Once more, the kangaroo court of Judge Stephen Hyles in Columbus, Georgia played the Pentagon’s tune. On Wednesday, March 13, just after 11am, he imposed the maximum allowable punishment on SOA Watch activist Nashua Chantal: 6 months in federal prison
for crossing over the barb-wired fence at the main gates of Fort Benning, last November to protest against the continued operation of the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC). Click here to watch a video of Nashua and his supporters before the trial.
Judge Hyles’ decision reaffirms the fact that the trials and harsh punishments against SOA Watch activists are intended to quell dissent and dissuade others from taking action. Nashua himself had served 3 months after he crossed the line in 2004.
Nashua, a 60 year-old carpenter and community helper from Americus, Georgia, entered the courtroom with quiet dignity. When Nashua was handcuffed and about to get incarcerated following the sentencing by Judge Hyles, his supporters in the courtroom started singing "We Shall Overcome" and "You Do Not Work Alone." In response to the solidarity proclamations, the judge ordered the U.S. Marshalls to remove all of us from the court house.
Despite the hypocrisy and the injustice, as a movement we are strong in our knowledge that military training and oppression will not bring about the security and democracy that the U.S. government claims to defend.
We were heartened to have our friend
Ed Dubose, president of the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, speak out with us, saying “whatever the name – SOA or WHINSEC – we must end this mess!” And the presence of Anton Flores, of the Alterna Community who denounced the waste of taxpayer funds in the perpetuation of the SOA/WHINSEC and in the imprisoning of activists, while local schools are shut down and the social safety net cut.
SOA/WHINSEC graduates are the muscle that protects the 1% in Latin America. They are slowly being brought to justice, as the current cases against SOA dictator Ríos Montt in Guatemala, and the Plan Condor/SOA Junta in Argentina show. We know that with truth on our side, someday those who trained the killers at the SOA/WHINSEC will also face the courts, not those that speak out against them.
Making life difficult for them each day,
Update from Nashua!
Nashua called the main SOA Watch prisoner support person from jail. He said that he is at Lee County (Alabama) Jail. They have assigned him Inmate ID #5340. Nash said he would probably be there until space opened up in a federal prison. So he could be there a while, just as it was with SOA Watch Prisoner of Conscience Theresa Cusimano, who was at the same jail last year. The SOA Watch prisoner support person is going to work today to get some cash in to his commissary account so that he can buy some clothes and thermal underwear. He said that he has only one very thin blanket and is freezing.
Nash asked that the SOA Watch community be advised where he is. We believe the mailing address to use for Nash is:
Robert Chantal, #5340
Lee County Sheriff's Jail
P.O. Box 2407
Opelika, AL 36804
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