Wednesday, November 26, 2008


For those of you interested in my Human Rights activities, I went to Columbus, Georgia, last weekend to attend the SOA Watch Vigil and Demonstrations against the School of the Americas (SOA), now known as
the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).
Depending on who to believe, there were 8,700 demonstrators or 20,000 of us. I am inclined to believe, based on attendance, that it was much closer to 20,000.

The Memorial March on Sunday again involved the reading of names of victims of violence in Latin America, starting with Archbishop Romero and speaking other names (or sometimes no names, as "Unknown child of _____, age 14 months." As perviously, we would all raise our Crosses (on which a name of victim was inscribed) and say "Presente!" to show that the victim is remembered. The procession lasted more than two hours, with 10 - 15 names read every minute, and even in that time, only a small percentage of victims could be honored individually.

During the March, we placed our crosses, flowers and other memorials on the fence which Ft. Benning had erected to keep us out of the Base, transforming the barrier from a symbol of exclusion to a symbol of hope. As in previous years, a number of people "crossed the line," trespassing on Ft. Benning property as an act of Civil Disobedience. This year there were only six violators, who were arrested and will face trial on January 26. As in previous years, I will probably attend the trials and act as attorney for one or more of the defendants.

There was a feeling of hope during the weekend, that now that we have a new Administration, perhaps the SOA/WHINSEC will finally be closed. Last year a vote in the House failed by 12, and 35 opponents in the House are no longer there. SOA Watch is hopeful that the school will be closed that that our gathering next November will be a Celebration. It would be good to close it, as it is the visible symbol of torture, murder and massacres which are all too well remembered by the people of Latin America. If you call or talk to your Congressperson, I hope you will express your view that the School should be closed now.

Frank Schneider

No comments: