“Stemming from our Franciscan values and the fact that all life is interconnected, members, vowed and non-vowed are encouraged to be engaged in ministry with those living on the margins of society and struggling to live with dignity.” 26th General Chapter Congregational Commitments 2013
“The 2013 November Vigil energized the movement. The weekend gathering was vibrant and featured creativity in many different facets. Many participated for the first time in the annual vigil. On Sunday, November 24, thousands walked in a solemn funeral procession and commemorated those who have been killed by SOA/ WHINSEC graduates and U.S. militarization. The procession transitioned into an upbeat celebration of life and resistance, after Oscar Romero’s last sermon was blasted through the stage speaker system, and a banner with our message, and thousands of soap bubbles crossed over the barb-wired fence. The vigil weekend included for the first time a Peoples Movement Assembly (PMA) on Saturday morning. As part of the PMA, hundreds of movement activists gathered in small groups and discussed questions about the role of nonviolent direct action in the context of an increasingly militarized prison system. SOA Watch activists are taking the discussion back to their communities. The questions that we are focusing on are: is there a need to shift to other creative ways of continuing the tradition of direct action? What are your thoughts on nonviolent direct action and prison witness considering both our movement’s history and today’s context? The other main question focused on our grassroots organizing strategies. The conversations continue and we are looking forward to everyone’s input.” SOA Watch
I went to the SOA Watch gathering and demonstration the weekend of November 22-24,2013. It was amazing to see the diversity of age, gender, race represented by those present for this weekend. Nonviolence was present throughout the weekend by the demonstrators. Infiltration of movement by plain clothes police officers was readily apparent. Some were the same officers who infiltrated the group last year and then testified at the trial. We counted about 10 officers, but the commander suggested there were quite a few more. A police helicopter buzzed the group (flew at about 100 feet above) causing some to duck from fear of being hit and causing some of the vendors to run after t-shirts that were now flying around the concrete.
When does national security become a pretext for attacking freedom of speech? SOA Watch has filed a Freedom of Information request with the Columbus Georgia police to get any files they might have on the demonstration/demonstrators.
Our message remains the same. Shut Down the School of the Americas by any name. It has caused the grief and torture of our brothers and sisters in Latin and Central America for too long. This continues and so shall we continue to protest it. Our faith demands this of us.
For more information go to soaw.org