscientiousness, as well as that perseverance and fight that has characterized our movement.
written by Nico Udu-gama, September 01, 2015
Moving the vigil to the border would be a significant development in the movement to close the School of the Americas. The US School of the Americas - now known as WHINSEC - continues to be both a training ground for and a symbol of US intervention in Latin America. We continue to reap the bitter fruit. Increased military aid, training and support for corporate pillaging and local oligarchs in Latin America is only making life more miserable for people there, despite some notable efforts to push back that trend. People are being forced to flee their homes, and make the treacherous journey north. At the border, they are met with walls, militiamen, soldiers and bullets. The border is worsening the humanitarian catastrophe. Families are divided and it will take generations to heal.

It's time for the SOA Watch movement to join the efforts of many groups and people to address the immigration issue. Our analysis of US intervention in Latin America and beyond is important to understanding why people are forced to migrate. We have persisted despite judicial repression and official propaganda. Our movement is becoming more diverse, as well; we're seeing more young people of color standing at the gates and taking space within the movement.

The movement to close the SOA, just as the movement to end border militarization or the Black Lives Matter movement, must be a movement to end white supremacy. White supremacy founded this country, and has allowed our particular form of capitalism to thrive and benefit the 1%. So when we go to the border - or to Fort Benning, or our local police stations - we must keep this mentality at the forefront, recognize the privileges we have or don't have, and work together to reconstruct the idea of US democracy.

So let's take the vigil to the border - with humility and conscientiousness, as well as that perseverance and fight that has characterized our movement.
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Votes: +90
For 25 Years the SOA Watch Movement has been on a Journey
written by Liz Deligio, September 01, 2015
A journey to live into the radical hope that marked the lives of 14-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba, and Jesuit priest dissidents Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J., Ignacio Martín-Baró, S.J., Segundo Montes, S.J., Juan Ramón Moreno, S.J., Joaquín López y López, S.J., Amando López, SJ.

Through the years we have felt the heart break of the people and the lands devastated by the SOA, destroyed by our economic agenda and denied self –determination through our geo-political interests in Latin America.

We have been uplifted, educated, inspired, and humbled by the movements of the Americas as we have fought together against, coups, trade agreements, environmental devastation, military training, and human rights violations.

We have seen that the infamous SOA is not just a building; it is not just a policy. The School is a mindset with roots as old as the colonization of the Americas. It is the belief that land, resources and human rights are commodities that can be bought, stolen and destroyed. In that mindset there are no ancestors, no memory, and no imagination. Inside that set of beliefs Celina, Elba and the six Jesuits were dangerous enough to assassinate but not human enough to have a right to live.

The School is in the wall being erected at the border. The SOA is in the cruel logic of Plan Colombia and Plan Mérida. The School is in NAFTA and CAFTA. The School does not stay in Columbus, Georgia, it travels far and wide in its attempt to prevent the dreams of Celina, Elba and the six Jesuits to take root and flourish, overturning a 500 year old empire.

As social movement organization with roots on both sides of the border, we have come to see that we too must be able to move. That we too must follow the SOA as it devastates, controls and forcibly disappears. For we carry the ancestors, the memory and the imagination as antidote to empire in our voices, our songs, our direct action, our legislation, our Vigil, our Puppetistas and our hearts.

Over the past 25 years, the SOA Watch movement has grown and evolved from a handful of people who gathered at the gates of Fort Benning, to a hemisphere-wide movement. Thousands have been educated and mobilized to take a stand against empire and militarization, and against all that the SOA represents. New activists are joining long-term SOA Watch members, including many youth and students from multinational and working-class communities. Together, we can bring the antidote of the Vigil, the challenge to the SOA, to a new place.

As we inherited the dreams and strength of all those that the SOA has tried to silence, we seek your voice in planning how to move forward together. Let us know your vision for the November Vigil in 2016.
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Votes: +40
End Plan Mérida
written by Eva Alejandra Chavez, September 01, 2015
I think moving the the vigil to the border will be an excellent idea. Perhaps, the idea that people have over the “military training schools” is kind of far away from their realities, for which moving the vigil closer the people will be a great opportunity to expand the movement and it will give SOAW an opportunity to join the forces between different groups, and organizations who are being affected and against the militarization funded by Plan Mérida.
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Votes: +30
It's only a natural progression
written by Jerry King, September 01, 2015
I believe that it is of the utmost importance that we mobilize and face this mobilized spirit of death (SOA) and oppression, where ever it roots its self. Expanding our message in a border mobilization is only a natural progression.
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Votes: +28
The collective wisdom is moving us to respond to today's realities
written by Fr. Roy Bourgeois, September 01, 2015
In my many travels and talks, the collective wisdom is moving us to respond to today's realities. We are called to express our solidarity with the injustices taking place on the border and the US militarization that is causing so many deaths across Latin America and causing so many of our brothers and sisters to flee to the United States.
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Votes: +36
additional sites
written by Brigitte Gynther, September 01, 2015
The reality of targeted assassinations, massacres, repression, military intelligence strategies, and other horrific human rights abuses continues unabated in Mexico and Honduras. The military officials carrying out the strategies to destroy resistance to US-pushed extreme neoliberal strategies are frequently trained by the U.S., but not always at the SOA/WHINSEC. Today, Latin American soldiers trained trained at numerous military installations in the U.S in addition to the SOA/WHINSEC. Moving the SOAW Vigil to the border will enable us to protest U.S. training of Mexican, Honduran, and other Latin American militaries to impose U.S. economic and political interests at additional sites and condemn the comprehensive military and economic policies of the U.S., that are causing people to flee Central America to the U.S.
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Votes: +22
roots of migration
written by Roxana Bendezu, September 01, 2015
It’s important to recognize that maintaining a culture of militarization and training repressive foreign militaries has increased the number of people who have been forced to migrate to the US.
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Votes: +20
Voz Hispana Cambio Comunitario
written by Francisco Lopez, September 01, 2015
Voz Hispana Cambio Comunitario supports 100 percent to move November 16 to the border.
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Votes: +18
Fascinating Idea
written by Jeremy John, September 01, 2015
We've maxed out our impact in Colombus, GA. Moving to the border would allow us to mobilize and network with a very different constituency.. We could take our knowledge of nonviolent resistance and use it in a very different context and I think we could seriously make an impact on the national level.
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Votes: +29
Can SOA Watch Do Two Things?
written by Rael Nidess, September 01, 2015
It is my concern that by moving the vigil to the border that the impact of the vigil at Ft. Benning will be diluted, if not lost, in the quest for border justice. Cannot SOA Watch take on two issues? Continue the vigil at Ft. Benning with the 'Presente' demonstration for the victims of the SOA and hold a separate vigil - perhaps in coordination with other refugee justice organizations [Eg; Derechos Humanos] using the 'Presente' crosses for the victims of our border war. Both groups of victims matter and deserve their own recognition (despite their clear linkage to U.S. policies) rather than have them each subordinated akin to the ''All Lives Matter" attack on the the 'Black Lives Matter' movement.
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Votes: +13
Popular Resistance Will Support SOA Watch Either Way
written by Kevin Zeese, September 01, 2015
It important ofr people in the United States to highlight US actions south of the border, whether it is training security forces in murder, torture and other abusive actions; or whether it is trade agreements like NAFTA that rob countries of their wealth, expand the wealth divide and destroy jobs; or whether it is USAID, National Endowment for Democracy or other US agencies fomenting dissent and trying to remove governments; or immigration policies that deny people the right to move through walls and abusive enforcement; or the drug war which causes violence and corruption. Popular Resistance (www.PopularResistance.org) will support all efforts by SOAWatch and others to raise these issues and change US policies. We will promote SOAWatch actions and encourage people to participate. No matter what the decision, please keep up your excellent work.
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Votes: +16
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written by Kathy Ogle , September 01, 2015
I support the idea of moving the vigil to the border, with all necessary consultations with groups who have been doing border vigils for years. A coherent and defensible message would have to be crafted and that will be tricky. But a basic message of care for refugees ( including economic refugees) and a critical look at US policies that force migration would be in order.
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written by Bro. Mark Schroeder, O.F.M., September 01, 2015
Moving the vigil to the border allows SOA Watch to collaborate with the many local organizations already focused on various "border issues." We all know immigration injustices are rampant, and this would easily allow SOAW to bring the reminder of the School of the Americas into these organizations--and most importantly, to all taxpayers.
The Spirit is blowin' through this creative proposal, and She must be smiling right now!
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Votes: +20
important connections
written by Amanda Jordan, September 01, 2015
Moving the vigil to the border (or perhaps having two dual demonstrations) is a great idea! It would be especially important to have it near a city on the border where there has been some movement regarding the increasingly militarized police in the U.S. I think some of the decreased momentum within the movement in terms of youth involvement has been due to energies being put forward in U.S. based violence (i.e. Black Lives Matter). There are important connections to be drawn, in terms of the pervasive violence of the U.S. imperial power that also effects the poorest people in the U.S. If it is near San Diego, I'd be glad to help!
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Votes: +8
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written by B. Griffin, September 01, 2015
Do we draw attention to the cause of the problem (SOA) or one of the many symptoms that the SOA and it's abuses result in (actions at the boarder)? Moving away from GA to the boarder will cause a shift, and a refocus away from the cause of the issues that the SOA creates. I think that we should be very careful to keep the message and focus on GA. I also think that expanding to the boarder, in addition to the yearly vigil in GA is a wonderful idea. However, if the entire vigil moves to the boarder the focused message will become confused with boarder issues in general and the evils of the SOA and it's work will be lost.
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Votes: +11
Border sounds good
written by Chuck Kaufman, September 01, 2015
One of the limiting factors for AfGJ's participation in Columbus is cost and time. Having to fly into Atlanta, rent a car, and drive for two hours each way, limits the number of people we can afford to send. A vigil in a border city, presumably in Texas or California, would decrease costs and potentially make it easier for more people to participate. On the other hand, there might be fewer people who are willing to take the longer charter bus rides it would entail. I also expect that some people, whose participation in the vigil has become ritualized, will be resistance to change, yet those are probably the most faithful participants. Glad you guys have to make this tough decision and not me!
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Votes: +8
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written by Harriet Heywood, September 01, 2015
I think it is a great idea for SOA Watch to get more visibility, and also to be more visible in making the connection between Latin Americans' disappearances, deaths and neoliberal policies like NAFTA, TPP and other economic / militarization policies that continue with impunity.
I will say that there will also be a mobilization in D.C. during that time period in response to the TPP. I am hoping we can make the connection there, or possibly connect the dots at the border as well.
Thank you,
Harriet Heywood
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Votes: +7
A vote for a mobilization in Tijuana/San Diego
written by Kyle, September 01, 2015
Maybe at Friendship Park or the San Ysidro crossing?
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Votes: +1
Border vigil
written by James Skillman, September 01, 2015
It may make sense and be good policy to have the 2016 vigil at the border, but I doubt that many of us in the Atlanta area would be able to make the trip. I suppose this night be offset by if it makes it easier to attract attendees from nearby.
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Votes: +2
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written by Chico Callman, September 01, 2015
To me it seems that the discussion of the change of venus is backwards. In a way its counter productive to start the discussion without all the analysis and debate that seems to me that should go before. It's kind of like a false discussion put out there by the SOA to be between two choices rather than starting at the beginning which in a equal society world would more likely be talking about what there wants to be accomplished. What are the specific problems to be addressed, can a goal be agreed to, would results be measureable, is there the capacity, what are some of the other ways to accomplish the goals, why this tactic out of the thousands of choices. Even though the full process is messy, I think it produces much better results in the matter of imparting organizing skills. There is not that much learning in the process of choosing between two choices and in some ways the wrong lessons could be learned.
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To border or not?
written by Michael McLaughlin, September 01, 2015
I have been to SOA twice. The first time I gave a small presentation. If you move you will draw in more folks from the SW region of the U.S and maybe fewer from the N.E. Not everyone can afford to fly in, rent a car, etc.
It is clear that SOA is evolving but it also needs focus and cannot embrace every cause that exists in the world.
One value of SOA is the conference/convention part of it which enable activists to network with each other and find support and learn from each other. You do a lot now with a modest staff. The question might be how can you best leverage the identity you have now. It might be possible to have a cycle of locations with the option to break out of that if there was a huge episode. How can you best train the younger people to be activists for the other 11 months of the year. I strongly urge folks to get hold of the Wikileaks book that just came out of Verso Press (2015) which is a kind of handbook for grasping what the foreign policy and CIA activity is, especially in Iraq which all the torture we did and or allowed there. It is all about the realist school of international relations which believes that the world is about power and power only. If you move make it as easy as possible to people to figure out low cost accomodations, how to get there, logistics and so on. I am thinking maybe alternate locations is the best way to go. More could be done with regional SOA groups and supporting them with speakers. Just some ideas. I don't pretend to have the answer. I have met wonderful people at SOA and that has been a big reason for being there. Younger people need to keep coming in . Peace!
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Votes: +12
New Ideas and Steadfastness Too
written by Ellen Barfield, September 01, 2015
As long as total respect and consultation with all existing border actionists is observed I think SOAW going to the border, either at the traditional November time or another time preferable to the current border actionists is a really good idea. Having said that though I hope we don't totally leave Ft Benning off the hook into the future!
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Votes: +14
President Chapter 27, Veterans for Peace
written by Dave Logsdon, September 01, 2015
To relinquish the beachhead we have at the gates of Ft. Benning,while it may sound exciting, would be a huge mistake in so many ways. This powerful two day transformative event in Columbus is an absolute gift to progressive action. The gathering of tribes, the Presente Procession, our veterans march on Sunday, this would be impossible to recreate anywhere! We have been sending a bus every year from Minnesota filled with a diverse group of people of all ages. This trip has been the beginning of many a peace activist. I know change has tremendous appeal, but you should weigh carefully this decision
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Votes: +14
Expanded relevance, challenges in specific participation
written by Chuck Warpehoski, September 01, 2015
i think an advantage of this is that it would move the event closer to the site of oppression* and better tie the issue to other national discussion that are more in the media. We have been finding it increasingly difficult to convince allies (even those who have been to Georgia for the event) that the focus and location is the most relevant and useful.

Conversely, it would be *much* harder for us to get a delegation down to the border. We can carpool down to GA in one long night. A trip to the border would be harder and have a lower participation rate for our location. That said, it would facilitate participation from states in the South and West.
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Votes: +2
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written by Mary Ryan-Hotchkiss, September 01, 2015
I support the idea of the 2016 SOA Watch being at the border. I'd help publicize and attend as we can.
Anything going on in Washington D.C. March 2016?
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Votes: +8
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written by walter, September 01, 2015
brilliant! all for it!
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Votes: +4
Bless your hearts
written by scott smith, September 01, 2015
I have been going to the SOA watch at the SOA for many years. I have grown to value it as much for the educational benefits about other injustices and problems in the Western Hemisphere as a memorial for those killed and disappeared at the hands of those graduates of the SOA. ONE of the issues highlighted annually at the SOA watch is immigration problems but not the only one so I do not feel having the event at the border will allow other issues (mining, trafficking, militarization of police, etc) to have equal time. Besides Texas is a big state and the time and logistics to travel to "the border" would really eliminate my participation to say nothing of others I drag along for this life changing event. The SOA is the SOA I support NOT moving the venue for practical logistical as well as symbolic reasons.
Sorry to be a wet blanket,
Scott
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Votes: +5
Time for Border Response to Militarization
written by Harriet Heywood, September 01, 2015
I think moving the vigil to the border is an important escalation for SOA Watch. This past year has seen an escalation of murder of students with impunity in Mexico, an escalation in El Salvador, and other ongoing U.S. sponsored actions of violence and oppression in Latin America. I fully support the idea! That said, some of us may find it harder to travel farther, but more people from western areas will find it easier to attend!
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Votes: +3
VOLUNTEER
written by Ana Maria Vasquez, September 01, 2015
YES SOA NEEDS TO BE ON THE BORDER THIS IS WHERE MILITARIZATION IS DESTROYING THE UNITY OF OUR BELOVED ABYA YALA THIS IS THE TRUE NAME OF OUR CONTINENT NOT THE COLONIZERS NAME OF AMERICA. ABYA YALA MEANS EARTH GERMINATING ALIVE FOR ALL OF US. I SUGGEST THE NOGALES BORDER FOR IT IS THE EASIEST TO DO A BINATIONAL VIGIL THERE, EL PASO AND CIUDAD JUARES ARE MORE DIFFICULT. WE REMBEMBER IN NOGALES ON 2016 THE FOURTH YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF JOSE ANTONIO ELENA RODRIGUEZ BY THE US BORDER PATROL.... 16 YEAR OLD SHOT ACROSS THE BORDER.
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Votes: +4
To the border!
written by Rami Elamine, September 01, 2015
I really like the idea of moving the protest to the border. Just the kind of counter to the racism and xenophobia we're seeing on the rise.
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militarization has evolved, and so should this movement
written by Nick Copeland, September 01, 2015
In many ways, the point of application of military and structural violence has shifted materially and symbolically from training Latin American militaries (although this still continues and produces awful effects) to the militarized border. Shifting the protest location would be a powerful symbol of the connections between the histories of dirty war to the interlinked humanitarian catastrophes of forced migration, border militarization, the drug war, and criminalization/exploitation of migrants. It would also connect the anti SOA movement, which has an amazing history, to a new generation of activists.
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Votes: +6
No Need To Relocate - Stewart Detention Center in SOA's Backyard
written by A. Stuesse, September 01, 2015
SOA is right next door to one of the largest immigrant detention centers in the country, Stewart Detention Center, with the highest rate of deportation anywhere. Seems to me it remains a location ripe for protest about all sorts of present-day realities around militarization and criminalization, and more--it's a key site for raising awareness about the invisibilization of immigrants in detention by virtue of their regular transfers to remote locations such as Lumpkin, GA. So, while I agree with the idea that SOAW should do more to link its foreign policy concerns to those of immigration and racialization in the US, I don't think a move to the border is necessary to do so. SOA has these problems in its own backyard.
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Votes: +16
Ms.
written by Caroline Besse Webster, September 02, 2015
In all of the Eastern half of the U.S. I don't know of as uniquely powerful a protest as the School of the Americas Watch for all it has to say about our nation's dirty history of corporate greed, the fall out from abuse of Latin American civilians by SOA graduates and suffering of descendants. Will taking the focus away from SOA/Whinsec abandon the need to bring still living criminal graduates to accountability? We need to protest the US/Mexican border but there are also undocumented refugees here in the East, even children without parents, who rode The Beast. We need to bring more people into the SOAWatch from all parts of the nation, to make known the other part of the history of the elite Fort Benning and the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA. The time honored American tradition of Civil Disobedience in the sacrifice made by our SOAW Prisoners of Conscience must not be forgotten. Let us manage to keep both the Fort Benning vigil and another at the Border.
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Votes: +12
volunteer with Border Patrol Victims Network
written by Richard Boren, September 02, 2015
While I haven't attended the Nov. vigil in 10 years I know others who have and know that it continues to be a worthwhile endeavor. I commend SOAW for considering a change although I would understand a decision to keep the vigil in GA. Instead of trying to offer an opinion I want to share some videos I've produced of vigils in El Paso/Juarez; Nogales, AZ/Sonora; and San Diego/Tijuana which might help your discernment. I have visited other border areas in Texas which certainly merit consideration, such as Laredo/Nuevo Laredo or the Rio Grande Valley, but have no videos.
Here's a video I did in Nogales, AZ of a Catholic mass mobilization with hundreds of people that could serve as a possible vigil site:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZ3FKqNmEOo
Here's a video of a Border Patrol Victims Network 48 hour vigil that was held on both sides of the border in Nogales
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HdJbRi0eSU
Here's another video from Nogales "The U.S. Border Patrol, "Honor First?" or Taking Justice into their own hands"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oByurQPpMxc
Here's a video from a site near El Paso/Juarez where many vigils have been held including this one last June (it is probably too isolated though for the soaw vigil). El Paso is the home to Ft. Bliss.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taX2kSUB7bc
Finally here's a video of the San Ysidro/Tijuana crossing where a press conference/vigil was held
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nODi1_prbkg
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written by Pablo Orozco-Castro, September 02, 2015
Yes! So much is happening at the boarder and This would be a great opportunity for the movement to spread to the southwest and spread awareness of lives being lost!
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Come to the Border
written by Kristen Bowdre, September 02, 2015
I fully support the move for SOA Watch to the border for the November vigil. As someone who lives and works on the border, I can't make it out to the events in Ft. Benning, and I know many activists who would love to be able to participate, and would be able to do so if it were moved to the border.
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Votes: +5
Dr.
written by Jacob Selchau, September 02, 2015
I advise against moving the vigil to the border. The injustices of the border area are already well-known, while the School of the Americas has been partially forgotten. I advise focusing on the School still.
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Votes: +6
Undocumented and Unafraid / Sin Documentos y Sin Miedo
written by Pancho Ramos-Stierle, September 02, 2015
Now that there's a terrible war in the part of the Planet we call Mexico backed up by SOA and the military industrial complex; now that the Mexican government is in its lowest levels of credibility and, therefore, willing to murder journalists, students and teachers as taught in SOA; it seems like a this vigil could have a perfect timing to ignite a larger and more committed movement and collaboration beyond borders.

I'd be delighted to travel from Oakland to the militarized borders to bring it down with Great Love.

Undocumented and unafraid,
in radical love,
pancho
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written by Jane Stillwater, September 02, 2015
It would be easier to get to the border, I agree. But where? El Paso? Tijuana?
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written by Tawana Petty, September 02, 2015
I think the move to the border is a necessary escalation, however, I am not confident that such a move can be strategically done in such a short timeframe. There must be respectful coordination with those who are on the ground already doing border work, and will be left with the aftermath of our actions when we leave. Also, our legal strategy and bail support must be in tact. Many times, we come from a privileged perspective when we do actions that risk jail time, so the legal ramifications aren't always considered. Many who attend may be undocumented or have previous blemishes on their record. Moving to the border means we have to consider potential legal support of hundreds, possibly thousands instead of the few who voluntarily hop the gate or cross the barrier traditionally.

I will be in attendance no matter where we end up, but would like us to be intentional and strategic in our considerations.

In love and in struggle,

Tawana
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Votes: +4
Professor and College Chaplain, Centre College
written by Rick Axtell, September 02, 2015
I like this idea very much in terms of expanding the message and making the connections between what we have been doing and the xenophobia, injustice, and militarization related to our border and immigration policies, partnering with other groups working at the border, etc. But for most of the colleges in the middle west, upper south and east coast who regularly send vanloads of students to the annual Ft. Benning vigil, I think a November event at the border would be prohibitive. We would probably not be able to swing this after many many years of traveling to Columbus. But of course, a border event would allow participation for many college groups from Texas and the southwest who have not been able to make the long trip to Georgia.
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The Border Needs SOA People
written by Carolyn Kessler, SP, September 02, 2015
With immigration making daily news, and presumably will continue to do so all through the run-up and after next year's presidential election, this is a very appropriate time to plan a border visit. Laredo, which is a major hub for going to Mexico City and on to Central America, would be a central place to go. San Antonio is about a two-hour drive there, the closest of the border cities. (NAFTA is very tied to San Antonio, which supports it very much.) Dilley is between SA and Laredo, site of the immigration center holding mothers with their children. We can hope that will be over by next year but those changes move very slowly. Trump recently was in Laredo, pitching his plan to build a huge wall, over 1900 miles long. This is a really awful idea that impinges on human rights on both sides of the border.
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written by Jimmy Dunson, September 02, 2015
Coming from Florida, I doubt that I would be able to attend the SOAW vigil in the southwest as much as I have been able to attend the Georgia one over the last few years. But I believe a move like this would make the vigil more accessible to people on the front lines of resistance to U.S. militarization in the Americas, prioritizing the voices of immigrants and indigenous peoples. And I am sure there are many allies as well who live in the Southwest, who would be more likely to attend if the vigil was held there. I support whatever decision you all make. I trust that it is well thought out, researched, and has the best interests of the movement at heart.
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Where exactly?
written by Mario Quijano, September 02, 2015
What information you have about the "zonas militares" along the border? What units? Who are the commanders? Are any of these SOA graduates? What are their backgrounds? What actions can be taken? Block a crossing point? Distribute pamphlets in the bridges themselves where traffic moves very slowly? We need a well planned campaign.
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Votes: +4
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written by Carolina Dutton, September 02, 2015
I think moving the vigil to the border next year is an excellent idea. It moves the vigil to the very place of so much militarization, and criminalization now and also we can highlight that the militarization (the so called drug war) which the US is behind in central america and mexico is forcing so many people to migrate now.
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Yes! Si! Excelente!
written by Mary, September 02, 2015
I do think this is a wonderful idea and a way to get more people involved. I've been twice to the event, not sure if I can make it this year but the location for me is not an issue since I'm in NY... both are far.
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written by Tawana Petty, September 02, 2015
I think a move to the border is a necessary escalation by SOA Watch, but I'm not sure it can be orchestrated properly in such a short timeframe. There must be intentional outreach with organizers on the ground already doing border work, as they must be considered in our assessment of the aftermath to the community after we leave. Also, our legal strategy must be in tact. There will likely be many in attendance who are undocumented or may have other blemishes on their records. The risk for arrest and ramped up militarization is inevitable at the border, and not everyone will be easily bailed out, if arrested. So, we must be prepared to offer jail support and additional legal support to those who will likely be targeted for arrest and detention. It is easy to come from a privileged perspective when we think of doing something like moving to the border, and risking arrest, but we must consider those who will bear the brunt of our decision.

I will be in attendance no matter where we end up, but think it's important that we are intentional and strategic as we move to heighten the contradictions. Our visit must not cause additional harm to the communities we are seeking to support.

Maybe 2016 at the border would be more feasible and can be coordinated as a collaboration with organizers on the ground, doing border work.

See you all in November.

In love and in struggle,

Tawana
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President, Spokane VFP #035
written by Rusty Nelson, September 02, 2015
Columbus doesn't deserve SOAW, and the whole city will be surprised that it misses you. Ft. Benning will miss you, too. The border, done right, may be a logistics nightmare, but having 5000 there will mean more than the ritual sacrifice of 4 or 5 more prison martyrs from among those of us who gather for the joy of being with Roy and other heroes. I don't want to undermine my valiant brothers in MN VFP, but Spokane VFP can no longer get folks to GA without something new and fresh. What would Bix do?
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written by Butch Turk, September 02, 2015
Would it be too ambitious to have 3 gatherings a year - D.C. lobbying, the border, and SOA? It is still important to close the SOA and it would be a little weird for the group to abandon its namesake.
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2016 to the border we go!
written by Tawana Petty, September 02, 2015
Yes, with intentional organizing, strategy and expanded legal support, a move to the border in 2016 is a welcome and necessary escalation.
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Border Calling
written by Tom Webb, September 02, 2015
While I won't get into identity politics I do think moving the demonstrations to the border makes sense on several grounds. The border is now the nexus of activity between the US and Latin America. With the passage of NAFTA, CAFTA, the Maquilas, etc. it's very clear that relationships between Latin America and the US make the border a symbol of the long-standing crisis in relations. So moving demonstrations to the border makes sense on this score.

Next, the border has become increasingly militarized. The construction of the fence and increased patrolling of the border are one aspect. Air Force bases are now on the border in Texas. To the degree that militarization is a significant aspect of the SOA/WHINSEC strategy then the border becomes only the most recent incarnation of militarization.

Thirdly, the "border" itself is shifting in the aftermath of last summer's immigration crisis. Now, the entire country of Mexico as well as the borders between Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala have been increasingly militarized. And with the proposed "Alliance for Prosperity" now in the works should it pass that will only increase the state of militarization.

But moving to the border is only one piece of this question. The location is the next question. It may make the most sense to organize a rotating presence each year as opposed to selecting only one site. While this may be logistically challenging it will be a very candid way of demonstrating the problems with a globalized economy and how it impacts people all along the southern frontier.
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written by Scott Satterwhite, September 02, 2015
I think moving to the border would be a logical progression for the protests. That said, I don't think our normal delegation with Vets for Peace would be able to go. I know for me, and I imagine a number of somewhat-locals, the trip to Columbus is possible because of its proximity. The closest border town would be too difficult for us to drive and too expensive to fly to, as much as we might support the idea. I agree with one of the statements someone said that the Columbus protests may have reached their maximum impact stage, but I honestly can't see us making the trek to South Texas or elsewhere for this protest in the future. This doesn't mean we don't support whatever move SOA needs to do to stay vital, but I'd be sad if this moved. By far, the SOA protests have been the largest annual meeting place for the movements in the South. I'd hate to see that leave, and because of the distance, I imagine that would be the case for many people outside of the border areas. At least those who are travelling to Columbus who aren't part of any large delegations (the ones in the busses). You might gain new people in the region, though, which might be fruitful. While I think this could possibly be good, I'd be sad for what was lost---and honestly a little skeptical that a move would translate into larger or more noticable crowds (I could be wrong, though). It's a gamble. I wish it wouldn't happen, but I see why it might...and it makes sense.
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Support for Border Vigil
written by Val Liveoak, September 02, 2015
When I saw the request for input, I immediately forwarded it to a larger group of activists in the San Antonio TX. areal. I'm hoping for a big YES! from them.
We've been working to close the prisons (AKA Family Detention Centers) in Karnes City and Dilley TX where women and children are held, and to get individual families released from the Centers.
I think have a SOAW Vigil in the region--I'd prefer no further West than El Paso/Juarez, and ideally on both sides of the border is a fantastic idea.
Having read the comments, I think having dual or multiple Vigils, with one remaining at Ft. Benning, might be better if there's the energy to organize them, but having a big one, with the good educational activities before the actual demonstration would be wonderful.
Please keep me posted. I'll try to register, hope it works.
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Nothing ventured, nothing gained
written by Chris Lieberman, September 02, 2015
It's hard to judge any outcome in advance. But, what harm can come from trying to express our solidarity with the injustices taking place on the border and the US militarization that is causing so many deaths across Latin America? The SOA/WHINSEC closure Movement could always choose to pivot back to a Ft. Benning witness and protest site after the 2016 "experiment." I remember stories of Fr. Bourgeois climbing a tree at Ft Benning in the night to play audio recordings of martyred Archbishop Óscar Romero's sermons . . . creativity and courage allow people's conscience to be touched. Perhaps moving the witness location to a boarder site would allow us to "climb other trees" and share a prophetic witness in new ways.
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written by Norma Price, September 02, 2015
I am in favor of going where it would do the most good. I am too old at this point to do anything but support.
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retired lawyer
written by Jesus B Ochoa Jr, September 02, 2015
I think the main focus needs to be on the witness in Georgia, where so many people have been sentenced to prison. This focal point cannot absolutely be lost. I' with the vets for peace on this one and fully endorse their reasoning.

That said, I see no reason why witness actions at the border cannot be started with the participation of local activists after the Ga. witness action.

A rolling sort of witness needs to be undertaken, beginning with san diego/san isidro beging the starting poing, then Arizona, then El Paso, then down river to soueast Texas.

These three of the four sites have seen significant migrant deaths at the hand of the border patrol, not sure about south texas.

No one expects people from all over the country to be able to attend all of these, but local people, with soa cadre and people from the immediate area (in the case of ep, people from new mesxico) could provide a significant presence.

In summary, any border witness would be in support of Ga. action, but would provide a platform for information about ice-bp inhumane and often criminal tactics.
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written by Paula Miller, September 02, 2015
I support moving the vigil to the border for many of the reasons already stated and would add that the militarization of the border in Southern Arizona in particular would be a good location for the following reasons - there is well organized resistance already happening in Nogales with the Border Patrol Victims Network as well an ongoing campaign to remove the checkpoint in Arivaca. The proximity to the military base Fort Huachuca is especially important both historically with its connection to the torture manuals and currently with development of drone warfare development both globally and in the desert where it is located. In Tucson there is the campaign to end Operation Streamline -the federal court that criminalizes immigrants and funnels them to private prisons as well as capacity to host a national gathering. An hour north of Tucson there are 5 immigration detention centers that also has organized resistance to shut them down. I live in Tucson and have worked with many of the different activists groups in Tucson and would be willing to help think through if this makes sense or can help convene a group of folks in Tucson to see what they think. I think it would be welcomed and supported. Feel free to contact me.
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Current US Immigration Policy is
written by A J MacDonald Jr , September 02, 2015
I vote to keep the November vigil at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

Current US policy allows families who cross the US/Mexico border into the US illegally, after arrest by US Border Patrol and future court dates set by ICE, to travel together by bus into other parts of the US where they settle.

You can see this for yourself by following KGBT Action News out of Rio Grande Valley, Texas.

Undocumented Crossings https://youtu.be/bveE5_XYoiA via @YouTube

Undocumented Children https://youtu.be/XqoJ8cb1t1w via @YouTube

Sacred Heart church lends helping hand to immigrant families https://youtu.be/O8pZaqHG8v4 via @YouTube

PKG 5P SACRED HEART https://youtu.be/ysI8MAzx28I via @YouTube

Volunteers undocumented immigrants left at McAllen Central Bus Station https://youtu.be/cN2pRUV7JKU via @YouTube

Photos: Immigrants arrive at Sacred Heart shelter tagged with tracking devices - http://www.valleycentral.com/n...cVnh51Viko

Immigrants released wearing GPS bracelets (via @kgbt) http://www.valleycentral.com/n...cVm651Viko
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Reverend
written by Neal T. Anderson, September 02, 2015
I was heartened to read this proposal in today's e-mail. I have been both to Fort Benning with SOA and to the Border region with Borderlinks and UUA/UUSC. It would be a very important mobilization to bring the Shut Down the SOA movement to the ever more militarized Border region. I plan to join you in November 2016 for this important action.
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Past President of the Board of BorderLinks and SOAW Prisoner of Conscience
written by Ken Kennon, September 02, 2015
We would welcome SOAW to the Arizona border. BorderLinks (with its more than 25-year history, and growing out of the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980's, and its many partner organizations, could provide significant support for this effort.
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Against moving the vigil away from Ft. Benning
written by Francois Guillot, September 02, 2015
I understand the reasoning behind it and how the issues are related, but I think the movement should focus on the SOA, and the vigil should take place at Ft. Benning. There are plenty of immigrant advocates and that topic is largely discussed in the media and elsewhere. The SOA is still a relatively unknown, rarely discussed issue and needs all the attention it can get. Moving the vigil to the border will dilute the discussions and blur the focus.
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anthorpologist
written by anamaria ashwell, September 02, 2015
A vigil at our common US-Mexican border is long overdue.The border has become a graveyard not only for immigrants but for legality, social justice and humanity. It will spill awareness on the hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees at borders all over the world seeking to survive poverty, political persecution and wars in their own homeland. It will focus awareness on Méxicos´s southern border where people like Solalinde fight and denounce corruption and human right´s violations on the Mexican side and where the military presence have victimized people with the same racists overtones documented in our northern border.It will bring awareness on the extreme violence exerted on women and children at these and all borders.
We are carrying out our own vigil at our own "border" right here in Cholula: every monday night, at 8 P.m. we stand together, people from Cholula, in front of the mayor's office reminding him and the governor of Puebla, Rafael Moreno Valle, that we want freedom for our two neighbors (Adan y Paul Xicale) who have been unjustly jailed since October 2014 for resisting the construction of a commercial park on archaeological grounds in the vicinity of the great pyramid (the biggest in volume in the world) and protected by law since 1993.This is a national heritage site and for millennials has been considered sacred grounds.
anamaria ashwell
anthropologist
San Pedro Cholula MEXICO
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Participant delegate
written by Omar Barberena, September 02, 2015
Yes. I can concur with overwhelming comment to support other grassroots movement and a call for unification. BLM, immigration, equal rights, living wages etc and building a more a strong supportive network of groups for a common cause, is a great idea.
I do support moving SOA Watch to the border.
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Venue Change
written by Cally Golding, September 02, 2015
I guess I want to know WHERE on the border. A change may invigorate participation, but is it meaning a change in focus for the SOAW?? The original goal has not yet been achieved. This almost seems like abandoning that goal for a new one. A new venue would have to support a large crowd in terms of hotels, restaurants and meeting places. what exactly would the purpose/goal be for this change?
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written by Ann Williams Cass, September 02, 2015
Come to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas border, McAllen. That is where the refugees are still pouring in, the border is militarized, and our brothers and sisters in Reynosa and Matamoras are experiencing the violence of the Zeta drug cartels, trained by the SOA in the 90s. We have lots of support here as well to offer you. Sr. Moira Kenny, RSM, a prisoner of conscience in 2003 for SOA, lives here, as well as Jennifer Harburry.
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written by Ann Williams Cass, September 02, 2015
Come to the Rio Grande Valley border of Texas, McAllen. Here is where the refugees are still pouring over the border, we are militarized, and our brothers and sisters right across the river are terrorized by the Zeta drug cartels, trained by the SOA. Also, Jennifer Harburry lives here as well as Sr. Moira Kenny, RSM, a prisoner of conscience with SOA in 2003.
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Organization: Global Justice Publishing
written by Bo Filter, September 02, 2015
Dear Gentle People,

I would not like to see a border demonstration in lieu of Fort Benning, but rather both. Keep in mind the three 60 million megalopolitan population centres in America: Chicago, east coast, and west coast. I live on the west coast in Canada.

Because of the long drive and cost, I have been able to attend Fort Benning only once so far. I am much better positioned to attend a border crossing demonstration near San Diego, if you chose to have demonstrations stretched across border states.

Keep up the great work. We are edging closer to ending war.

Bo Filter
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This Makes So Much Sense!
written by Steve Pavey, September 02, 2015
This makes so much sense! A vigil at the border will raise greater awareness of the SOA and provide deeper understanding of the problem we face, & would represent a powerful symbol of solidarity. It makes sense because it fits with the Mission of SOA Watch which " is a nonviolent grassroots movement that works to stand in solidarity with the people of Latin America and the Caribbean, to close the SOA/WHINSEC and to change oppressive U.S. foreign policy that the SOA represents. We are grateful to our sisters and brothers throughout Latin America and the Caribbean for their inspiration and the invitation to join them in their struggle for economic and social justice."
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Border Protest in Nov 2016 - A Good Idea
written by Peter Lowber, September 02, 2015
With all the anti immigrant hysteria and racism- a border protest against US immigration policies in Nov 2016 is a good idea. It is a timely opportunity to stand on the side of human rights and justice-- to expose the jailings and detentions of undocumented people, and to form alliances with immigrant communities.
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written by John Hazard, September 02, 2015
I haven't been to Fort Benning. I'm a U.S. born dual citizen, living in central Mexico, and would go to the border, especially if it's Texas, much more easily than to Georgia. Keep in mind that November 20 is Día de la Revolución in Mexico, historically, but that it's been moved to a Monday to strip it of political content and that Monday this year is Nov. 17. The 20 is a Friday and some groups organize political actions that day.
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written by Sonia Silbert, September 03, 2015
I think it sounds like a good idea to move it - it's fresh, relevant to current issues, would probably bring in new energy and people, since you've been doing the vigil for so long. However, it would be harder for people from DC to go, so we're less likely to organize a van, though honestly we haven't done that in the past few years anyway. But I assume it would be much more accessible for people living in other parts of the country, if you have the ability to do local organizing there. I like that it could expand the scope of what you're talking about to other impacts and causes of militarism besides one training program. Nov 2016 will also be right after the presidential election, which offers interesting opportunities - lameduck Obama, new Prez and Congress... Sounds like a great idea to me!
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"We must create a thousand Vietnams" - protest wherever a Mexican official shows up
written by Mario Quijano, September 03, 2015
If you move to the border you are obviously targeting the failed Plan Merida. Now, it is very common for the puppet government of Mexico to send its president to some events in the USA or to receive orders from the White House. SOA should be present protesting Plan Merida at each and evary event the President of Mexico or a representative (ambassadors, consuls, etc.) attend.

Mario Quijano
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Absolutely!
written by Ali Boyd, September 03, 2015
I would highly suggest moving the vigil to the border. I was there a few years ago when Father Roy crossed into Mexico at the Anapra fence. It is very powerful. The movement is animated by the border context in so many ways. It makes sense to move it down there.
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written by Paul Fitch, September 04, 2015
I would vote for a location in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, and also suggest a component on the other side of the border, to show support to the struggles there and to witness that reality. Whereas militarism and borders exist to maintain unjust divisions in this world, our movement is to unite and break down barriers in the name of peace and shared humanity. The School of the Americas is an abomination but I think the border represents a clearer front line at present. To go to Georgia most years I experience as a heartfelt pilgrimage and coming together to envision about and strategize for a better world, but it seems to be loosing some of its spark and going to the border, even if just one time, could help to revitalize this protest/vigil.
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written by Andria Shores, September 04, 2015
I think that is a great idea.
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Move Spring Days of Action
written by Kenneth Hayes, September 04, 2015
I live in Austin, TX so a border vigil would be easier and cheaper for me to attend. But that isn't a serious concern. Spring Days of Action haven't drawn significant participation for years and there isn't much hope of progress there until the elections. Also we don't risk "losing our beach head" in Columbus. I would also support doing a third action instead of moving the November vigil. I think most of us who live in the border states have been involved in immigration issues for many years and are happy to see SOAW doing delegations to the border and countries of origin. Whatever is decided I will attend the vigil. If there are concerns about anti immigrant vigilantes in AZ then have it in TX. There are well organized immigrants rights groups here who can deal with those clowns.
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written by Lil Mattingly, mm, September 04, 2015
Amazing how this new idea has generated so much good energy already.
I love the witness and gathering to remember the victims of SOA that's been so powerful at the gates of Ft. Benning in GA... while I also feel pretty passionate about border justice. I had the chance to work with BorderLinks 2006-2010 and learned so much about the roots of migration so well described in others' comments. For me, it would be good to join the efforts of various groups and individuals who have been working in solidarity with migrants, how they keep trying peacefully in spite of frustrations, vigilantes, and militaristic violence over the years. There is Ft. Huachuca not far from Tucson, AZ, where the torture manuals were published, then distributed at the SOA. Protests were held there for several years during a weekend close to the SOA Vigil, to show the connections. Personally, after spending many years in Bolivia, I will again be living/working near the border toward the end of 2015. We can't be everywhere, but where we are we can witness to our common bonds as sisters and brothers. At this time in the USA, this seems to be a very important issue and message, we are diverse, and one family... It will be work to figure out where and how at a point on the border, but SOAW has done incredible research and strategizing over the years, I say let's try it in 2016... I offer some energy to help and my thanks...
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Advocate
written by Dorothy South, September 08, 2015
I have been SOA supporter for the last decade. A demonstration at the border fits within the landscape of SOA's mission, as well as offering an opportunity to broaden its activism network. While others in the border movement focus on the borders' structural impact, SOA can focus on the military training contribution. I don't see joining forces as diluting the message, as your focus are does not need to be subsumed. If this is an annual event, hopefully people will make whatever sacrifice is necessary to attend in a new location. McAllen, Texas is a fantastic location in my opinion - not much is publicized about what is really going on there (see the BOSA list at Wikileaks) but I'm not sure it fits within SOAs mission. McAllen area is one of those that run joint operations with the Mexican military, with both soldiers and backup weaponry and intelligence fluidly moving across this restricted border ( https://search.wikileaks.org/advanced?page=1&q=Border Operations&exclude_words=&words_title_only=&words_content_only=BOSA&publication_type[0]=1&publication_type[1]=6&sort=1#results ). Quite the contradiction. But wherever you can find a border location utilizing SOA school methodology/training/staff would be best. I have a list of UNIFIED COMMAND MEMBER institutions from El Paso, Marfa, Del Rio, Laredo, Coastal Bend & Rio Grande if you're interested. El Paso is the most active location by volume, but McAllen/Coastal Bend region may be more active in terms of military interaction. More background: http://whowhatwhy.org/2014/07/...r-borders/ Thank-you for all you do, and no matter the decision, keep struggling.
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written by Ausra Kubilius, September 19, 2015
I support continuing the SOAW Nov. vigil in Georgia (Ft. Benning and Lumpkin detention center) AND having an SOAW presence at the Mexican border on another date, joining with group/groups already keeping vigils there.
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written by Jean Chapman, September 30, 2015
One can see many aspects to this....the struggle takes place everywhere, so while we are accustomed to coming to Ft. Benning, and there is good reason, there is good reason to be many places. Don't have a terribly strong viewpoint..would the border draw others farther West? Lose folks in the East? Don't think the Peace Walk to Soa could walk to the border:) Will follow this discussion...
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written by Kathryn Albrecht, October 09, 2015
'LIKE the idea! I would finally participate.
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written by Yvette, October 14, 2015
I would caution the suggested move from the gates of the SOA to the border. Nonprofit organizations are notorious for mission drift and once this happens messages are diluted. Stay focused and true to the mission of getting this darn training school closed for good. There are organizations working on border, immigration, nuclear weapons, etc and individuals are always welcome to join these honorable groups/missions wherevever they're at. Dont cloud the issue. Keep the focus on right where it should be...at the beginning, at the place where oppression, murder, torture, is ingrained into the soldiers who return to their countries and follow the training they received resulting in people being forced to leave the countries and families that they love in order to speak their minds, to have meaningful work, to be educated and live their lives in peace. Stay the course with eliminating the source. In the name of all the women and men who have put themselves over the gates exchanging their own freedom for prison time, let's finish what Roy started. Lets stay the course until this death school on our homeland is closed.
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Mr.
written by Robert Graf, October 14, 2015
Move SOAWatch to our university campuses that teach war and killing without conscience, as at SOA at Fort Benning. Maybe we could start with Jesuit universities like Georgetown and Marquette University. When John Dear was in Central America in 1985, Salvadoran Jesuit Ignacio Ellacuria talked about ROTC, ‘Tell the Jesuits of Georgetown that they are committing mortal sin because they are supporting the forces of death which are killing our people.’ He was assassinated in 1989.” (Father John Dear S.J. in National Catholic Reporter Online article — Jan.) How can we close SOA at Fort Benning or stop oppression at our borders when we cannot even stop teaching of war and violence at our USA campuses? (Teach War No Morel http://www.nonviolentworm.org/...e/HomePage )
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