SOAW–West News for November, 2006


School of the Americas Watch–West ~ SOAW–W

SOA Watch 2007 Vigil and Protest at Fort Benning, Georgia
November 16-18 (see you there next year!)

San Jose Website -
Los Angeles Website -
National Website -


Note:  Items for SOAW–W e-mails should be sent to:
Dolores Perez Priem

November 22, 2006

Regular SOAW-W monthly meetings:
San Francisco (First Thursday of the month)
Thursday, December 7, 2006 at 7 pm
Unitarian Universalist Center
1187 Franklin (corner Geary Blvd and Franklin St)
SOAWW - East Bay (Third Wednesday of the month)
Wednesday, December 20, 2006 at 7 pm
401 26th Street (a block off Broadway), Oakland

(1)  Massive Protest at Fort Benning Calls for the Closure of SOA & an end to Militarism
Concerted Events to Close of the SOA in 10 Countries!

Check out photo slideshows with audio recordings and news coverage of the November vigil on the SOAW website....

While record numbers attended the annual demonstration at the gates of Fort Benning, thousands more gathered at protests and vigils throughout the Americas. Coordinated actions protesting US militarism and calling for the closure of the SOA took place over the weekend of Nov. 18-19 in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Paraguay and Peru, as well as in Ireland, Canada and at other sites in the US.

The Chilean human rights group Kamarikun organized a vigil to close the SOA in Santiago (photo). The Movement of Christians for Peace with Justice and Dignity organized vigils on Nov. 18-19 at four key sites emblematic of US militarism: the US-leased air base in Manta, Ecuador; and the  capital cities of Paraguay, El Salvador and Colombia. [Message posted by "PeSePu" on Colombia Indymedia 11/17/06] In Ecuador, actions were also scheduled in Quito, Ibarra, Ambato and Tulcan. In Colombia, in addition to Bogota, there were actions planned for Medellin (Antioquia), Cali (Valle del Cauca), Popayan (Cauca), Sogamoso (Boyaca), Neiva (Huila) and Barrancabermeja (Santander), where 1,000 women dressed in black were to commemorate the victims of militarism in the region. Actions were also scheduled to take place in two other towns in Santander: Piedecuesta and Landazuri. [Red de Defensores no Institucionalizados de Colombia 11/18/06] Thousands of women took part in the protest in Barrancabermeja on Nov. 18, according to a message posted on Colombia Indymedia. The action was organized by the Popular Women's Organization (OFP). [Message from "Chrisman" posted on Colombia Indymedia 11/19/06] [Weekly News Update on the Americas]

(2)  Fr. Louis Vitale arrested at Fort Huachuca, AZ  (Interrogation Training Facility)

Two Priests Arrested at Ft. Huachuca Torture Protest

120 Join Ft. Huachuca Torture Protest as Part of Hemisphere Wide Actions against Torture and U.S. Military Intervention

As more than 120 people gathered at the gate of Fort Huachuca today to protest the military intelligence training that fosters torture, two Roman Catholic priests were arrested when they tried to enter the base located in Sierra Vista, Arizona. Franciscan Fr. Louie Vitale and Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly intended to speak with enlisted personnel and deliver a letter to Major General Barbara Fast, commander at the post, denouncing torture and the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Major General Fast is the highest ranking intelligence officer tied to the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib, yet has never been prosecuted. Two soldiers with ties to Fort Huachuca are among the 28 implicated earlier this year in the beating deaths of two prisoners in Afghanistan in 2002.

Today's demonstration took place in conjunction with the annual vigil at Fort Benning, Georgia, where over 20,000 people converged and 16 were arrested as they called for the closing of the infamous School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). Dozens of Latin American military leaders who trained at the "School of Assassins" have since been convicted of torture, murder, and other heinous crimes in their own countries.

Frs. Vitale and Kelly made their way into the base but were stopped as they approached the gatehouse. An officer from the base offered to deliver their letter to the Commander, but the priests persisted, they also intended to speak with the service men and women receiving interrogation training at Fort Huachuca. When they were not allowed to pass, the two men knelt in prayer and were arrested. They both received a federal citation for trespass and were released without conditions, and told they should be contacted within 45 days with a court date.

Fr. Louie Vitale is a member of Pace e Bene, whose mission is "to develop the spirituality and practice of active nonviolence as a way of living and being and as a process for cultural transformation."  Fr. Vitale is also a co-founder of the Nevada Desert Experience, a faith-based organization that has opposed nuclear weapons testing for a quarter of a century. Fr. Vitale recently served six months in jail following his arrest at the Ft. Benning vigil in November 2005, and was ejected from congressional hearings in September after speaking out against the Military Commissions Act.

Fr. Steve Kelly is a member of the Redwood City Catholic Worker community and has served time in federal prison for the nonviolent direct disarmament of nuclear weapon delivery systems. In December, 2005, Kelly served as chaplain for Witness to Torture, a delegation of over two dozen U.S. anti-torture activists who defied the U.S. embargo of Cuba with a peaceful march through that nation to the gates of the Guantanamo Bay naval base and prison camp.

The text of the letter delivered to the base commander follows this news release.


To: Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast -

We are here today as concerned U.S. people, veterans and clergy, to speak with enlisted personnel about the illegality and immorality of torture according to international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions.

We condemn torture as a dehumanization of both prisoners and interrogators, resulting in humiliation, disability and even death. In addition to the hundreds of detainees who have died, we are also concerned about U.S. military personnel. Alyssa Peterson committed suicide after participating in the torture of Iraqi prisoners. Lynndie England and others have been imprisoned for their illegal activities.

We are here today at Ft. Huachuca in solidarity with tens of thousands of people at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Ft. Benning, Georgia (formerly known as the School of the Americas) to say that the training of torturers must immediately stop. Nothing justifies the inhumane treatment of our fellow brothers and sisters.

Torture by U.S. military personnel has reached alarming proportions and has horrified people around the world. We are convinced that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 is unconstitutional. We totally reject its conclusions. Torture is a useless and unreliable tool that leads to an accepted practice of terrorization and the rationalization of wrongdoing.

We are here today to repent and clearly state that because of our sense of moral and human decency we condemn torture.


Signed this 19th day of November, 2006 -

Louis Vitale,OFM Steve Kelly, SJ

Prepared by School of the Americas Watch West.

Cynthia De Martini
Director of Social Ministries
St. Ignatius Church
650 Parker Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94118
Fax: 415.387.1867


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SOAWW - East Bay:  Robert Nixon - 510-533-3120 -
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