Five Human Rights Activists Facing Trial For Protesting on Capitol Hill
On April 16, the Activists Were Arrested On Capitol Hill As They Opposed the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) and the militarization of Latin America
On April 16, 2012, hundreds of activists marched on Capitol Hill to demand the closure of the School of the Americas(SOA/WHINSEC). 13 of these activists were arrested when they attempted to march past the Congressional office buildings, were held for 6 hours by Capitol Hill police, and finally charged with “Blocking Passage.” Five are on trial for engaging in a protest to close the SOA/ WHINSEC on Capitol Hill inWashington,DC.
The “SOA 5,” a group of human rights activists from different parts of the country, were on Capitol Hill, among hundreds of other activists, to ask Congress to close the SOA and end the militarization ofLatin America. As they tried to lead the march downIndependence Avenuein front of the Congressional buildings, they were impeded by dozens of police who blockaded their passage. Despite the threat of arrest by the Capitol Hill police, the brave activists insisted to stand for their right of speech.
The defendants are: Amber Mason (26; Washington, DC), Becca Polk (27; Bloomfield, Michigan), Kevin Mason (29; Washington, DC), Maia Rodriguez (24; Arlington, Virginia), & Fr. Roy Bourgeois (73; Columbus, Georgia).
View pictures and read the statements from the 13 activists here:http://www.soaw.org/take-action/april/251-info/3892-13-arrested-in-dc-for-protesting-the-soawhinsec
“Militarization in the Americas has increased during the Obama administration, as evidenced by the military coup and the ongoing violence in Honduras, the ever-expanding ‘War on Drugs,’ the continuing murders of unionists in Colombia and the construction of new U.S. military bases throughout the hemisphere,” says Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch and one of the defendants. “It’s time for us to step it up, to get anti-militarization on the national agenda in 2012, and to create alliances to stop ‘teaching democracy’ through the barrel of a gun!”
Amber Mason, one of the defendants, says: “I refuse to be complicit in war and injustice committed by my government in my name and I believe you cannot claim to be for peace and justice unless you are publicly actively against war and injustice. For these reasons, I chose to risk arrest, and stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Latin America, and all around the world calling for end to all militarization. As Dr Martin Luther King Jr said, ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’.”
The SOA/WHINSEC is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers. Its graduates are consistently involved in human rights abuses and atrocities. In 2009, SOA graduates overthrew the democratically elected government of Honduras. The protest on Capitol Hill was part of a larger effort to increase pressure on President Obama to close the SOA by Executive Order. Ecuadorand Nicaraguahave recently joined Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Boliviaon the decision to remove its troops from the School of the Americas. On September 4, 2012, President Ortega said: “the SOA is an ethical and moral anathema. All of the countries of Latin America have been victims of its graduates. The SOA is a symbol of death, a symbol of terror.”