Priest Gets 6 Months for Peaceful Fort Benning Protest: 26 Protesters and 3 Reporters Arrested

November 26th, 2010 - by admin

SOA Watch & Associated Press & Army Times – 2010-11-26 18:58:33


Police Arrest Press and 26 Protesters at SOA Vigil

Thousands Converge at the Gates of Fort Benning for 20th Anniversary of November Vigil to Close the SOA
Nico Udu-gama / SOA Watch

(November 21, 2010) — Thousands of human rights activists, torture survivors, veterans, faith-based communities, union workers, students, musicians and others from across the Americas are gathered today at the gates of the US military base Fort Benning to call for the closure of the School of the Americas (renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation).

Following the SOA Watch rally, human rights activists brought their nonviolent witness to close the SOA into the street leading onto the military base. The activists briefly shut down the road with a large sign that said, “Stop: This is the End of the Road for the SOA.”

Their action is part of a longstanding tradition of creative civil disobedience to call attention to the atrocities committed by graduates of the School of the Americas. 10-12 people were arrested, and others charged, including the 90-year old Jesuit priest Bill Brennan, and ordained Catholic priest Janice Sevre-Duszynska.

Two human rights activists crossed onto Fort Benning through the highway entrance. They have been charged with federal trespass and face up to six months in federal prison and a fine up to $5,000.

When the rally participants tried to leave the vigil area, the police blocked off all exit points. After a few minutes, the police allowed people to leave on the sidewalk, only to follow them, indiscriminately arresting people who had neither committed any crimes nor engaged in civil disobedience. Among those arrested were journalists, who were filming the police misconduct and bystanders. All arrestees are currently being held in the Muscogee County Jail for up to a $5,500 bond.

Judge Sends 2 Benning Protesters to Prison for 6 Months
The Army Times & The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ga. (November 23, 2010) — A federal judge in Columbus has sentenced two protesters to serve six months in prison for trespassing onto Fort Benning during weekend demonstrations outside the Army post.

Louis John Vitale and Michael Omondi received the maximum sentence possible from the judge after pleading no contest to trespassing charges Tuesday in US Magistrate Court.

The men were among hundreds who gathered last weekend for an annual protest calling for the government to close the former School of the Americas, which trains Latin American military officers at Fort Benning.

Two other demonstrators were arrested on federal charges after either climbing Fort Benning’s chain-link fence or crossing onto the Army post by road. They pleaded innocent and will return to court in January.

Four Line Crossers Arraigned
Hendrik Voss / SOA Watch

(November 24, 2010) — Four SOA Watch activists were brought before a federal court today for trespassing on a military base.

David Omandi, a member of the Catholic Workers from Los Angeles and Father Louis Vitale, a Francisan priest from California pleaded “no contest” and were sentenced to the maximum sentence of 6 month in prison.

Chris Spicer from the White Rose Catholic Worker in Chicago and Nancy Smith from the Hudon River Valley in New York pleaded “not guilty” and will return for trial on January 5, 2011.

Arrested RT correspondent talks about police brutality at Fort Benning


COLUMBUS, GA (November 22, 2010) — On Sunday, the Judge found 23 of the 24 who were arrested by the city guilty on all charges including unlawful assembly, failure to disperse, and parading without a permit. The total of bonds and fines exceed $75,000 (which does not include appeals). A full legal update will be posted soon from our legal collective, including on the four individuals who courageously crossed the line onto the base to protest the SOA and face federal charges.

We have seen extraordinary solidarity in our movement in raising the money needed through loans and donations to release everyone arrested. People were trickling out of the jail until 4am this is morning. We have been able to raise close to $30,000 in an extremely short amount of time. This is unprecedented for SOAW. We are so grateful for both the people present here in Fort Benning, and our network across the Americas where donations and loans have been pouring in to ensure the speediest release for the arrestees.

We encourage you to help spread the word to ensure the people who put themselves on the line are taken care of by our community. Please donate. We still desperately need to pay back our loans and raise additional money that will be needed for the state charges and court fees.