For Immediate Release
Government Drops Case Against the SOA Watch "White House 15"
WASHINGTON - The SOA Watch movement claimed a victory yesterday, September 12, 2011, in its long struggle to close the SOA/WHINSEC and change the culture of militarization.
On April 10, 27 human rights activists lay down on the sidewalk in front of the White House, demanding that President Obama close the SOA/WHINSEC by executive order. The SOA has left a long and bloody trail through the Americas, as graduates of the school have terrorized, massacred, disappeared and tortured thousands of people, as they protect big corporations and failed economic models. Over many years of grassroots education, direct action and lobbying in Congress, the SOA Watch movement has demanded a shift from oppressive US foreign policy to respect for self-determination and dignity.
On August 16, 2011, sixty-nine members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to sign an executive order to close the SOA/WHINSEC.
Fifteen of the 27 activists arrested at the White House on April 10 (dubbed the "White House 15") decided to take the battle to the courts. Faced with this challenge, the government added a second charge - and offered to accept payment in lieu of trial - in order to intimidate the activists. We were not intimidated, we were ready to face the charges and most importantly, put the SOA on trial once more. The prosecution, sensing defeat, had no choice but to claim that it wasn't prepared to make the charges stick, and the case was dismissed by Judge Frederick Sullivan.
Confronted with a rising tide of discontent of the US people - on a range of issues from the SOA/WHINSEC, to the Tar Sands, to Afghanistan to immigration - the US government has decided to criminalize ANY form of dissent, from die-ins to marches. The "justice system", tasked with the role of criminalizing dissent and maintaing the status quo, is bogged down with petty cases, mostly involving poor people and people of color, but also reaching out to those who actively criticize the government.
In the post 9/11 era, we have been told that we must sacrifice our liberties in the name of security. We don't belive that anymore. We must shake off our fear, rise up and defy the warnings emitted from those who are seeing their power wane.
We understand the risks of expressing dissent in this country, and history has given us examples of severe repression of political dissent, both in this country and abroad. We must fight back. We understand the risks of expressing dissent in this country; federal law enforcement agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have a dark history of targeting radical and progressive movements. Some of the dirty tricks they use against these movements include: the infiltration of organizations to discredit and disrupt their operations; campaigns of misinformation and false stories in the media; forgery of correspondence; fabrication of evidence; and the use of grand jury subpoenas to intimidate activists.
Our arrests were nothing compared to the violence and brutality exacted upon the poor people and communities of color by tools of oppression such as graduates of the School of the Americas.As we speak out against oppressive US foreign – and domestic – policies, we know that those in power will use police, jails and the media to stop us.
So let's not stop here. Join us November 18-20 as we head to the gates of the SOA in Georgia, and lift our hearts and voices in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who have been rising up for so long against injustice. And we'll be back in DC next spring, so watch out!
The fifteen activists were:
Alice Gerard, Grand Island, New York
Ann Tiffany, Syracuse, New York
Chris Gaunt, Grinnell, Iowa
David Barrows, Washington, DC
Ed Kinane, Syracuse, New York
Eve Tetaz, Washington, DC
Jack Gilroy, Endwell, New York
Judith Kelly, Arlington, Virginia
Maia Rodriguez, Arlington, Virginia
Megan Felt, Des Moines, Iowa
Nico Udu-gama, Washington, DC
Paki Wieland, Northampton, Massachusetts
Priscilla Treska, Cleveland, Ohio
Sarah Sommers, Cleveland, Ohio
Scott Wright, Washington, DC
SOA Watch is an independent organization that seeks to close the US Army School of the Americas, under whatever name it is called, through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as well as media and legislative work.