– This afternoon members of School of the Americas Watch, including founder Fr. Roy Bourgeois, filed an injunction in federal court to prevent a plan “to prohibit 10,000 plus people from exercising their First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble, speak, and petition the government in a public forum unless they each first submit to law enforcement searches without consent, without warrant, without probable cause and without individualized suspicion.”
Attorneys Gerald Weber, Legal Director of the ACLU of Georgia, and William Quigley filed the civil action case against Columbus City Mayor Bobby Peters and Columbus Police Chief W.L. Dozier. Columbus police plan to use metal detectors and possibly more comprehensive searches on every participant in the vigil outside Ft. Benning.
A hearing is scheduled in Judge Clay Land’s courtroom for Friday at 1PM.
“We must be vigilant in defending civil liberties when they are threatened, both here and in Latin America,” said Fr. Roy Bourgeois.
Thousands are anticipated to arrive in Columbus this weekend to call for the closure of what they call a terrorist training camp on U.S. soil – the School of the Americas, renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/WHISC), a combat training school for Latin American soldiers. SOA grads continue to be implicated in egregious acts designed to terrorize and coerce civilian populations throughout Latin America.
SOA Watch is an umbrella for thousands of concerned people, including students, veterans, people of faith, unionists and others. In its twelve years of nonviolent protest to close the SOA this movement has without exception maintained a respectful and peaceful presence. Last year, on the eve of the gathering, the City of Columbus lost in federal court a last-minute request for an injunction prohibiting the legal protest within fifty yards of the base.
The November 15-17 event marks the anniversary of the 1989 assassination of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her teenage daughter in El Salvador by SOA grads. In December 2000 Congress authorized WHISC to replace SOA. The renaming was widely viewed as an attempt to diffuse criticism and to disassociate the school from its reputation. SOA Watch maintains that the underlying purpose of the school, to control the economic and political systems of Latin America by training and influencing Latin American militaries, remains the same.
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