Prison, Civil Disobedience: School Of The Americas
Four More Activists Sentenced To Prison For Civil Disobedience To Close The School Of The Americas
Nine Headed to Prison -- Two Await Sentencing
* * Interviews with Defendants Available -- see below * *
Columbus, GA – A federal judge sentenced four more human rights advocates today, bringing to nine the total number of activists ordered to serve prison terms of three to six months and pay fines of up to $500 for acts of nonviolent civil disobedience calling for the closure of the US Army’s School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC). The two minors in the group were given deferred sentences, and another defendant was sentenced to one year of probation with a $1,000 fine. Two defendants will continue their trials tomorrow.
“SOA/ WHINSEC officials claim they’re promoting democracy,” stated SOA Watch founder Fr. Roy Bourgeois, “while people taking nonviolent action to close this notorious school are sent to prison for participating in the democratic process.”
The fourteen people on trial this week range in age from 16 to 79. The group includes a chaplain, a farmworker, a Maryknoll nun, a Steelworker, two retirees and several students.
The defendants were among more than 16,000 who gathered at the gates of Ft. Benning on November 20-21, 2004 to call for the closure of the controversial school, now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). The group peacefully crossed onto the military base, site of the SOA/ WHINSEC, at the culmination of a symbolic funeral procession in memory of victims of graduates of the school.
Judge G. Mallon Faircloth, known for handing down stiff sentences to opponents of the SOA/ WHINSEC, oversaw the proceedings. Since protests against the institution began more than a decade ago, more than 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.
The SOA/ WHINSEC is a military training school located at Fort Benning, Georgia where over 60,000 Latin American security personnel have been trained in courses including counterinsurgency, psychological warfare and interrogation techniques. Graduates of the school have been consistently linked to human rights violations and to the suppression of popular movements in Central and South America.
“The spirit of hope and the courage of the defendants rose above the punitive verdicts handed down in court yesterday and today,” stated Liz Deligio, 28, a chaplain from Chicago, IL who was sentenced to three months in prison.
SOA Watch, founded in 1990, is a national, grassroots organization committed to nonviolence. SOA Watch has held a demonstration at the main entrance to Ft. Benning each November since 1990 calling for the closure of the training facility.