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Dominicans Add Their Voices to Call for School Closure

FT BENNING, GA, December 3, 2007---Dominicans from around the United States, along with their friends and students from several Dominican schools, helped to swell the crowd of over 25,000 people marching against the School of the America.

Jim Barnett at SOA
fr. Jim Barnett, OP (St. Albert) walks in process with (in background) Mary Soher, OP (Adrian) and Jane Abell, OP (Houston)

According to organizers, the 18th annual vigil, held November 16-18th, was one of the "largest and most vibrant yet." The controversial training center is formally called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, a combat-training school for Latin American soldiers. Graduates of the program make up a litany of terror in ElSalvador, Guatamala and other Latin American nations.

A particular feature this year included statements of solidarity from groups in Latin America, including a statement from Dominican leaders who recently met in Guatamala. (see related story)

Political and Church leaders joined the procession including U.S. presidential candidates Dennis Kucinich, Mary Waskowiak;, RSM, President of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and Rabbi Michael Lerner.

“It is important for us to be present at the vigil to be in solidarity with other people who have recognized this institution’s impact on the poor and helpless,” Dominican Sisters of Springfield Council Member and Justice Promoter, Sister Marcelline Koch, OP said.  “Innocent people are tortured and killed by the graduates of the SOA."

SOA WATCH, an independent organization seeking to close the School of the Americas, reports that the graduates of this school return to their countries to utilize their training domestically and are consistently cited for atrocities against their own people.  Other human rights organizations have linked hundreds of SOA graduates to widespread terrorism, civilian-targeted torture, disappearance and killing.

The weekend also included nonviolent direct action training, workshops, benefit concerts, puppet shows, teach-ins and more.

Adriana Portillo Bartow gave a tribute to Rufina Amaya, the sole survivor of the El Mozote massacre of over 900 men, women and children in El Salvador. In 1999, Rufina traveled from El Salvador to the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, where 19 of the 26 people later found responsible for the massacre were trained at the School of the Americas. She told the story of the massacre and worked for justice until her death of a heart illness earlier this year. Rufina Amaya – Presente!

Simultaneous actions took place throughout the weekend in Santiago, Chile; Fort Huachuca, Arizona; Monterey, California; San Francisco, California; and Toronto, Canada; and other places.

Sources that contributed to this story: Dominican Sisters of Springfield,

Dominicans in Latin America call for SOA closure.


Justice and Peace Meeting in Guatemala

SLIDESHOW: Sights and Sounds from the November 16-18, 2007 Vigil to Close the SOA/

SOLIDARITY STATEMENTS from across the Americas.

“These horrors often happen to people who are poor, these are people who don’t have a voice.”
Marcelline Koch, OP (Springfield)

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