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Americans on Trial for Protesting Terror Training

School of the Americas Watch

January 29, 2003
for immediate release

Contact: Hendrik Voss

Americans on Trial for Protesting
'Terrorist Training Camp on U.S. Soil'

Human Rights Activists Step Up the Campaign to Close Down the School of the Americas (SOA/WHISC)

Columbus, GA – On Monday January 26th the federal trial for the 28 human rights activists from across the United States, facing federal charges for civil disobedience, begins in Columbus, Georgia. The 28 were among 10,000 who gathered in November 2003 to call for a closure of the notorious School of the Americas, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. In an act of nonviolent civil disobedience, the defendants peacefully crossed onto Fort Benning property, site of the school, to commemorate the victims of SOA violence in Latin America. They are charged with trespass and face up to six months in federal prison and $5,000 in fines.

Trial judge G. Mallon Faircloth is known for giving the maximum of six months to opponents of the SOA/WHISC. Nearly 170 people have served a total of over 75 years in prison for engaging in nonviolent resistance in a broad-based campaign to close the school.

"Those who speak out for justice are facing prison time while SOA-trained torturers and assassins are operating with impunity," said SOA Watch founder Fr. Roy Bourgeois.

The SOA/WHISC is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers. Its graduates are consistently involved in human rights atrocities and coups, including the El Mozote Massacre of over 900 civilians and the failed coup in 2002 in Venezuela. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. In a statement about their action of conscience, several defendants state that “[Latin American military forces] do not exist primarily to defend one nation against another, but rather to protect an unjust and inequitable distribution of resources within each country against movements of social and political change.”

"The evil of the SOA/WHISC has been well documented and is still being committed in Central and South America,” stated defendant David Corcoran, 69, a hospital chaplain from Des Plaines, Illinois. “My action [crossing the property line at Fort Benning] is to resist that evil with my whole being. It is a statement of 'no, not in my name,’ which speaks much louder and stronger than any words I can say.”

SOA Watch, founded in 1990, is a national, grassroots, faith and conscience- based group committed to nonviolence. It has offices in Columbus, GA, Washington, DC and chapters in communities and on campuses around the country. Its goal is to expose and close SOA/WHISC.

Among the 28 persons who will be on trial on January 26th for “crossing the line” onto Fort Benning on November 23, 2003 in protest of the School of the Americas (SOA/WHISC) are:

Craig Adams, born in 1951, a social worker and member of Mnpls Shambhala Buddhist Center from Glenwood, WI.

Gary Ashbeck of Jonah House in Baltimore, Maryland, climbed over the fence at Fort Benning, was arrested, and has refused to post bond.

Don Beisswenger, a Presbyterian Minister, lives in Nashville, TN. Don was born in 1930 in Minneapolis, MN, and with his late wife had 6 children, 8 grandchildren and 8 foster children.

Elizabeth Bradley, a former paralegal from Sacramento, California. Elizabeth was born in 1954, has 4 children, and is currently working full-time as an activist primarily around the issues of peace and social justice.

Cynthia Brinkman, SSND, born in 1936, from Ellington, Missouri. Cynthia is an educator at the Domestic Violence Shelter and a chaplain serving seriously ill persons.

David Corcoran, a hospital chaplain from Des Plaines, Illinois. Dave was born in 1934, is married to Barbara, and is the father of 3 adopted Korean children, Thomas, Christina, and Andrew.

Scott P. Diehl, founder of God Bless the World. Born in 1963, grew up in the Detroit area, and now lives in Burlington, Iowa. Scott is a human rights worker with Christian Peacemaker Teams.

Leisa Faulkner Barnes of Sacramento, California. Faith Fippinger, a retired special-education teacher from Sarasota, Florida, born in 1940. Originally from the Chicago area, Faith taught for 33 years, primarily blind/visually impaired elementary-level children.

Alice E. Gerard, from Buffalo, New York, born in 1956.

Fr. Ben Jimenez, S.J. of the St. Ignatius Jesuit Community in Cleveland, Ohio, climbed over the fence at Fort Benning, was arrested, and has refused to post bond.

Sarah Jobe from Memphis, Tennessee.

Kathy Kelly, a peace activist from Chicago, born in 1952, co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness.

Betsy Lamb of Columbia, Maryland.

Peg Morton, a retired mental health rural counselor from Eugene, Oregon, born in 1930. Peg is a Quaker activist with three daughters and three grandchildren.

Fr. Joseph E. Mulligan, S.J., of the Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus, who works with Christian base communities in Nicaragua, with Jesuit Volunteers International, with the handicapped, and on human-rights issues.

Brother Mike O'Grady, S.J. of the Claver Jesuit Community of Cincinnati, Ohio

Gregory Poferl, of St. Paul, Minnesota

Eric Robison, from Bellingham, Washington, born in 1980.

Fr. Bernie Survil, a Diocesan priest from the Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Born in 1940 in Olean, NY.

Mary Vaughan, a retired elementary school teacher from White Bear, Minnesota. Mary was one of the SOA 26 and served six months in Pekin Federal Prison Camp for crossing the line in November 2000.

Shirley Way, from Stanley, New York, born in 1961. She is a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) and a tutor and advocate for the children of migrant farmworkers and their families. She lived in Guatemala for 19 months, and was involved in the Christian Peacemaker Team in Chiapas, Mexico in 2000 and 2001.

Fr. Jerry Zawada from Burlington, Wisconsin.

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