SOA Watch activists facing charges for street mural
SOA Watch Activists Arrested and Charged with “Defacing Public or Private Property” in Washington, DC for Creating a Mural to Commemorate Victims of SOA Violence
Art is Not a Crime - Drop the Charges
Washington, DC - Last week, DC activists helped kick off SOA Watch's poster campaign to remember the martyrs and expose the killers. On Wednesday, May 14, a group of about a dozen activists came together to paste up a giant mural on the streets of the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC. For a video of the mural action, visit: SOAW.org/mural
Though the activists were peaceful in their actions, DC police decided that political art was unacceptable in the district. After the artwork was completed, four of the activists were handcuffed, arrested and held for 6 hours before being charged with "defacing public or private property." The charge carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in prison and a $1,000 fine. SOA Watch activists Dominique Diaddigo-Cash, Gail Taylor, Maria Luisa Rosal and Nico Udu-gama will be arraigned in US Superior Court on June 5, 2014.
SOA Watch activists have vowed to keep up the use of creative actions to spread the word about the reality of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America, and the truth about the bloody history of the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation).
A petition to US District Attorney Ron Machen, calling for the charges to be dropped, has garnered several hundred signers in less than 24 hours. Nico Udu-gama, one of the four activists who was arrested and charged states: “Our message is too powerful to be locked behind bars. Let's take this negative energy and transform it, and decorate our cities with powerful art to create a culture of justice, dignity, and peace.”
Since 1946, the SOA/WHINSEC has trained over 70,000 Latin American soldiers in counter-insurgency techniques, sniper skills, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. Human Rights groups are calling for the closure of the institute. Rep. Jim McGovern has introduced H.R. 2989 in the House of Representatives, which calls for the suspension of operation of the school and a Congressional investigation into the connection between human rights abuses in Latin America and U.S. military training.
From November 21-24, 2014, thousands will gather at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, to call for the closure of the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC) and to speak out for justice in solidarity with the people of the Americas.