January 17, 2001 International Day of Action to Close the SOA! Print
On January 17, 2001, the SOA re-opened it's doors under the name Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.  BUT -- it is still the same old School of Assassins and we will work even harder to shut it down and to call for a thorough, independent investigation of its history, practices and consequences.  Groups from around the country and beyond its borders organized vigils, demonstrations and nonviolent direct action at Federal buildings, Congressional offices, Army bases and other appropriate locations to protest the opening of the school.  This name change is the culmination of the Pentagon's smoke and mirrors PR campaign to give the SOA a new image.  Grassroots groups from around the country took this opportunity to create our own media events and make our voices heard throughout the land - to let the new Congress, Administration and the Pentagon know that we are not fooled by this attempt to dissociate the SOA from its brutal history and from the violence that graduates continue to perpetrate on our sisters and brothers in Latin America.    (See below for listing of cities and reports of actions.)


City and Contact:

International Actions:
Santiago, Chile ~ KAMARIKUN, http://pagina.de/kamarikun (see web site for description of action and photos)
   Report: Activists in Chile delivered a letter and petition to their President, Ricardo Largos, asking that Chile stop send military officials to the SOA/WHISC. A copy of the letter and petition was delivered to U.S. Ambassador John O’Leary. The letter and petition explain why the SOA/WHISC is an inaprropriate place to train future civil and military leaders.
Tegucigalpa, Honduras ~ Andres Thomas Conteris, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Report: Here in Tegucigalpa, Honduras we held a vigil from 10:30-11:30am with 20 people outside the U.S. Embassy with banners from various popular organizations and one saying "No to the New Military School of Assassins USA".   Members of the radio press held interviews with vigil participants including Doris Hernandez, member of the Honduras Congress from the Partido Unificaci?n Democratica (Democratic Unification).

Actions in the USA:
Atlanta, GA ~ Sadie (404)314-2230, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or Warren pager# (404)283-8148, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
   Report: Carrying signs and cardboard cutouts of camouflaged military extremists, about two dozen people gathered outside the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center on Wednesday to protest the reopening of the controversial School of the Americas in Fort Benning under a newname. They used puppets to depict atrocities committed by Latin American graduates of the school against people in their own countries. The demonstration --- which was mirrored in cities across the country and the world Wednesday --- coincided with the reopening of the school as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

Chicago, IL  ~ 8th Day Center for Justice  (312) 641-5151
   Report: 150 Vigiled; Eight Arrested; Two Extradited to Decatur (see press release.)   150 vigiled outside the federal building in Chicago from 4-6 PM. We did the "nunca mas" litany and had a few speakers and some more singing.  At the same time, ten people entered Sen. Peter Fitzgerald's Chicago office and asked to speak to the senator via phone to set up a meeting with him. Because he has been non-responsive to our requests over the last two years, we felt we needed to hear from his mouth that he would meet with us. We told his staffers that we would not leave until we heard directly from the senator and scheduled a time to meet with him personally. We explained that we would not met with staffers any more and that we needed to meet with the senator. His staffers told us that this was a ridiculous request and that he would not disturb the senator in Washington. At 5pm security came and removed us physically from the office and took us to a processing center where 8 of us were charged with "disruption (excluding physical violence)" and "fail to conform with signs and directions" because we refused to unlock arms and get off the office floor when they put us under arrest. We will receive a court date in the next few weeks. (two of the protesters with us in the office left before the arrests took place and two of the protesters are still being held due to prior CD and fines not paid for that CD.) it was a very powerful action and we felt as a group it was very productive. We are considering more CD next week.  Contacts: Joe Ferrara 773-381-0720 ; Clara Takarabe 773-588-5194; Mary Kay Flanagan @ 8th Day Center for Justice, 312-641-5151.

Dayton, OH ~ Pledge of Resistance (937)276-4077, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
      Report: [From the Dayton Daily News: 01.18.2001] "On Wednesday evening, about 25 protesters from the human-rights and peace organization Dayton Pledge of Resistance and the University of Dayton held signs outside the Federal Building criticizing the U.S. Army School of Americas and its decision to reopen as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation."

Denver - Boulder, CO ~ Richard John Kinane (303) 517-3409
     Report Two of us from Boulder traveled to Denver on Wednesday morning during rush hour and did a banner hang "Close the School of the Americas. -- www.soaw.org" at a safe interstate-overpass. Banner was seen by probably 1000+ cars.  Based on honking horns, waves, thumbs up and other gestures, we'd say that we had about a 3:1 level of support of those who honked or offered other gestures.  At noon, at least a couple of folks from Denver did a vigil in downtown Denver at one of the most busy commercial areas.
     In the evening, in Boulder, we had the first organizational meeting of the Boulder chapter of SOAW, as we plan for the coming months. On the 17th, a few of us fasted in solidarity with the Rebecca and vigilers at Ft Benning.

Dubuque, IA ~ Report: In Dubuque, Iowa we had a protest in the City Park with 20 people attending. We received great media coverage with an article and picture in the paper.

Erie, PA ~ Pax Christi USA, Paul Fesefelt (814)453-4955 ext. 225
   Report: Vigil in front of the Federal Bldg. in Erie at noon.  Our vigil went very well. There were 70-75 people there. All 3 TV stations and the newspaper were there. Ray Laport, who was arrested at Ft. Benning in 1997 spoke of his experience and how glad they would have been to have a crowd this size at the early vigils in GA.  There was a broad spectrum of participation: college students and faculty, the old-time peacemakers, women religious who had never been at a vigil before, etc.      The Benedictine Sisters of ErieSister Marlene Bertke, OSB, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it                     

Eugene, OR ~ Peg Morton This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   
    Report: We had about 26 people at our protest at the federal building in Eugene. Some of us were shrouded in black. "Dead" bodies were unloaded from cars, and we wailed over them. We were covered in a minor way by the media. Afterwards, some of us visited with the staff person for Sen. Gordon Smith (R), who thinks the new arrangement for the school is just fine. .

Gainesville, FL ~ UF Student Peace Action
    Report: We restored our old Uncle Sam puppet (holding the strings to Latin American death squads). We walked it around some busy areas of the UF campus and handed out about 150 fliers containing text from one of your recent e-mails about the name change. It seemed to have gone over well, especially since most members of our group were not free during that time and yet we were able to recruit sufficient passers by to help with the puppet.

Philadelphia, PA ~ SOA Watch Northeast, Linda Panetta (215) 473-2162, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
   Report: On January 17, over 120 people gathered outside Philadelphia's City Hall to protest the continued existence of the SOA and to stand firm in their commitment to close the school, no matter what it is named. Banners, a giant puppet (the "SOA Death Machine), music, speakers and street theater amplified the call to close down the School of Assassins and to establish a Truth Commission to investigate the connection between the training at the school and the human rights abuses attributed to its graduates.
     The rally began with a Mayan Ceremony performed by Genaro Jacinto Calel, an indigenous leader from Guatemala. As the ceremony began approximately 20 activists playing the part of Latin American campesinos gathered around Genaro to receive his blessings. Two activists dressed as soldiers patrolled the group threateningly while the100 other people gathered formed a semi-circle behind the campesinos. At the end of the ceremony, the last words of Archbishop Oscar Romero were played through the speaker system and simultaneously translated by a participant who wore priest vestments. As Romero's last words hung over the crowd the soldiers moved in and began a bloody massacre of the campesinos. The campesinos were "shot" by the soldiers and fell to the ground as the crowd watching cried out in horror.
     The soldiers threw blood (biodegradable red paint) over the slain bodies that now lay lifeless, covering the City Hall Plaza area and leading down the steps to the street. On top of each body was placed a sign with the name of a person killed by graduates of the SOA. Amidst the bodies, speakers offered first hand testimonies of the effects of SOA violence in Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. A student representative from Students Against Sweatshops described the role of the SOA in the oppressive maquila system in Latin America. Linda Panetta, director of SOA Watch/NE, shared stories told to her by those suffering from the violence in Colombia and spoke about her upcoming delegation to that country.
The dead bodies were then slowly brought back to life as the Sisters of Mercy took the hands of campesinos and led them into the hands of the encircled activists. As the signs were taken from the bodies, the names then were read out loud, each followed by the response "Presente!" from the crowd.
     The end of the rally was filled with music of hope, dancing and singing that reaffirmed the commitment of those gathered to stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Latin America, to work for justice, and to close the SOA!
For more information about SOA Watch/NE, or to order a 2000/2001 SOA Watch/NE t-shirt, visit www.soaw-ne.org

San Francisco and San Jose, CA ~ William O'Connell (408)286-9341
     Report: On January 17th, in San Jose, California, twenty-six gathered to march and call attention to the name change of the SOA to the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation. Students from Bellarmine College Prep., Santa Clara University, and a student from Oberlin College participated as did members of the San Jose Peace Center, SOA Watch-San
Jose, faculty from Bellarmine Prep. and a Jesuit priest visiting from Uruguay. The two and half mile march was also a commemoration of the lives of the victims who were murdered at the hands of SOA graduates. As we marched the names of the victims were sung, the crowd raised their crosses and responded presente! This response was followed by a single unified
drumbeat. It was a privilege to participate in this moving litany of prayerful reverence. When stopped by traffic lights we chanted, "New name, same shame, close the SOA!" We marched for over an hour to the Federal Building in downtown San Jose. Once at the Federal Building, we continued our prayer for a few minutes finishing with the names of the murdered Jesuits from the UCA and the housekeeper and her daughter, the four women missionaries, and Monsignor Oscar Romero. All were victims of the SOA trainees in El Salvador.  Finally, we shared reflections and prayers, asking that we always act for peace and justice in the world and we also prayed that our leaders be filled with the compassion that is necessary to create a world that is filled with peace, love and justice for all peoples.

Washington DC ~ SOA Watch (202)234-3440, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
       Report: Twenty people gathered in front of the White House at noon with banners, signs and flyers.  We then processed to the gate and hung a banner renaming it "Blight House". 

Updated: January 24, 2001