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SOA Watch: We’re Still there Until the School of Americas Is Closed D

posted by WadnerPierre

December 11, 2012

SOA Watch: We’re Still there Until the School of Americas Is Closed D

By Wadner Pierre- originally published by The Maroon

For the first time in two years, a group of Loyola students traveled to a US military- sponsored school in Fort Benning, Ga. to protest the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests and their two workers.

Hundreds of thousands protesters continue as rally against the U.S.-sponsored military school in the Fort Benning, Ga. Photo by Wadner Pierre

It has been 23 years since six Jesuit priests and their two workers were murdered at the Creighton University in El Salvador. The perpetrators of this crime were alleged to be trained at the School of Americas. For more than two decades the School of Americas Watch, a national organization, has begun a campaign to close the military school. The School Of Americas Watch annual protest coincides with the anniversary of the death of the six Jesuit priests.

Business sophomore, Katie O'Dowd had no idea about the protest until her freshman year at Loyola through her involvement in LUCAP. She said she was struck by the many young people engaged in the movement. “I always want to advocate for the School of Americas Watch. I’ll continue to ask students to go in this protest,” she said.

O’Dowd said she hopes the school will be closed. In 1990, former naval officer and Catholic priest Roy Bourgeois started School Of Americas Watch in a house near the gate of the US military school in Fort Benning, Ga.

Twenty-two years have passed, but the goal has remained the same. Some progress has been made with a half-dozen Latin American countries like Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, which withdrew their troops from this school.

Two decades after Bourgeois founded School Of Americas Watch, thousands of students, teachers and human activists including lawyers from all over the world have joined the protest every year with one goal to “Close the School of Americas.”

The School of Americas, which now goes by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is known for training soldiers who have been responsible for killing people in their own countries. Loyola University New Orleans celebrates the lives of the six Jesuits and other victims of some of the School Of Americas allegedly trained military death squads every year through the “Martyrs Mass” in the peace quad. The university planted six trees and named them after each of the six Jesuit priests.

The Rev. Ismael Moreno Coto S.J., left, and the Rev. Roy Bourgeois, and founder of the School of Americas, right ,lead the anti School of Americas protest in Fort Benning, Ga. This year marked the 22nd anniversary of the protest aiming to close thande US-sponsored military school. Photo By Wadner Pierre

The Rev. Bourgeois S.J., in a prayer to bless the protesters said, “May love and mercy go with you, may you speak in solidarity with those who have been silent by death and repression.”

Bourgeois also believes that the voice of the School of Americas’ victims will be heard all over the American continent.

“Through your witness, may their voice be heard, here at the School of Americas, in the White House, in the halls of Congress and the heart of people all across the Americas,” he said.

This year, a delegation of the School Of Americas Watch movement met with President Barrack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Denis McDonough. Loyola’s Law Clinic director, Bill Quigley was among the School Of Americas Watch delegates.

Quigley said McDonough told the delegation that he knows about the School Of Americas and people in his family have been asking him to close this school for years.

“We thank his family and people he went to school with and the other folks. But it’s clear that this is just a step of this journey we are on. We have to push him,” Quigley said to the protesters.

Quigley urged School Of America Watch supporters to keep the pressure on with hope that Obama’s second administration may close the military school. “We are going to close the School of Americas,” said Quigley.

Loyola students hope the School Of Americas will be closed one day, though they do not know when and how long it will take. They also know their actions to support the School Of Americas Watch movement matter.

Sociology seniors Ellen Rice, left, and Camille Fiess, right, carry a symbolic coffin with cross at the 2012 SOA Watch protest. The annual protest coincided with the 22nd anniversary of the deaths of the six Jesuits and two workers in El Salvador. Photo by Wadner Pierre

Biology senior Carissa Marston, who attended the protest for the first time, said she will use her experience in her upcoming presentation for her Latin American class and continue to advocate for the closing of the School of Americas.

“I think I have more to contribute as far as the conversation about militarism and what SOA actually does and why it should be closed,” she said. LUCAP adviser, Joseph Deegan said students had to pay a $25 fee this year and special funding was available for those who could not afford to pay. Deegan said LUCAP financed this trip through a donation from Kevin Poorman, who currently serves as a chair on the Board of Trustees.

The School of Americas Watch protestors have made a promise that has become their slogan: “We will be there until this school is closed.”

Mass communication senior and The Maroon Photo Editor Wadner Pierre traveled with LUCAP to SOA Watch. He can be reached at wpierre@loyno.edu

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