White House, Washington, D.C. - On Sunday, April 10, 27 human rights activists were arrested in front of the White House when they staged a die-in on the White House sidewalk to call attention to thousands of Latin Americans who were murdered by graduates of the U.S. Army School of the Americas. The die-in followed a march of hundreds of human rights activists to the White House. The march included torture survivors, union workers, educators and students from across the Americas. Marchers carried banners, flags and large puppets, including a 14-foot tall Mother of the Disappeared with them to the White House.
Gerardo Torres from Honduras addressed the increased School of the Americas graduate-led repression against social movements in his country.
"The School of the Americas has left a trail of blood and suffering in every country where its graduates have returned," said SOA Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois. "SOA graduates overthrew the democratically elected president of Honduras in 2009 and are involved in the current repression campaign against the pro-democracy movement in that country. It is up to people of conscience to stand up to the injustice and to call for an end to the violence."
The AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the United Auto Workers, the United Steelworkers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the NAACP, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, the United Church of Christ and over 100 U.S. Catholic Bishops all advocate the institute's closure.
The SOA/WHINSEC, a military training facility for Latin American soldiers located in Ft. Benning, GA, made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Soldiers trained at the school assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero on March 24, 1980, one of hundreds of documented human rights abuses connected to SOA/WHINSEC graduates. Obama paid his respects at Archbishop Romero's grave last week in El Salvador, but has done little to support an investigation of the SOA/WHINSEC facility. No independent investigation into the SOA/WHINSEC has ever taken place, and Congress continues to sign off on millions in funding to the school each year. Despite a vote for transparency by the House of Representatives, the Secretary of Defense has prevented the release of information about the school, claiming "national interest."
The call for an executive order to close the SOA will be amplified on Monday, April 11, when hundreds of human rights activists will converge on Capitol Hill to lobby their Representatives to sign a Congressional sign-on letter to Obama with the same demand.
The "White House 27," who were arrested on April 10, 2011 for engaging in nonviolent direct action, calling for the closure of the School of the Americas and an end to U.S. militarization of the Americas, are:
Alice Gerard, Grand Island, New York
Ann Tiffany, Syracuse, New York
Becca Polk, Bloomfield Hill, Michigan
Chris Gaunt, Grinnell, Iowa
David Barrows, Washington, DC
David McPhail, Kensington, California
Ed Kinane, Syracuse, New York
Eve Tetaz, Washington, DC
Father Roy Bourgeois, Columbus, Georgia
Jack Gilroy, Endwell, New York
Janice Sevre-Duszynska, Nicholasville, Kentucky
Jim Forfythe, Heyward, California
Judith Kelly, Arlington, Virginia
Kathleen Desautels, SP, Chicago, Illinois
Kevin Moran, Atlanta, Georgia
Kirsten Wittkowski, Bethesda, Maryland
Liz Deligio, Chicago, Illinois
Maia Rodriguez, Arlington, Virginia
Megan Felt, Des Moines, Iowa
Nicholas Alexandrov, Washington, DC
Nico Udu-gama, Washington, DC
Paki Wieland, Massachusets
Palmer Legare, Burlington, Vermont
Priscilla Treska, Cleveland, Ohio
Sarah Sommers, Cleveland, Ohio
Scott Wright, Washington, DC
Silvia Brandon-Perez, Heyward, California