SOA Watch from a Rookie’s Perspective

Friday, 11-16-12

Departing from Atlanta at around 5pm, the Grizzly, the Stork and I boarded the car and headed south to Fort Benning, Georgia. Along the way we were all hit by road trip fatigue but managed to pull it together and make it to our destination. The Grizzly ran off to teach his lecture while Stork and I browsed around the convention center, eventually separating. I quickly befriended an older man named Rick who was a SOA Watch vet. He educated me on some of the back story with SOA Watch and his opinion as to why the numbers of protesters had dwindled due to certain disagreements. Afterwards  at the conclusion of the convention, Grizzly, Stork and I were joined by Doe and we retired to the hotel for the night.

Saturday, 11-17-12

After a marathon of uncomfortable sleep, due to a suspect can of cream soda, I anxiously hopped out of bed and to the dinning area for breakfast. I met many interesting people there who all had varying degrees of history with the SOA Watch. We held interesting conversations but most notable was that with Hannah and her Grandmother Moreen. The three of us discussed the different outlook that the present generation has towards college in that we see it as no longer a choice but an unpleasant requirement to succeeded in life while Moreen’s generation looked at college not as a requirement but a privilege. With breakfast scrambled in the pit of my stomach, the gang and I regrouped and went to the site of  the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) formally known as the School of Americas.

After listening to many speakers and those directly affected by WHINSEC’s terrorism, I helped the puppitistas carry the giant conquistador boat in the annual parade. While hoisting this behemoth down the street, I befriended three cool dudes in the hull with me named Sam, Gus and Tray, you know, doin what we do, keepin the water tight <_<.

Anyway, hours later we headed to the convention center and I along with many others witnessed as Rebel Diaz sniffed out a group of undercover cops. Once exposed the group was pubically shamed via the power of the continuous protest song until they drifted away. The concert started shortly after and every performance was awe inspiring, energetic, and spiritual uplifting. As I went to bed that night, the revolutionary spirit was my blanket.

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Sunday 11-18-12

I woke up energized and revolutionized by the energy given to me at the concert last night. After breakfast, attended the funeral procession for all those murdered by the students of WHINSEC. After the march of the crosses, we went to the gates of Fort Benning to decorate them with the names of all those no longer with us. Then, a man dressed in mourning clown garb whose name I was told is Robert Norman Chantal, climbed the fence and reflected for a while before eventually crossing over. I had mixed feelings about his sacrifice. On one hand I’m always happy to support a comrade initiating a revolutionary action but when there are thousands of people behind that person then it shouldn’t be left up to a single individual committing the action but the majority.

This was my dilemma with the SOA Watch as a whole. From the veterans that I talked to who had participated for years, I learned of SOA Watch in it’s prime when it’s fangs were still sharp but now it is my opinion that those fangs have become dull with age and petty disagreement. I say this not out of negativity but out of deep compassion for what the SOA Watch stands for. I met many amazing people and had so many positive experiences but this is not a situation where I want to say “see ya again next year!” I don’t want there to be a next year. I want WHINSEC to be closed immediately and indefinitely. And I hate to be a person that gives critique without offering a substantial alternative to the problem but at this moment I have but only one solution, ESCALATION.

I also want to challenge the youth and my peers that may be reading this. I was displeased to see us so greatly misrepresented. If we want to see real change in America and the world we have to step up. Our elders who are in the struggle have done their part now it’s time for us to do ours. Escalation isn’t just about dramatic feats of heroism. Let’s escalate to the point where we are telling all our peers about the injustices happening not only around the world but in our own backyards. Let’s organize and form our own communities of dope ass individuals down for the struggle. And most importantly, let’s stop talking/complaining about the shit we wanna  see changed and simply rise up and change them.

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One response to “SOA Watch from a Rookie’s Perspective

  1. THOUSANDS GATHERED AT THE GATES OF U.S. MILITARY BASE IN GEORGIA TO CLOSE THE SOA/WHINSEC

    3-DAY MOBILIZATION CULMINATES WITH MASS DIE-IN AND FUNERAL PROCESSION TO COMMEMORATE THE VICTIMS OF SOA/ WHINSEC VIOLENCE AND U.S. MILITARIZATION

    NASHUA CHANTAL, 60 OF AMERICUS, GEORGIA CROSSES OVER THE FENCE TO CARRY THE PROTEST ONTO THE MILITARY BASE, FACES SIX MONTHS IN FEDERAL PRISON

    Columbus, Georgia – The largest annual anti-militarization gathering in North America took place in Columbus, Georgia, from November 16-18, 2012.

    Nashua Chantal of Americus, Georgia, who stood in silence with the message ‘Study war no more’ painted across his face during the symbolic funeral march, crossed the line onto the military base. The base is home to the US Army School of the Americas, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/WHINSEC) in 2001, a training facility that has turned out some of Latin America’s most notorious killers and continues to be implicated in human rights abuses today. Nashua Chantal was arrested after he crossed over the barb-wired, and is currently in the custody of the military police. He will be arraigned in federal court and is facing up to six months in federal prison for his courageous act of civil disobedience.

    The weekend included a massive rally on Saturday, where thousands came together at the gates of the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC), now named the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, and culminated on Sunday, November 18 with a mass die-in and funeral procession to commemorate the victims of SOA/ WHINSEC violence and U.S. militarization.

    The weekend featured musicians like emma’s revolution and Rebel Diaz, and international speakers like Francia Marquez from Colombia, Martin Almada from Paraguay, and Ismael Moreno from Honduras.

    Francia Marquez, a leader from the Afro-Colombian gold-mining community of La Toma in southwestern Colombia, talked about how her community has struggled against political, economic and armed forces looking to control their hands and resources.

    Martin Almada, a Paraguayan educator, talked about his experience as a political prisoner under the regime of Alfredo Stroessner. His wife died of a heart attack after being forced to hear through a telephone her husband’s cries as he was tortured.

    Ismael Moreno (known in Honduras as Father Melo), a Jesuit priest, radio host and contributor to Envio magazine, had his radio station occupied by the military following the SOA led military coup and he began receiving death threats.

    Moreno’s story shows how, even though the school changed its name in 2001 to WHINSEC, the graduates of this U.S. taxpayer-funded military school are still key players in human rights abuses throughout Latin America.

    Last week, on November 14, an SOA Watch delegation met with Denis McDonough, the National Deputy Security Advisor to President Obama in the White House, to ask that the SOA/WHINSEC be shut down by Executive Order. In January, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) will introduced legislation to suspend operations at the school and investigate human rights abuses in Latin America.

    The SOA/WHINSEC is a U.S. taxpayer-funded military training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Georgia. The school made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Despite this, no independent investigation into the training facility has ever taken place.

    SOA Watch is a nonviolent grassroots movement that works to close the School of the Americas and change U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America. For more information, visit http://www.SOAW.org.

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