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Home Action Action History 2003 November 2003 Vigil
November 2003 Vigil PDF Print E-mail
For photos from the November 2003 Vigil visit http://www.soawne.org/SOA03Sat1.html and http://www.circlevision.org/mnsoaw/nationalactions/soa2003/2003index.html

Informacion en espanol

10,000 people from far and wide gathered at the gates of Ft. Benning to speak truth to power, calling for the closure of the School of the Americas (renamed: the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation).

Our movement continues to grow - for many it was the first time that they joined the annual vigil action at Fort Benning and stood together with thousands to demand a fundamental change in US foreign policy. It was a spirited weekend filled with hope, joy, courage and solidarity. Thousands engaged in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience as they crossed en masse onto Fort Benning and transformed the main gate into a memorial wall for the countless victims of the SOA/WHISC

44 people got arrested during the vigil and nonviolent direct action to close the SOA for the charge of trespassing on federal property. 3 people have asked that no one post bond for them and are still being held in Muscogee County jail. Everyone else has been bailed out. Most were required to post $1,000 bond before being released after being arraigned.

A trial is scheduled to take place on January 26, 2004. The defendants are facing up to six month in prison and $5000 fine for their courageous witness that is exposing the issue of SOA violence in Latin America to the public.

"Prison will not deter us," said Kathy Kelly, who was among those arrested today. "We intend to close this school and to change the foreign policy that this school represents." Kelly works with and helped initiate Voices in the Wilderness, a grassroots organization that campaigns to end economic and military warfare against the Iraqi people.

1 person was arrested on Sunday by Columbus City police for refusing to particpate in the unconstitutional police search that the city of Columbus forced people to undergo as a condition for their participation in the public demonstration. He was released on a $250 bond. In mid-November, SOA Watch and the ACLU filed an emergency brief with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in an attempt to get them to rule on the appeal from the 2002 mass-searches, and to prevent the police from searching today. Late on November 21 the Court denied the emergency request. SOA Watch continues to await a ruling on its appeal.

Of the 44 arrested for trespassing, 15 were arrested and put in Muscogee County Jail on November 22 and 23 for accidentally driving on to the base which is accessed by a public highway. On Monday, November 24, the passengers were released on their own recognizance but the drivers had to post $1,000 bond in order to be released from jail.

On Saturday, November 22, the U.S. Military placed high-powered loudspeakers inside Fort Benning, directed at the peaceful, permitted demonstration outside of the gates of the base. The military blasted music at high decibels in an attempt to drown out speakers and to disrupt the vigil (The technique of blasting loud music as a ?psychological operation? has been used by militaries around the world. This method was used to drive SOA-graduate Manuel Noriega out of sanctuary in Panama and by Israel during the 2002 siege of the Church of the Nativity.) After receiving phone calls from across the country and inquiries from the media, Fort Benning military officials backed down and turned off the music that had been blared at the vigil site for six hours.

"We will not allow these blatantly unconstitutional attempts to drown out our voices," said Bill Quigley, a professor of law at Loyola Law School, and lawyer for SOA Watch. "These childish actions by the federal, state and local government only strengthen our resolve to stand up for our rights and all the victims of the School of the Americas."

The Columbus convergence concludes a week of resistance to empire and corporate globalization. Thousands gathered in Miami to protest the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), and 100,000 gathered in London-during Bush's visit-to protest the invasion and occupation of Iraq. SOA Watch organizers have been coordinating with organizers in Miami, and working in solidarity with organizers in England. The three mobilizations released a joint statement of solidarity (see http://www.soaw.org/index.php?option=com_content&id=689).

"Our struggles are interconnected," said Fr. Roy Bourgeouis, founder of SOA Watch. "From the SOA, to FTAA, to the invasion of Iraq, our government's foreign policy is serving the interests of a few, and making us a lot of enemies."

The Atlanta Independent Media Center covered the annual School of the Americas/WHISC protests and civil disobedience live from just outside the main gates of Fort Benning. For independent media coverage and live audio broadcasting from Columbus visit http://www.atlanta.indymedia.org

What you can do:

  • Donate. Your help is needed to cover the costs of the November Vigil.

  • Talk to your local media about your participation in the protests to close the SOA.
  • Contact your Members of Congress and ask them to support legislation to close the SOA.

    Join the Organizing!

    Order videos about the SOA to educate your family and friends about the School of the Americas/WHISC - Organize a video showing and a discussion in your school, place of worship or community center.

    Contact SOA Watch: PO Box 4566 ~ Washington, DC, 20017

    Phone: (202) 234 3440 ~ email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


    Contact us

    SOA Watch
    733 Euclid Street NW
    Washington, DC 20001

    phone: 202-234-3440
    email: info@soaw.org