The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Nico Udu-gama at 202-446-6632 or
Hendrik Voss, 202-425-5128,

SOA Watch Activists Face 6 Months in Prison


Two Opponents of the Controversial Military Training School are Serving 6
Months Prison Sentences. Two more to go on Trial in Columbus, Georgia
on Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pre-Trial Press Conference on the Steps of U.S. Courthouse in Columbus,
Georgia, 12th Street & 2nd Avenue on January 5, 2011 at 8:30am

On Wednesday, January 5, 2011, Nancy Smith from New York and Chris
Spicer form Illinois are scheduled to begin federal trials for carrying
the protest against the School of the Americas onto the Fort Benning
military base in Georgia. This school, re-named the Western Hemisphere
Institute for Security Cooperation, is a controversial U.S. Army
training school for Latin American soldiers. The defendants face up to
six months in prison and a $5,000 fine for this act of nonviolent civil

Nancy Smith and Chris Spicer were among the thousands who gathered on
November 19-21, 2010 outside the gates of Fort Benning in Columbus,
Georgia to demand a change in U.S.-Latin America foreign policy and the
closure of the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC). Four people
peacefully crossed onto Ft. Benning, site of the school, while thousands
stood vigil at the gates of Fort Benning in memory of those killed by
graduates of the institution. Two of the four, Father Louis Vitale and
David Omondi from California plead no contest and were sentenced in
November to six months in federal prison. Nancy Smith and Chris Spicer
plead not guilty and are scheduled to go to trial on January 5, 2011.

Those arrested at the demonstration crossed the line to protest the
school's historical ties to brutal dictatorships throughout Latin
America and the ever-growing number of human rights abuses and crimes
committed by its graduates. The SOA/WHINSEC made headlines in 1996 when
the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated
torture, extortion and execution. The school was in the news again when
its graduates led a military coup to overthrow of the democratically
elected government of Honduras in June 2009.

Nancy Smith and Chris Spicer are scheduled to begin trial at the Federal
Court in Columbus, Georgia at 9am on Wednesday, January 5, 2011 before
Judge Stephen Hyles, who sentenced Father Louis Vitale and David Omondi
to six months in prison last November. Since protests against the
SOA/WHINSEC began 19 years ago, 247 people have served sentences of up
to two years for nonviolent civil disobedience.

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.