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RICHMONDERS SAY NO TO INT'L SLAUGHTER SCHOOL: U.S. Army School of the Americas activists to be tried for protests

Story and photography by Caine Rose

On July 8th, 43 people will be persecuted in federal court in Columbus, Georgia for entering Fort Benning Air Force Base to demand the closing of the School of the Americas, a US military training school where Latin American soldiers are taught to kill and torture their own people, to protect corrupt governments and corporate interests.

On a muggy, sweltering, albeit overcast Tuesday afternoon, just as the corporate set descended from downtown Richmond’s skyscrapers into the streets to reclaim their SUV’s for the long rides home, a dedicated gathering assembled in front of the federal building to state their case. The Reverend Charles Booker-Hirsch, pastor of Northside Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan joined four other native Richmonders, who were indicted in April for trespassing onto government property in Georgia the previous November, to call attention to the seldom publicized “SOA”, a training base for military operations conducted in Latin America. The “SOA” has produced such infamous strongmen as Manuel Noriega and Bolivian dictator Hugo Banzer, the assassins of an archbishop, a bishop, six Jesuit priests and four American churchwomen as well as hoards of other less well known killers who are responsible for thousands and thousands of innocent’s deaths.

Established in Panama in 1946 by the U.S. Army as a training center for Latin American military officers, the School of the Americas found its way onto the United States’ soil in 1984 at Ft. Benning in Columbus, Ga. Since its inauguration as a camouflaged “terror cell” for the elitist U.S. government’s private wars in Central and South America, 60,000 have graduated.

I spoke at length with Rev. Charles Booker-Hirsch, who has been opposing the “school” for the past 13 years, about his views concerning the military operations taking place in Georgia. He was flabbergasted by the height of hypocrisy from the U.S. government’s stand on “terrorism” since September 11, 2001 and their continued endorsement of these death squads right here in our own country. The Reverend also shared the events surrounding his and 43 other’s arrest when assembling a nonviolent solemn protest at the base in Columbus last November. “We made our way around the edge of the fence into the woods wearing black cloaks with white painted faces and carrying a black casket. We had to climb a hill with that coffin and all along the way our clothes were ripping from the limbs and brush as we made our way around the other side of the base. I felt like Robert De Niro from The Mission a little”. He also expressed shock when after their apprehension upon reaching the other side of the fenced perimeter and let go with relatively little fuss, it was five months before receiving a call which informed him of the indictment. “I’m not surprised anymore with Ashcroft cracking the whip what happens in this country”, the Reverend shared. He did humbly and gratefully express gratitude for the support his congregation has given him back in Michigan since the ordeal began.

The “SOA43” trial date set for July 8 at the U.S. District court in Columbus, Ga. For more information please contact Richmond Activists at a16rva@hotmail.com or on the web at www.soaw.org.


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