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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JULY 13, 2002
10:41 AM
CONTACT:  School of the Americas Watch
Dorothy Pagosa, 202.903.7257
Eric LeCompte, 253.988.4927
School of the Americas Protesters Lock Gate to Fort Benning After 37 Activists Sentenced
 
COLUMBUS, GEORGIA - July 13 - The front gate of Fort Benning was closed this morning by an autonomous activist who locked herself to the fence on Fort Benning Road underneath a sign that read, 'Lock up SOA/WHISC, Not Peacemakers!' The activist, Rebecca Johnson, 23, of Washington, DC was joined by a vigil of supporters who gathered in the permitted demonstration area. All were acting in solidarity with 37 human rights workers who were sentenced in Columbus, GA for their role in the SOA Watch November vigil and nonviolent resistance.

The entrance to Fort Benning was 'locked up' at 10:00 AM when Ms. Johnson closed the gates and chained herself to them. Many of the defendants attended the vigil, preparing for their sentences by calling attention to the atrocities committed by SOA graduates.

The 'SOA 37' were among 10,000 who gathered last November to call for the closure of the notorious SOA/WHISC. The defendants peacefully crossed onto Ft. Benning, site of the school. Judge Faircloth is known for giving the maximum of six months to SOA/WHISC opponents. Seventy-one people have served a total of over forty years in prison for engaging in nonviolent resistance in a broad-based campaign to close the school. These defendants received sentences ranging from 6 months probation to 6 months in prison and a $5000 fine (see attached sheet).

'Those who speak out for justice are facing harsh prison sentences while SOA-trained torturers and assassins are operating with impunity,' said SOA Watch founder Fr. Roy Bourgeois. Ms. Johnson added, 'I am called to act for real change in US foreign policy towards Latin America. The SOA, under any name, teaches torturers, rapists, and murderers that the US will not divulge the secret of their crimes against humanity.'

The SOA/WHISC is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers. Its graduates are consistently involved in human rights abuses. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals used at the school that advocated the use of torture, extortion and execution. In December 2000 Congress authorized the WHISC to replace the SOA. The renaming of the school was widely viewed as an attempt to diffuse public criticism and to disassociate the school from its reputation. SOA Watch maintains that the underlying purpose of the school, to control the economic and political systems of Latin America by aiding and influencing Latin American militaries, remains the same.

School of the Americas Watch www.soaw.org/newsroom

Sentencing of the 37 SOA Watch Defendants

(listed in order of state)

Fr. William O¹Donnell Berkeley, CA, 72, Sentenced to six months in federal prison, $1000 fine

Leone Reinbold Oakland, CA, Sentenced to six months probation, $500 fine

Fr. Louis Vitale San Francisco, CA, Sentenced to three months in federal prison

Toni Flynn Valyermo, CA, 56, Sentenced to six months in federal prison (in custody now)

Jonna Cohen Denver, CO, 20, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Michael Sobol Golden CO, 18, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Kathy Shields Boylan Washington DC, 58, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Richard Ring Atlanta, GA, 33, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Mary Dean Chicago, IL, 37, Sentenced to six months in a federal prison, $1000 fine

Kathleen Desautels Chicago, IL, 64, Sentenced to six months in a federal prison

Brigid Conarchy Grayslake, IL, 23, Sentenced to six months probation, $500 fine and barred from entering Muskogee County for twelve months

Fr. Jerry Zawada Cedar Lake, IN, 65, Sentenced to six months in federal prison (in custody now)

Janice Sevre-Duszynska Nicholasville, KY, 52, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Ralph Madsen Newtonville, MA, 68, Sentenced to six months probation, $500 fine

Palmer Legare Springfield, MA, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Rev. Charles Booker-Hirsch Ann Arbor, MI, 41, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Maxwell Sadler Edwards Waterville, ME, Sentenced to six months in federal prison, $2500 fine

Summer Nelson Missoula, MT, 26, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine (in custody now)

Tom Mahedy Wall, NJ, 39, Former Navy ROTC. Sentenced to three months in federal prison

Linda Holzbaur Ithaca, NY, 45, Sentenced to six months probation, $500 fine

Rae Kramer Syracuse, NY, 55, Sentenced to six months in a federal prison, $5,000 fine

Laura MacDonald Syracuse, NY, 23, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine (in custody now)

Mike Pasquale Syracuse, NY, 33, Sentenced to six months in a federal prison, $1000 fine

Chani Geigle Salem, OR 19, Sentenced to six months in a federal prison, $1000 fine

Shannon McManimon Philadelphia, PA 26, Sentenced to six months probation, $500 fine

Rev. Erik Johnson Maryville, TN, 57, Sentenced to six months in federal prison, $1000 fine

Kenneth Crowley Houston, TX, 60, Sentenced to six months in federal prison, $1000 fine

Niklan Jones-Lezama Blacksburg, VA, 38, Sentenced to six months in federal prison

David O¹Neill Elkton, VA, Sentenced to six months probation, $500 fine

Lee Sturgis Elkton, VA, Sentenced to six months probation, $500 fine

Peter Gelderloos Harrisonburg, VA 19, Sentenced to six months in federal prison (in custody now)

Abi Miller Harrisonburg, VA, 23, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Sue Daniels Pembroke, VA, 41, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Nancy Gowen Richmond, VA, 68, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Lisa Hughes W. Hartford, VT, 36, Acquitted

John Heid Luck, WI, 47, Sentenced to six months in federal prison

Kate Fontanazza Milwaukee, WI 53, Sentenced to six months in federal prison, $1000 fine

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