This weekend was a truly inspirational and powerful gathering made possible only by the collective work of thousands of activists like you.
Photo by Linda Panetta of Optical Realities.
Yesterday morning, we came together at the gates of Ft. Benning to solemnly remember those killed by the graduates of the SOA. Four carried their witness across military lines and were arrested on the base: Nancy Gwin of Syracuse, NY; Ken Hayes of Austin, TX; Fr. Louis Vitale of Oakland, CA; and Michael Walli of Washington, DC.
Michael Walli is refusing to post bail, and will remain in custody at least until the trial in January 2010. Nancy, Ken and Louis have been released and are headed back to their communities to spread the truth about the SOA/WHINSEC. You can join them! Keep your eyes out for further updates with messages about their journeys.
Following the procession, several hundred activists risked arrest, marching into the street beyond the confines of the protest to carry their message of resistance and people power even further. Puppetistas carrying large puppets of the six Jesuit martyrs alongside Cakalak Thunder and other drumming groups led a march together beyond police barricades to lift of the spirit of life so as to better remember the work and ideas of those who we have lost. Resistencia, Presente!
Procession and Vigil at Stewart Detention Center, Friday 11/20
This weekend's activities got started on Friday morning. SOA Watch activists joined over 100 social justice and immigrant rights activists in a procession from Lumpkin Town Square to the Stewart Detention Center to call attention to the abuses perpetrated at this commercial prison which in the last year have killed one prisoner and hurt many. Prisoners are continuing to participate in hunger strikes to demand better conditions.
In a powerful and emotional vigil, survivors of detention centers, family members of detainees and human rights activists gathered to listen to those families torn apart by raids and forced detention, including the family of one detainee whose three children went in to visit him following the vigil.
Many immigrants to the United States are victims of U.S.-sponsored military training and atrocities in Latin America. In our fight to close the SOA, we continue to work towards a world that is free of suffering and violence. We recognize the SOA as a part of the same racist system of violence and domination that operates US immigration policy. We ally ourselves with victims and survivors of state violence and their families in our effort to create a better world.
All eyes on Honduras
Bertha Oliva from the Committee of the Family Members of the Disappeared from Honduras was one of the featured speakers this weekend.
Several SOA Watch activists, including Lisa Sullivan, SOA Watch's Latin America Coordinator, will accompany her when she returns to Honduras in order to stay in solidarity with the people who are resisting the SOA graduate-led military coup in that country.
SOA Watch and Fr. Roy Bourgeois Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
Father Roy Bourgeois and SOA Watch have been nominated for one of the most prestigious awards in the world -- the Nobel Peace Prize -- for our sustained faithful nonviolent witness against the disappearances, torture, and murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians by foreign military personnel trained by the U.S. military at U.S. taxpayer expense at the SOA.
John Meyer of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) came to the Vigil and made the announcement this morning at 9 am. AFSC won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947, and Nobel laureates can nominate one person/group each year.
While Roy could not be with us this year, as he is caring for his ailing father in Louisiana, he did share a statement: "We are deeply honored, and deeply humbled, to be nominated for this prize for peace.
This nomination is a recognition of the work of the thousands struggling against militarism across the Americas."Congratulations to all of you, all over our hemisphere, who have been working to resist oppression and state violence wherever you are. La lucha sigue!