SOA Watch is approaching the 30th anniversary of the first act of resistance against the training of repressive foreign militaries at Fort Benning, Georgia. The birth of the SOA Watch direct action campaign.
This summer, August 9th will mark the thirtieth year since Father Roy Bourgeois and two close friends first crossed the line. After fasting in protest at the entrance of Fort Benning, Roy, Linda Ventimiglia, and the late Father Larry Rosebaugh disguised themselves in the uniforms of high-ranking army officials and walked onto the grounds of base. Watch Roy describe the action here [www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhgBvG1SDzM&feature]. It was three years after the assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, and, with the arrival of 525 soldiers to Fort Benning from El Salvador for military training, Linda, Larry, and Roy had a special message to deliver. After the bugle was blown, and the lights turned out, the three made their way to the area near the Salvadoran barracks, remaining hidden within a small cluster of pine trees. Armed with a cassette player, and a tape of Bishop Romero's last homily, Roy climbed high into a tree and played the speech. "His voice boomed into the barracks," Roy recalls. As the speech thundered in the sky, dozens of Salvadoran troops ran from the barracks to figure out the source of the voice. Also arriving on the scene were several heavily armed officials ordering Roy to climb down from the tree. The three were arrested, charged with criminal trespassing and impersonating an army officer, and were sentenced to a year and a half in prison. One year later, the U.S. Army School of the Americas was opened in Fort Benning after being forced to leave Panama by President Jorge Illueca in 1984. The resistance to the school from within Panama was a part of that country's strides toward independence, and their rejection of U.S. imperialism.
The U.S. resistance to the SOA/WHINSEC and U.S. militarization in the Americas grew from this original act of resistance. SOA Watch was formally founded in 1990, and has continued to grow since then. In the past 23 years, the U.S. has continued to tighten its grasp on Latin America and the Caribbean. It does not always employ the guns and the tanks to oppress people: there are other means of "protecting democracy". This includes the World Bank checkbook, the free trade agreements, such as NAFTA, CAFTA, and the US-Colombia TPA, and deregulation of economic markets. But as empire has grown, so has the resistance. Much of this is due to the tireless work of social movements, who relentlessly identify attacks on community building, cultures of peace, and self-determination and try to thwart the tools of imperalism before they are set in motion. These social movements are strongest when they stand in solidarity with one another. The struggle to close the SOA is united to many different struggles: the struggle for immigrant rights, the right of communities to control their own destiny, the right of workers to unionize, the struggle against police brutality in our communities, and the work to end the attack on whistleblowers who promote democracy by revealing the truth behind the lies. This is why we are calling for a National Day of Action on August 9th.
Who can participate?
Anyone who stands on the side of justice, of liberation, is encouraged to organize an action on August 9th in solidarity with those who are victims of U.S. militarization. For Ebed Yanes, from Honduras, the unarmed 15 year old who was murdered by a military unit which then covered up the involvement of SOA-graduate Josue Sierra [www.soaw.org/about-us/equipo-sur/263-stories-from-honduras/4118-ebedupdate]. For Johnny Silva, who was shot in the back at a peaceful protest by riot police at the Univeristy of Valle in Cali, Colombia. For the 11 million undocumented residents living in the United States, many of whom have been forced to leave their homes after their economies were ruined by US imperialism, or are victims of US-sponsored political violence, and who now struggle simply for their right to live free [org.salsalabs.com/o/727/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=13017]. For Kimani Gray, Trayvon Martin, and Ramarley Graham, all unarmed teenagers killed by the unchecked force of police vigilance, or self-appointed vigilance in the last two years. Stand up because to be silent is to be complicit.
What can we do?
To resist in any capacity is to commemorate those who can not as easily speak out. Hold a vigil, or a one-day, water-only fast to recognize those who suffer as a result of U.S. militarization. Host an event in your community, such as a teach-in or a screening of the SOA Watch movie, Somos Una America, which is now available for free online [www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PR9qltmbQM]. Stand in support of an organization or group in your community who is standing up for their rights. Hit the streets! For more tips on organizing across communities, visit: Anti-Oppression Resources [http://www.soaw.org/resources/anti-opp-resources].
Share your action with us! We want to see your community engaging in protest, civil disobedience, or acts of solidarity and resistance. Please share your ideas with us! This is also an opportunity to mobilize your gente for the November Vigil [https://org.salsalabs.com/o/727/t/10656/shop/item.jsp?storefront_KEY=777&t=&store_item_KEY=3430].
Get in touch with Dominique by responding to this email with questions or to plan a local event on August 9th, 2013, our National Day of Action!