85 non-violent protesters arrested at a November vigil to close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly the School of the Americas) are being tried in Columbus GA, charged with "crossing the line" onto Ft. Benning.
Adjudicated yesterday was Phil D'Onofrio of Portland, a 35 year old Army veteran (who voluntarily enlisted at the onset of the Gulf War), now active in the Portland peace movement. For his non-violent act of civil disobedience he was sentenced to 3 months in federal prison.
Today Portlander Ann Huntwork, a 71 year old social worker who has spent many years of voluntary service overseas, was put on trial. Like D'Onofrio before her, she explained that her trespass onto the Fort property was an act motivated by conscience and by solidarity with oppressed peoples around the world.
U.S. Magistrate Mallon Faircloth originally started to sentence Huntwork to 3 months in jail. But Huntwork interrupted the judge in mid-sentence to note that she had crossed the line before, prompting him to instead impose the 6 month sentence that he routinely imposes on "double-crossers."
Others of the defendants likewise had corrected errors of the judge - resulting in longer prison sentences, or prison instead of probation.
In the first two days of trial, 40 peaceful protesters (including 7 Catholic nuns, a Catholic priest, and a Presbyterian minister) have been found guilty and sentenced - 26 to three or six months incarceration (six being the maximum permitted by law), and 14 to probation. Two more protesters are scheduled for trial tomorrow, including Lisa Hughes, a 37 year old health care worker recently of Portland.
In a statement yesterday to the Magistrate following sentencing, defendant D'Onofrio remarked, "Thank you judge. These harsh sentences will only make our movement stronger."
Most of the defendants are motivated by religious beliefs to engage in this annual protest to close the training facility where Manuel Noriega and other latin american military leaders received their "low intensity" combat training (i.e., combat against civilians). The fight against terrorism, many note, should begin at home, with closing of this taxpayer-funded "School of Assassins."
The annual SOA protest, commemorating the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter, by SOA granduates in El Salvador, and the school's on-going role in perpetuating violence against the poor and oppressed, is organized by the School of the Americas Watch, www.soaw.org. Portland traditionally is well represented.