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Thousands Gather - 26 Arrested at "School of Americas", Ft. Benning, Georgia, USA

category international | anti-war / imperialism | press release author Monday November 22, 2010 07:01author by School of Americas Watch Report this post to the editors

Long Time Resister Franciscan Fr. Louie Vitalie, L.A. & Chicago Catholic Workers Still in Custody!

Background on the arrests and the annual Vigil to Close the SOA:

On Saturday, thousands converged at the gates of Ft. Benning, in the annual vigil and rally to close the School of the Americas/WHINSEC. Over the years since 9/11, under the pretext of "terrorism", it has become increasingly more difficult for activists to engage in non-violent civil disobedience, which has been a cornerstone of our movement. Through fences, increased police presence, FBI pre-rally consulation with local police forces, security cameras, searches and in the past, metal detectors at vigil entrances, those who wish to cross the line into the base have been prevented in doing so.

This year, some within our movement decided to accompany federal line crossers to their place of crossing at a different entrance. When activists tried to leave the "free speech zone", they were blocked by police and only allowed to leave via the sidewalk. Many were simply leaving to return to their hotels or homes. When the Puppetistas followed the sidewalk towards the intersection of Victory Drive and Ft. Benning Road, the Columbus police moved in to arrest the Puppetistas, and began to arrest anyone, while also targeting various journalists who were filming the repression. One local man was arrested while taking pictures of the unfolding events.

Bail was initially set at up to $5,500 per person, with many people being charged with several misdemeanors. This is still hindering a quick release from jail, and was intended to intimidate activists.

Today, Sunday, we remembered the martyrs from across Latin America with our traditional solemn funeral procession, chanting "Presente!" after the names of SOA victims, including recent killings and disappearances in Honduras and Mexico.

Two more young people joined the growing list of Prisoners of Conscience, risking extended federal prison time and fines. David Omandi of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker and Christopher Spicer of the White Rose Catholic Worker of Chicago took their witness to the School of the Americas, after jumping over the first set of barbed-wire fencing at the entrance to the base, and were immediately detained by military police amidst cheers from supporters.

Yesterday, Father Louis Vitale (California) and Nancy Smith (New York) delivered their message of solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Latin America after entering the base from the highway ramp. This is the first time crossing the line for Nancy, Christopher and David, and the fourth time for Fr. Louis. They continue to keep the light of truth alive for the history books, so we can look back and see the flowers that grow from the seeds of resistance we plant today.

Live from the courtroom:
We're rolling live from the Muscogee County Jailhouse, down by the waters of the lovely Chattahoochee River!

Of the 26 arrestees from Saturday, there are still many being arraigned at the courthouse, with the Columbus police trying hard to make an example out of the defendants, in the hope of intimidating them and preventing us from speaking truth to power. The arrested peace activists and bystanders have been brought into the courtroom in orange prison-issued clothing, some visibly shocked and frightened, others arguing calmly in their defense.

We have verified that the Columbus police had at least five undercover law enforcement officers, who attended the direct action meetings, held signs at the rally, and were even arrested and kept in jail with the other activists in a clear attempt to learn names and fabricate stories.

However, we have an excellent legal team who are fighting hard against the lies and keeping our spirits up. For years, our movement has refused to be silent, and we continue to refuse to be silent now. We don't want to leave anyone behind!

This is a moment for us to come together and fight impunity. Our fight for the truth here in the cases against our sisters and brothers here in Columbus is part of the fight against militarization, threats and impunity in Latin America, represented by the School of the Americas. The threats and repression taught at the School of Assassins in Ft. Benning are being reproduced in the Columbus courthouse.

We also can't win this without you at your home, office, public library or school. We ask you to continue to step forward and send us your donations. Since we started the online plea, we have raised over $18,000... but we need more. We encourage you to petition your community networks, friends and family to raise more money for the legal defense fund.

author by Ciaron - Giueseppe Conlon House/ London Catholic Workerpublication date Mon Nov 22, 2010 07:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Video Footage (1 min 9 secs) of Saturday's SOA demonstrations and arrests
....and for ongoing updates on prisoners.

Go to..........

Related Link: http://www.soaw.org
author by Undercover coppublication date Thu Nov 25, 2010 22:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Previous posting: Update from Georgia - SOA Watch - Two CWers arrested
at the end of the day......
http://groups.google.com/group/National-CW-E-mail-List/...a7bbc
-----------------
Nov. 23, 2010
National Catholic Reporter

Undercover police among arrested at SOA vigil

By Joshua J. McElwee

At least one of the 29 persons taken into custody outside Fort Benning
during a rally at the annual School of Americas Watch vigil Nov. 20 in
Columbus, Ga. was an undercover police officer. The revelation came as
an undercover narcotics agent with the Muscogee, Ga., county sheriff's
office testified in court that she allowed herself to be rounded up
with activists during the rally. SOA Watch organizers said Nov. 22
they believed that at least four more of those arrested near the alley
leading to the gates of the military institution were also undercover
agents.

The rest of the story at:
https://mail.google.com/mail/?shva=1#inbox/12c7a1c71aca45de.

author by 2More Jailedpublication date Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

...send solidarity letters and postcards to prisoners
c/-
SOA Watch
PO Box 4566
Washington, DC 20017
U.S.A

VID (3mins 54 secs) Nancy Smith SOA resister prisoner speaks
http://www.soaw.org/presente/index.php?option=com_conte...id=81

Justice Denied: Activists Imprisoned, SOA Remains Open
Federal Judge sentences SOA Watch activists to six months in prison

Once again, the justice system's complicity with the abuses taught at the School of the Americas was exposed yesterday at the trial of anti-militarization activists Nancy Smith and Chris Spicer. Nancy, from New York, changed her plea to no contest and was immediately sentenced to 6 months in prison by Magistrate Judge Stephen Hyles. In the SOA Watch tradition of using the court to put a spotlight on the SOA/WHINSEC, Nancy affirmed that she “felt a strong moral imperative” to carry out her nonviolent act of civil disobedience “on behalf of those who have suffered so terribly”.

Chris, from Illinois, plead not guilty but was declared guilty by Judge Hyles and sentenced likewise to 6 months. In his closing statement before sentencing, Chris addressed the ongoing human rights abuses in Latin America carried out by graduates of the School of the Americas, and his need to confront the “paralysis of fear” that has gripped the country in recent times.

In November, Franciscan priest Fr. Louis Vitale, OFM and David Omondi of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker Community both pled no contest and were sentenced to the maximum 6 months in jail.

The decision by Judge Hyles to impose the maximum penalty for a nonviolent act of civil disobedience exposes the political nature of the trials and the justice system. However, we take the energy of Nancy, Christopher, David and Louis, along with the thousands of our brothers and sisters who have been massacred, raped, tortured and disappeared in their fight for a culture of peace with justice, and we will continue to move forward. We hope to see you all in Washington, DC, in April to bring the fight to close the SOA and end US militarism to the doorsteps of our policy makers.

The struggle is long, but we will prevail!

Related Link: http://www.soaw.org/presente/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=340&Itemid=81
 
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