SOA Watch founder and Former Prisoner of Conscience Father Roy Bourgeois Speaking in Philadelphia

Joanne and I traveled to Georgia with some members of Occupy Birmingham year before last for the School of the America Watch, a protest and vigil at the gates of Fort Benning where WHINSEC, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is housed. Formerly known as the School of the Americas, the Institute is a crash baccalaureate seminar in counter-insurgency, political subversion, and historically torture and assassination, for the United States’ Latin American vassals.

The first man to go to prison protesting the Institute and the founder of the SOAW, Father Ray Bourgeois will be in the Philadelphia area this Sunday and Monday, I encourage you to take this opportunity to hear him speak, and to attend the vigil in November. If we are able, we intend make it a full experience (a nearby conference is also worth attending).

We camped out the night before at a beautiful park on the Chattahoochee River.

Photo by Kenneth Lipp
Photo by Kenneth Lipp
Bridge over the Chattahoochee River into Alabama. Photo by Kenneth Lipp
Bridge over the Chattahoochee River into Alabama. Photo by Kenneth Lipp
Photo by Kenneth Lipp
Photo by Kenneth Lipp
up late the night before, taking photos on the nature trail
up late the night before, taking photos on the nature trail

Every year SOA Watch organizers gather with supporters and other activists opposed to the United States’ policies of systematizing interference in the affairs of the nations of Latin America and the rest of the world.

An Occupy Birmingham organizer, Allyn Hudson, at the vigil. Photo by Kenneth Lipp
An Occupy Birmingham organizer, Allyn Hudson, at the vigil. Photo by Kenneth Lipp
Helicopter flies over SOAW march. Photo by Kenneth Lipp
Helicopter flies over SOAW march. Photo by Kenneth Lipp

There is a march in front of the fort in vigil for the dead, where are read the names of victims of the Institute’s graduates.

Sign on the fence at Fort Benning, Photo by Kenneth Lipp
Sign on the fence at Fort Benning, Photo by Kenneth Lipp
March at SOAW November 2011, Photo by Kenneth Lipp
March at SOAW November 2011, Photo by Kenneth Lipp
Photo by Kenneth Lipp
Photo by Kenneth Lipp

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Anti-war activists traveled places all over the Western Hemisphere - an anti-drone activist with a table set up outside Fort Benning. Photo by Kenneth Lipp
Anti-war activists traveled places all over the Western Hemisphere – an anti-drone activist with a table set up outside Fort Benning. Photo by Kenneth Lipp
Photo by Kenneth Lipp
Photo by Kenneth Lipp

Below is the announcement for two speaking engagements in the Philadelphia area and history of Father Bourgeois and his work with the School of the Americas Watch, via the SOAW.

Father Roy will speak on Sunday, October 13, 2013 in the Parish Hall of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 3916 Locust Walk on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.

His talk from 3PM to 4 PM will be followed by a Q & A session until 5 PM. Admission is free and the public is invited.

On Monday, October 14, Father Roy will speak from 3:30pm – 5pm in the Widener Center Lecture Hall on the Cabrini campus, 610 King of Prussia Road, Radnor.

Join the Cabrini community to hear Roy Bourgeois share his personal journey from the war zones of Vietnam & Bolivia to his time in prison for “crossing the line” to protest the SOA.

Father Bourgeois has been a priest for 40 years and is best known for his work with the School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch), a non-violent organization that exposes the U.S.-based school, once called School of the Americas, and its role in training Latin American soldiers in repressive tactics and deploying them throughout the region.

Father Roy founded SOA Watch in 1990 after witnessing the killings of thousands in Central America in the 1980’s, but his conscious awakening and calling to priesthood happened immediately after his experience serving in Vietnam.

He joined the Maryknoll Society, an American Catholic organization, and traveled to La Paz, Bolivia, where he was ordered to leave the country after speaking out against the oppressive government of General Hugo Banzer Suarez, which arrested, tortured and killed many dissidents. From there he went to El Salvador.

After witnessing numerous human rights abuses that the Salvadoran government, with the financial support and military tactical aid of the United States government, committed against its own population and fellow members of foreign religious organizations, Bourgeois focused on where these soldiers were receiving their training: the School of the Americas.

The SOA Watch grew from a handful of protesters to hundreds, and eventually into thousands today – with international recognition. Father Roy and SOA Watch were nominated as a candidate for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

The School of the Americas, feeling national and international pressure, changed its name in 2001 to the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). Graduates of the school include former Bolivian dictator Hugo Banzer Suarez, and Honduran General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, who was a vital player in the military coup there that ousted President Manuel Zelaya in June 2009.

The coup not only brought an end to a democratic government, but it has also turned Honduras into a nightmare, with the highest homicide rate in the world. Political repression is among the worst in the hemisphere: journalists, opposition activists, and LGBT activists have been murdered with impunity.

Graduates of the SOA, who head state security forces under the illegitimate post-coup regime of Porfirio Lobo, work in complicity with private security forces to repress small farmers and cooperatives from defending the lands that provide their sustenance. Repression by SOA graduates also continues today in Colombia, Mexico, and throughout the Americas. For more information, visit the School of the America’s Watch website: http://SOAW.org.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) has introduced the “The Latin American Military Training Review Act,” which seeks the immediate suspension and investigation of the school. Efforts to move the Obama administration to close the school by executive order are underway as well.Next month, from November 22-24, 2013, thousands of human rights activists, torture survivors, anti-war veterans, students, families, union workers, artists, and others from Philadelphia and from around the Americas will converge at Fort Benning, Georgia, to call for an end to U.S. militarization and the closure of the SOA!

Father Roy is also an outspoken proponent of women’s ordination since “There will never be justice in the Catholic Church unless women are allowed to be ordained.””Who are we to say that a woman’s call [to priesthood] isn’t valid?” said Father Roy. “God initiates the call to priesthood, and like racism, sexism is a sin”, he added.

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