The Story of the 2009 SOA Bus Trip
On an overcast grey Friday morning, Nov. 20th, shortly after 8:00 AM,
our VFP bus pulled away from St. Stephen's school bound for Columbus,
Georgia. We boarded 22 at St. Stephen's, with a rousing send off by
ever faithful supporters. We added 16 more to the bus at Watmart
parking lot, south-Rochester; 9 of whom were students of the Justice
and Peace Studies program at St. Mary's University, Winona. A total
of 38 travelers, intent on closing the SOA. Several late cancellations
were caused by untimely sickness, etc.
Our bus trip, down and back, was the usual spirited exchange of
stories, histories, songs and jokes well familiar to those who take
the bus to the SOA. On Sat. in Columbus, the rain held off and we
enjoyed being at the gate, and in the evening at the convention
center, renewing friendships and sharing the contagious enthusiasm of
thousands of fellow protesters, young and old. Sunday VFP marched
from the Day's Inn to the gate of Fort Benning, listened to song and
spoken word demanding the shuttering of the SOA; and remembered in
solemn vigil the thousands of disappeared, tortured and killed
victims over so many years of U.S. supported and sponsored violence.
The intermittent rain throughout the day was impotent to dampen our
spirits or resolve!
Fr. Roy Bourgeois was detained in Louisiana, attending to his dying
father, but his mission, spirit and enduring passion for justice
carried us all. Let's all do whatever we can to actively support
Fr.Roy and the SOAWatch's recent nomination by the American Friends
Service Committee for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize!
VFP bus scholarships were generously provided to needy travelers by
Wayne Wittman, Len Jackson and Jane Truhlar. Thank you! This all
remains a work in progress until the SOA is closed once and for all.
Charlie Bloss, bus coordinator
2010 SOA Vigil at Fort Benning, Georgia
In November, 2010 we will again unite our voices at the gates of Fort Benning — home of the "School of Assassins" — to transform the culture of violence and exploitation that has dominated US foreign policy for decades.
The kinds of policies that have kept the doors of the SOA open for so long are out of alignment with the values of our society: We do not want training camps where soldiers are taught to target and assassinate their own people. We do not want to support, with our tax money, the targeting of union organizers in Colombia. We do not want spending priorities that value exploitation over human needs. We do not want to see communities here and abroad destroyed by police and military repression.
Together we will create a culture of justice and peace. Together we will shut down the SOA!
Closing the United States Army School of the Americas.
History: The United States Army School of the Americas, located at Fort Benning, adjacent to Columbus, Georgia, trains commissioned and non-commissioned officers from Latin American militaries. Many of its graduates have returned to their home countries and committed such atrocities as rapes, disappearances, torture, and assassination; they have organized death squads and paramilitaries to counter insurgencies and maintain power. The SOA is accused of including torture in its curriculum, an accusation its defenders deny, although such a torture manual was released to the public in 1991. The "Hall of Fame" at the SOA includes dictators and human rights abusers, and a number of guest instructors were invited to the school's faculty after they had committed atrocities.
On Nov. 16, 1989, in El Salvador army officers trained at the School of the Americas (SOA) massacred six Jesuit priests and their two housekeepers in El Salvador. Every November since then SOA Watch, a grassroots human rights group, has commemorated that event with demonstrations and funeral processions at Ft. Benning, the home of the SOA, on the outskirts of Columbus.
SOA Watch founder Fr. Roy Bourgeois refers to the School as "the terrorist training camp right here in our own backyard."