*UN Report on Guatemala, Pinochet Trial Reveal Latest Links Between "School of Assassins" and Mass Torture, Killings
*Visuals include: protesters in death masks, cross bearers,
puppet effigies of President Clinton, arms dealers and others*
WASHINGTON, DC - 61 nonviolent demonstrators were arrested Monday at the Pentagon during a protest calling for the shut-down of the School of the Americas in the wake of new evidence tying the controversial training facility to widespread torture and killings in Guatemala, Colombia and Chile. The demonstration is part of a four-day event billed as "Nunca Mas" - Spanish for "Never Again" which began last Saturday.
The early-morning protest involved a long, solemn procession around four of the five sides of the Pentagon, a litany of victims, speeches by survivors and street theater. After being denied a request to meet with Defense Secretary Cohen, the protestors began outlining bodies on the Pentagon parade ground walk with red, water-soluble paint. Among the Texan arrestees were Marilyn White and Ken Freeland of Houston, and Andy McKenna of Austin (currently in DC). Most were charged with a federal misdemeanor, while McKenna and six others were mysteriously released with no probable cause. Those charged face July 2 and 16 arraignments Federal District Court in in Alexandria.
The Washington Post cited an uncorroborated Pentagon spokesman's figure of only 350-400 protestors, while the rally clearly had five times the numbers of last fall's Day Without the Pentagon action with 37 arrests. Unlike that event, Nunca Mas slowed traffic and interefered with business as usual at the Pentagon.
Later on Monday and Tuesday, there were vigils on the Capitol steps. Speakers at the vigil included Congress members, clergy, and friends and family of SOA victims. At a press conference at the Capitol last Thursday, Rep. Joe Moakley (D-MA), Rep Joe Scarborough (R-FL), Rep John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Bruce Vento (D-MN) and Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX) stood together to call for the closing of the School of the Americas.
"As we point the finger at Yugoslav leader Milosevic's
ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, the United States must wash the blood
from its own hands by shutting down the School of the Americas,"
said Father Roy Bourgeois, co-director of SOA Watch, a Washington,
DC-based organization committed to shutting down the School of
the Americas. "We can set the
example by ending this murderous chapter in our history."
The demonstrations come on the heels of President Clinton's recent apology for the United States' support for right-wing governments in Guatemala that killed thousands of rebels and Mayan Indians in a 36-year civil war. A February 1999 Guatemalan Truth Commission report blasted the US counterinsurgency training that "had a significant bearing on human rights violations during the armed conflict." The report went on to identify the SOA as a key location where the training occurred. Meanwhile, ten high-ranking military officers who are SOA graduates have been charged in connection with the ongoing human rights case against Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
SOA Watch and protesters are urging support for H.R. 732 (D-Moakley) and S.873 (D-Durbin), bills that would totally shut down the SOA, and pressuring Clinton to use his authority to close the school.
(An earlier version of this alert and other information may be found at SOA Watch's web site, http://www.soaw.org.)