SOA protesters get prison terms

On Jan. 26, US federal magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth in Columbus, Ga., sentenced five activists to two-month prison terms for trespassing on the US Army’s Fort Benning base on Nov. 23 as part of an annual protest against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA). Faircloth sentenced an additional protester, Louis Wolf, to six months of house arrest and imposed a $1,000 fine; Wolf, a co-founder of the magazine CovertAction Quarterly, requires special medical care, according to his lawyer, Bill Quigley. The other activists sentenced were Rev. Luis Barrios, an Episcopal priest in New York City; public interest advocate Theresa Cusimano; seminary student Kristin Holm; Sr. Diane Pinchot, a Catholic nun and art professor; and retired teacher Al Simmons.

Tens of thousands of people have taken part in the demonstrations at Fort Benning since they began in 1990, and hundreds have served prison sentences for civil disobedience at the base. The school trains Latin American soldiers, and many of its graduates are among the region’s most notorious human rights violators. In her statement to the court, Pinchot referred to the rape and murder of fellow Ursuline nun Dorothy Kazel and three other religious workers by a right-wing death squad in El Salvador on Dec. 2, 1980. “These images don’t go away from me,” she said. “I’m hoping that people will listen and the School of the Americas will be closed.” (SOA Watch press release, Jan. 26; Univision, Jan. 27 from AFP; Columbus (Georgia) Ledger-Enquirer, Jan. 27)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 1