Pax Christi USA members from Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Minnesota, New Jersey, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming and elsewhere gathered at the School of the Americas this past weekend for the annual vigil and action to close the SOA.
Friday evening, Pax Christi USA hosted its 14th annual program, entitled this year “Pax Christi USA at the SOA: Resisting the Militarization of our Youth—from Central America to Ferguson.” The gathering drew over 250 participants and featured presentations by Rev. Ismael Moreno Coto, S.J., popularly known as Padre Melo, a Jesuit priest and human rights activist in his native Honduras and Tony Neal, currently President/CEO of Educational Equity Consultants who has served as faculty and trainer for numerous Dismantling Racism Institutes of the National Conference for Community and Justice.
On Saturday, over 1,000 participants gathered in Lumpkin, Georgia for a march to the Stewart Detention Center. Stewart is one of the largest immigrant prisons in the U.S., currently warehousing 1,800 men for profit. These detainees’ only “crime” was to flee the economic and political violence in their home countries, violence created by U.S. policies and training like at the SOA/WHINSEC.
On Sunday, 2,500 human rights activists braved the rainstorms and converged at Fort Benning to call for an end to militarized state violence in the U.S. and abroad. Featured presenters came from Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Venezuela, and the US.
Following the stage program, a solemn funeral procession commemorated those murdered at the hands of School of the Americas/WHINSEC graduates, including the two women and six Jesuit priests who were massacred in 1989 at the University of Central America (UCA) in El Salvador, as well as activists from Honduras, Mexico and Colombia killed earlier this year.