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Victory: First Amendment Rights Triumph Over Columbus Police and Fort Benning Officials! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Karolina Babic   
Thursday, 04 September 2014 20:45
We did it! Fort Benning officials and the Columbus police tried to shut down the November Vigil by attempting to limit the number of participants and by denying SOA Watch a permit to set up a stage and sound system, but justice prevailed. We will return to the gates of Fort Benning from November 21-23. Following a coordinated grassroots pressure campaign, and negotiations with the Columbus Police Department and their team of private and public attorneys, they backed down and ended their efforts to curtail our constitutional rights.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 September 2014 21:11
12 Members of Congress, 75+ Organizations & 7,000 Human Rights Activists Demand Justice PDF Print E-mail

For immediate release
SOA Watch Contact:
Hendrik Voss, National Organizer,202-234-3440

Constitutional Rights Under Attack in Georgia: US Representatives, 75+ Organizations Demand Protest Restrictions Be Lifted

Columbus, Georgia – The Columbus police department has received some national and international attention after Columbus police chief Ricky Boren announced unconstitutional restrictions on the annual November 21-23, 2014 Vigil to Close the School of the Americas (SOA, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) at the main gates of Fort Benning, Georgia. According to the police, the annual gathering of thousands of should be limited to 200 people. The permit to set up a stage and sound system has been denied.

The suggestion by the Columbus police that SOA Watch should abandon plans for a protest at the main gates of the base, and instead apply for a new permit for a side road near a back entrance, was rejected by organizers, who vow to continue the 24-year tradition of honoring those killed by SOA/WHINSEC graduates at the main gates of the base.

This week, 12 Members of Congress intervened in the conflict. In a letter to the Columbus mayor and police chief, Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (MI), Jim McGovern (MA), John Lewis (GA), Hank Johnson (GA), Sam Farr (CA), Danny K. Davis (IL), Barbara Lee (CA), Michael Capuano (MA), Peter DeFazio (OR), Jan Schakowsky (IL), Maxine Waters (CA), and Luis Gutierrez (IL) asked the local authorities to lift the restrictions and to let the Vigil go forward unimpeded. The lawmakers write “While the demonstration may impede traffic and constitute an inconvenience to Ft. Benning, these types of disruptions are part and parcel of our country’s proud tradition of vigorous free speech.”

Thousands of activists and more than 75 national and international human rights and social justice organizations have signed petitions and written letters to Columbus authorities in support of SOA Watch’s first amendment rights.

Thousands have gathered every November for the nonviolent demonstration since the first anniversary of the 1989 SOA graduate-led massacre of 16-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos and six Jesuit priests at the University of Central America in El Salvador. SOA Watch calls for the closure of the institute, which exports the militarization of police, perpetuates coups, torture, extrajudicial killings, and human rights abuses in the face of social and political problems. The SOA/WHINSEC made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released SOA training manuals that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Among its graduates are at least 11 dictators as well as leaders of infamous Central American death squads. SOA/WHINSEC graduates are currently linked to the Honduran military coup and the repression campaign against social movements there, among other humanitarian crises.


Want to know what we've been up to? PDF Print E-mail

Dear Friends,

We would like to let you know that the next issue of our bi-annual publication ¡Presente! is about to go to print.

Would you like to receive a free copy of our newspaper in the mail? If you would like to receive one, click here.

¡Presente! is a tool of the movement to close the School of the Americas/WHINSEC that we use to share the news of our struggle and to engage in a broader analysis on how to resist militarization, critique oppressive U.S. foreign policy, speak out against human rights abuses and foster cross-national solidarity with Latin America. We are committed to send ¡Presente! free of charge to everyone who wants to receive the newspaper, but donations to cover the costs of printing and mailing are always welcome.

The upcoming issue of ¡Presente! includes articles on the root causes of migration by unaccompanied Central American minors, police militarization in the U.S./abroad, a report on SOA Watch’s recent "Youth Encuentro" that brought 33 young leaders from 18 countries together in Venezuela as well as important information about our upcoming 25th annual November Vigil at Fort Benning in Georgia - and much more.

You can get even more actively involved in the movement by becoming a distributor of ¡Presente! in your community! You can order the newspaper in bulk at http://soaw.org/order and help us reach more people in your city! Since SOA Watch is a grassroots movement, we need and appreciate the initiative of people like you, who step up and help to spread the word in more places!

In Solidarity,

SOA Watch

Denial of 1st Amendment Rights will not halt Nonviolent Resistance on 25th Anniversary Vigil PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   
Tuesday, 22 July 2014 21:17
Dear Friends, Father Roy Bourgeois

Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren is messing with the wrong movement.

This year, as we prepare to gather for the 25th Vigil to Close the School of the Americas, he is trying to stop us from speaking truth to power at the main gates of Fort Benning as we have done since the first anniversary of the brutal massacre at the University of Central America in 1989.

In the protest permit “approval” he sent me, he’s denied our right to set up a stage and speakers so the messages from survivors of ongoing SOA-graduate violence in Colombia and Honduras can share with us their stories. And he’s said we cannot be in the street, and no more than 200 protesters at a time can be on the sidewalks of Fort Benning Road.

This political attack on our First Amendment rights cannot stand. I give you my word, we will fight this, and ensure a safe and legal space for all who wish to attend this year’s 25th anniversary Vigil (November 21-23). SOA Watch organizers and attorneys from the SOA Watch Legal Collective are working on the case, and we know that justice is on our side.

Will you stand with me, and sign this petition to Police Chief Boren urging him to reconsider his unjust denial of our right to peaceably assemble at the main gates of Fort Benning?

By standing together, our power cannot be denied, and we will raise our voices in solidarity with those struggling on the ground in Latin America against the violence and oppression wreaked by this infamous institute and corrupt US foreign policies. The vigil weekend will also include a march to the nearby Stewart Detention Center, a privately-run, for-profit immigrant prison, where thousands of our brothers are being held simply for seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Many of those who are incarcerated there had to escape the devastating consequences of past and present U.S. foreign policy in the region.

Thank you for your courage and solidarity, and keep an eye out for further updates as we prepare for what will be a Vigil to remember. Make your travel plans!

Yours in struggle,
Father Roy Bourgeois
Father Roy Bourgeois
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phone: 202-234-3440
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