CRLN Represents at SOA Vigil 2012
A group of 15 CRLN members and friends joined together to make their trip to Ft. Benning, Georgia to once again call for the closing of the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA), now called WHINSEC, a military counterinsurgency training center for soldiers from Latin America operated by the Pentagon. SOA/WHINSEC graduates have returned to their countries where they have systematically perpetrated countless acts of violence through methodologies and tactics learned during their time in the US at the SOA. So far, six Latin American countries have officially withdrawn from SOA/WHINSEC: Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Ecuador.
For the first time, this year's vigil included a brief but powerful "Die-In", where the thousands of protesters present at the vigil simultaneous laid their bodies to the pavement - a collective commemoration of the thousands whose lives have been taken because of the SOA's violence.
As the crowd lay on the ground around the stage, with dozens of local police guarding the scene and the school's helicopters performing "routine practices" flying overhead at low altitude, the participants got an eerie and surreal glimpse into the air transport procedures used to carry out such massive violence. In a closing reflection, CRLN board member Margot Worfolk described it as one of the more moving experiences of her many years of attending the SOA protest.
Both in workshop and from the front gate, CRLN's 2012 Luncheon speaker, Brother Domingo Solis, spoke out at the vigil about the legacies of violence and corporate greed in El Salvador which continue to threaten the country's people and resources. Francia Marquez, an Afro-Colombian land-rights activist who visited Chicago this fall, spoke passionately against the militarization of her country and the impunity for those terrorizing her communities in the name of "security". Fr. Ismael "Melo" Moreno, SJ, CRLN's 2010 luncheon speaker, led the procession with Fr. Roy Bourgois and Chicago human rights defender from Guatemala, Adriana Bartow Portillo.
The SOA Vigil renews our commitment to peace and justice in our hemisphere and also inspires much of our ongoing gratitude for YOU!-our community of activists at home who make this resistance possible. Ya basta con la SOA! No más! No more!