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Judge Sentences School of the Americas Protesters to 6-Months in Prison
Published on Thursday, May 24, 2001 by the Associated Press
George W. Bush's America
Judge Sentences School of the Americas Protesters to 6-Months in Prison
88-Year Old Catholic Nun Among Those Imprisoned
by Elliott Minor
 
COLUMBUS, Ga. –– A U.S. magistrate on Wednesday sentenced peace activists to up to six months in prison for trespassing at Fort Benning last fall to demand the closing of an Army school that trains Latin American soldiers.


This genteel Southern judge smiles and then comes the dagger .It baffles me how he can sleep at night when an 88-year-old nun is going to prison ... when assassins and soldiers who have tortured and raped get pardons. A grave injustice has been done.

The 26 defendants, ranging from a 19-year-old college student to an 88-year-old Catholic nun, were among 3,400 protesters who marched into the military post Nov. 19 to protest the School of the Americas. The protesters say graduates of the school have been linked to murder, torture and other human rights abuses.

Before the protest, the 26 defendants were notified that because they participated in previous intrusions, they would be prosecuted if arrested.

Officials say the school's mission is to spread democratic principles among Latin American leaders who come there to study.

U.S. Magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth said the defendants violated a law aimed at preserving good morale, order and discipline on military bases. The law prohibits political gatherings on military property.

"We are a government of the people," he said. "The majority in Congress enacted the law you are accused of breaking.... You re-entered those premises in violation of the law. Therefore, it is my duty to impose sentences."

One of the defendants pleaded guilty Monday; the judge found the rest guilty Wednesday. They had been charged with criminal trespassing.

Faircloth initially sentenced 88-year-old Dorothy Hennessey, a Dubuque, Iowa, nun, to six months probation. She said she didn't want any special treatment because of her age, then the judge changed her sentence to six months in prison. He imposed a similar sentence on her sister, Gwen Hennessey, a 68-year-old nun.

Homemaker Mary Lou Benson, 56, of Brainerd, Minn., said she thought her three-month sentence was harsh.

"I feel like I was called to cross the line," she said. "In crossing, I was standing in solidarity with the oppressed of South America. Nobody thought the government would do this."

Roy Bourgeois, founder of the group that has sponsored School of the Americas demonstrations since 1990, said the sentences were unfair.

"This genteel Southern judge smiles and then comes the dagger," Bourgeois said. "It baffles me how he can sleep at night when an 88-year-old nun is going to prison ... when assassins and soldiers who have tortured and raped get pardons. A grave injustice has been done."

The School of the Americas moved to Fort Benning from Panama in 1984. It closed last December and reopened in January with a new name – the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Responsibility for the school has been transferred from the Army to the Department of Defense and it has a new curriculum.

Officials say the demonstrations cost the Army about $50,000 for security, cleanup and processing demonstrators who are arrested.

SOA Watch protesters sentenced Wednesday:

David Corcoran, 67: Illinois. Hospital chaplain, married priest, father of three adopted Korean children. Sentence: 6 months, $1000 fine

Mary Lou Benson, 56: Minnesota. Homemaker, married, mother of four, sister of Martha, aunt of Rachel. Sentence: 6 months

Josh Raisler Cohn, 24: Oregon. Social and environmental justice activist.
Sentence: 6 months, $1000 fine- in custody

Russell De Young, 54: Virginia. NASA senior research scientist, married, father of two. Sentence: 6 months, $1000 fine

John Ewers, 66: Ohio. Retired manager at NCR Corporation, Habitat for Humanity volunteer, married, father of four. Sentence: 6 months, $1000 fine

Jack Gilroy: New York. High school teacher, married, father of four.
Sentence: 6 months, $500 fine-- in custody

Clare Hanrahan, 52: North Carolina. Freelance writer/journalist, gardener, mother of one. Sentence: 6 months, $500 fine

Martha Hayward, 56: Michigan. Middle school teacher, married, mother of four (including Rachel) Sentence: 3 yrs probation, $3,000 fine

Rachel Louise Hayward, 19: Michigan. Student, majoring in biology and Spanish, daughter of Martha. Sentence: 6 months

Dorothy M. Hennessey, 88: Iowa. Dubuque Franciscan, peace worker, sister of Gwen. Sentence: 6 months

Gwen Hennessey,68: Iowa. Dubuque Franciscan, peace worker, sister of Dorothy. Sentence: 6 months

Rita Hohenshell, 76: Iowa. Retired, mother of four, grandmother of five.
Sentence: 3 months

William Houston, 72: Ohio. Retired professor, father of two, husband of Hazel.
Sentence: 6 months, $1000 fine

John Alfred Hunt Jr: North Carolina. Community educator and activist.
Sentence: 6 months, $500 fine

Steve Jacobs: Missouri. Member of the St. Francis Catholic Worker, veteran and folksinger. Sentence: One year

Rebecca Kanner, 43: Michigan. Environmental educator, UAW member.
Sentence: 6 months, $500 fine

Joel Kilgour, 24: Minnesota. Baker in cooperative bakery, member of Loaves and Fishes Catholic Worker. Sentence: 1 month

Richard John Kinane, 51: Colorado. Teacher and contemplative psychotherapist. Sentence: 6 months, $500 fine

Elizabeth Anne McKenzie, 71: Minnesota. Retired teacher, Sister of St. Joseph.
Sentence: 6 months

Karl Meyer: Tennessee. Member of Nashville Greenland Community, activist with Catholic Worker movement for 44 years. Sentence: 6 months-- in custody

Lois Putzier: Arizona. Union organizer, married.
Sentence: 6 months

Eric Robison, 21: Washington. Social justice activist.
Sentence: 6 months, $500 fine

Miriam Spencer, 75: Washington. Member of Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, actively retired. Sentence: 6 months

Kathryn Temple, 28: North Carolina. Artist, writer, feminist.
Sentence: 2 years probation, $500 fine

Hazel Tulecke, 77: Ohio. Retired, mother of four, wife of William.
Sentence: 3 months

Mary Alice Vaughan, 68: Minnesota. Retired elementary school teacher, former Sister of St. Joseph. Sentence: 6 months, $150 fine

© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

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