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UCLA Student Arrested at Scchool of Americas For Non-Violent Civil Disobedience

by Seth Cohen Friday, Nov. 22, 2002 at 9:23 PM
sephers@ucla.edu

Description of arrest at Fort Benning

This past weekend I along with about 100 others was arrested at Fort Benning in Georgia for protesting the United States School of Americas. We were part of a demonstration of between 8,000-10,000 people. We were arrested fro crossing onto Fort Benning in an act of non-violent civil disobedience. In this article I will explain why I crossed the line and the treatement we received from the United States governemnt.

My reasons for crossing the line were very personal. About five years ago I travelled to El Salvador. I saw where Oscar Romero was killed. I saw where the Jesuits were killed. Both Oscar Romero and the Jesuits were killed by soldiers trained at the School of Americas. I also visited in a town in the coutryside where I met numerous people who had family and friends killed by right wing death squads. It was in honor of my friends in El Salvador that I crossed the line this weekend.

After we crossed the line we were processed on the millitary base by millitary police. We were then interviewed by the U.S. Marshalls. The Marshalls asked us countless personal questions. Questions included the names and addresses of members of our family and the orgin of memebers of our family. They also the names and address of friends. When we attempted to refuse to answer these questions they told us we will be held in jail until trial. They also threatened us with solitary confinement. Many of those who refused to answer some of these questions were put in solitary confinement. At this point we had not been read any of our rights. And the right to remain silent was a sham. One has the right to remain silent if he or she wants to spend an indefinite time in solitary confinement.

After we were processed by the U.S. Marshalls we were put in shackles and transferred to the Muskogee County Jail. In the Muskogee County Jail we were put in a large cell. We shared a cell with aboput forty people. All the people in my cell were from the protest. The cell had broken windows and was open to the outside air. We were given one small blanket and a towel. The majority of us were physically shivering the entire time we were in jail. On Monday morning we were woken up at four in the morning for breakfast. Around ten we were brought for arraignment. We were put in a holding cell next to the court which was extremely small and also freezing. In court we continued to shiver and the judge refused to do anything about it. One man next me who was in his seventies complained that freezing us is a form of torture. He is in his seventies and has various health problems. He was also denied medication for the entire time we were imprisoned.

At the arraignment the judge decided that were all a flight risk and made us post a bail of 5,000 dollars. Many of us testified to the fact that we could not afford this bail and that this bail was punitive. Many of the people in jail work directly with the homeless and they testified that the judge was taking money directly form thier ministry.

SOA Watch led a fundraising campaign to help us post bail. I was released around ten pm. I had spent around thirty hors in jail. Two people remain in jail because they are refusing to give information. Our trial is set for the week of Janury 27.

I am a student at UCLa and will be happy to come to any and all groups to make presenations about the SOA. Please email me.

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