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Fifty-five arrested at SOA protest


Several thousand protesters from the United States, Canada and Latin America rallied in Washington the first weekend in May against the U.S. Army’s training program for Central and South American military at the Fort Benning, Ga.-based School of the Americas, called SOA.

Gathering May 1 in Lafayette Park across from the White House, people from Mexico, Haiti, Guatemala, Columbia, Chile and Honduras gave personal testimony of the rapes, murders and massacres perpetrated under the leadership of U.S.-trained SOA graduates. Opponents of the school have dubbed it the ”School of Assassins.”

In a “Liturgy of Hope” held May 2 on the east steps of the U.S. Capitol, Jesuit Fr. James Hug said, “We have the power to close the School of the Americas and close down the culture of violence that destroys our peace.”

Referring to the Capitol, Hug continued, “We have come to surround this place of power with the gentle power of our prayer that this destruction of human life will never again take place.”

Nearly 400 protesters held an early morning vigil at the Pentagon May 3. Fifty-six were arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience. Hundreds more returned to the Capitol to lobby their representatives to support 113 members of the House and 10 senators pushing a bill to close the school. The bill is expected to be voted on in September.

About 115 U.S. Catholic bishops have signed a resolution asking the U.S. government to close the school.

National Catholic Reporter, May 14, 1999