26 to Stand Trial for Civil Disobedience Against “School of Assassins”

On May 22nd in Columbus, Georgia, 26 people will stand trial for nonviolent civil disobedience at the US Army’s School of the Americas (SOA). The school, in January formally renamed the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation, is a notorious training ground for Latin American military
personnel and has become symbol of US imperialism and military intervention around the globe.

On May 22nd in Columbus, Georgia, 26 people will stand trial for nonviolent civil disobedience at the US Army’s School of the Americas (SOA). The school, in January formally renamed the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation, is a notorious training ground for Latin American military
personnel and has become symbol of US imperialism and military intervention around the globe.

For more than a decade, a grassroots movement to close the school has focused attention on the horrific human rights abuses perpetrated by graduates of the school and the ongoing violence engendered by US policy in Latin America.

In 1999, the largest mass act of civil disobedience since the Vietnam War took place when over 4,500 people crossed onto Army property at Fort Benning singing the names of victims of graduates of the school in a solemn funeral procession while another 8,000 stood massed outside the gates of the school
calling for its closing.

In November of last year, another round of nonviolent action resulted in the arrests of 1,700
people. Of these, the federal prosecutor identified sixty-five "repeat offenders." From this list, the federal prosecutor’s office in Columbus selected twenty-six to prosecute. Three of the 26 are from western North Carolina: Clare Hanrahan and
Kathryn Temple of Asheville and Jon Hunt of Boone.

The outcome of the trial is uncertain, but all defendants face a maximum of six months in prison. The defendants are charged with unlawfully re-entering Fort Benning defying a written exclusion order by the commanding general.

Both Kathryn and Clare allude to their expectation that the trial will receive little attention from the corporate media. "It’s not only the indifference and complacency of the American populace in the face of incredible human rights abuses which we are party to," says Clare, "but also the
collusion of the mainstream media in the silence. In a democracy, that’s an appalling reality."

In January of 2001, CNN reported that the Army had closed the School of the Americas. In fact, the School underwent a name change and some cosmetic changes as a result of a Department of Defense overhaul initiated as a counter proposal to a
bipartisan amendment defeated in the House of Representatives by a narrow ten-vote margin.

The new name, much more difficult for bumper-sticker politics, is the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation. SOA Watch has
critiqued the name change, saying that the superficial change "ignores congressional concern and public outcry over the SOA’s past and its present links to human rights atrocities.

Info:SOA Watch

[ also see related articles:

A Rose by any other name…

Protest and Disempowerment – One Anarchist’s Experience at SOA

School of The Americas Alumni Fires Into Crowd of Water Protesters ]

Author: Beth Trigg

News Service: Asheville Global Report, No. 120, May 3-9, 2001

URL: http://www.agrnews.org/issues/120/worldnews.html