SOA Watch defendants sent to prison

The annual protest outside the gates of Fort Benning in Georgia has been going on since 1990. (CNS/Catholic Explorer)

The annual protest outside the gates of Fort Benning in Georgia has been going on since 1990. (CNS/Catholic Explorer)

A federal judge this morning found six people guilty of trespassing for entering the Fort Benning Army Base in Columbus, Ga., during the annual School of the Americas Watch vigil and demonstration Nov. 23.

The six are:

— The Rev. Luis Barrious, 56, chairman of the Department of Latin American and Latina/o Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and an associate pastor at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in New York.

–Theresa Cusimano, 40, director of Colorado Campus Compact at Regis University in Denver.

— Kristien Holm, 21, a student at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

–Ursuline Sister Diane Pinchot, 63, professor of art at Ursuline College in Cleveland; she also teaches ceramics to homeless women.

— Al Simmons, 64, a preschool teacher in Richmond, Va.

— Louis Wolf, 68, staff member of Rock Creek Free Press newspaper in Bethesda, Md.

Judge G. Mallon Faircloth had sentenced everyone but Cusimano and Wolf as of mid-afternoon. The others received two-month sentences in federal prison. Rev. Barrios and Holm also were fined $250.

The trial has become an annual ritual in the west Georgia city. It also has been a way for School of Americas Watch, founded by Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois, to focus attention on the institute’s training methods, which activists believe include practices that can be used to violate human rights.

U.S. Army officials deny the charge, saying the school, known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation since 2001,  promotes democracy and preserves freedom while serving to professionalize the military in neighboring countries.

The school has been the focus of an annual protest/vigil by a largely Catholic movement since the 1989 killings of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter at the University of Central America in San Salvador.

UPDATE: Late this afternoon Cusimano was sentenced to two months in prison and fined $500 while Wolf was sentenced to six months of house arrest and a $1,000 fine.

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2 Responses to SOA Watch defendants sent to prison

  1. Chris Lieberman says:

    The six people, who went on trial today, participated in a public drama of crime and punishment. The small view of the news is that their crime was trespassing on an American military base. The larger view is the news that Americans can live up to our noble ideals of truth and justice.
    For too long, WHINSEC has represented the military, economic, and political oppression that destroys people’s bodies and threatens people’s souls. The good news is that those who trespassed onto WHINSEC property believe change is possible. Americans, capable of great good and terrible destruction, can live into our better selves. We should not try to silence or ignore such messengers.

    Those who participated in this nonviolent action of conscience and civil disobedience remind us all that there is a better way. The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation can be held accountable. Yes it can. Those who strive for peace, justice, love and community become messengers of good news. They nurture the hope that injustice, exploitation, greed and fear will not determine our actions towards other people.

  2. Peter Mabus says:

    Just google the first person listed “Luis Barrios”, and you will find the Revolutionary Communist Party website.

    “St. Mary’s” Episcopal in New York has Maoist literature in the “church”, and the pastor wrote a nice review for “Chairman” Bob Avakian’s “Revolution” DVD Talk.

    Founder Roy Bourgeois is about to be excommunicated for ordaining women “priests” in a weird Unitarian new age ceremony.

    These hipsters should move to Cuba and spread their “good news” over there. I’m sure Castro let’s criminals trespass all over Cuban military bases…

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