FIERCE LIGHT JOURNEY
School of the Americas Watch
On my way to Oaxaca, Mexico I stopped in Georgia to film the School of the Americas Watch...
Imagine the courage of ONE THOUSAND GRANDMOTHERS standing together at the gates of the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. Imagine the gentle wisdom of one thousand CAREGIVERS taking action to stop the teaching of counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. Imagine the power of one thousand CHANGE-MAKERS saying NO to the perpetuation of crimes against humanity, especially against indigenous communities and children. At the gates of the US Army's School of Americas, that is exactly what they did.
The Protest demonstrations are staged by SOA Watch at the main gate of Fort Benning in November each year, in commemoration of the anniversary of the University of Central America (UCA) massacre. The original band of ten resisters who marched onto Fort Benning and vandalized the School of Americas by splashing blood into it, to commemorate the first anniversary of the UCA massacre, has grown in recent years to a teeming resistance community of 10,000. People come from across the country and around the globe to honor victims of the SOA, as well as their survivors, with music, words, puppets and theatre.
Traditionally the legal vigil and memorial service concludes with a mock funeral procession, using the Presente Litany, onto Fort Benning, with all who choose to march onto the post trespassing on federal property and subject to arrest.
In 2007, the vigil "remembering those who have been silenced by SOA violence." was held in memory of the victims who lost their lives to School of the Amerias alumni which included my friend Brad Will and the other victims of the unrest in Oaxaca. SOAW Protesters bore witness to the thousands of murdered people directly related the killing training taught at the SOA. This sombre display slowly turned into a dance of celebration to remember the lost ones.
What I didn't know I would find is that a counter protest is held the afternoon prior to the big peace march by military families and Christian Evangelicals called "God Bless Fort Benning Day".
Here, I saw that the military and its weapons are celebrated. The event was a family affair, with children being hoisted up to soldiers on tanks and encouraged to play at the assault rifle booth where they're taught to line up a shot and pull the trigger. Babies and soldiers posed, while beaming parents look on. At the assault rifle table kids were being taught correct handling of the most destructive of toys - lining up shots, pulling triggers, and smiling for the family album. The mood was forced celebratory.
The contrast of the School of the Americas Watch and God Bless Fort Benning Day showed me two very different understandings of the application of religion to activism.
Grandmothers for Peace
"Grandmothers for Peace get Federal Prison Instead" CommonDreams Article
School of the Americas (SOA) / Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC)
Fort Benning Official Site
Fort Benning on Wikipedia
God Bless Fort Benning Day
School of the Americas Watch