Shutdown on Arrival
12,000 at SOA: NO

by Dan Miner-Nordstrom

Children's Crusade of Conscience
at SOA.
photo: National Catholic Reporter

Columbus GA -22 November:  More than 12,000 people, including students, clergy, union members, and human rights supporters converged at the U.S. Army's Ft. Benning from November 20-21 to protest the School of Americas (SOA) and its role training more than 60,000 police and soldiers from Central and South America. Many of the soldiers have been indicted for human rights abuses, including the 1981 massacre of nearly 1,000 villagers in El Mozote, El Salvador. More recently, SOA graduates have been implicated in the slaughter of more than 100 villagers in Acteal, Mexico.

In addition to participating in services at the gate to Ft. Benning, 4,408 people risked arrest by trespassing onto base property in a solemn funeral procession. This number is compared to last year's 2,319 who crossed the line. Of the people who crossed over, 65 were arrested and 23 of those face prosecution for violating a previous ban and bar letter. Most were transported by buses to a nearby park.

Pete Seeger, 80, serenades those
gathered at SOA in Georgia.
photo: National Catholic Reporter

The 23 facing possible prison time are required to appear in court January 14. Brooks Anderson, Duluth minister, tells us he is relieved that the judge who gave 6 months to those last prosecuted is no longer on the bench.

Prior to the activities at the base a conference of nearly 200 students and peace activists was held at Koinonia, an intentional community committed to racial integration and Christian values. The conference held for for students to make much-needed connections with each other, as well as workshops to learn about issues such as Iraqi sanctions, sweatshops, and East Timor. Groups represented at the conference included Pax Christi, ETAN (East Timor Action Network), Fellowship of Reconciliation, Mexican Solidarity Network, Student Peace Action Network, the Catholic Worker Movement, as well as representatives from several college activist groups.