Webster, a grandmother living in Chico California, organized "A
Thousand Grandmothers for Peace" to protest in November 2006 against
the torture-training School of the Americas (SOA) (now called the
Western Institute of Security Cooperation or WHINSEC) located at Ft.
SOA-WHINSEC has been the subject of
international criticism since it was disclosed that torture manuals
were used in the training of Latin American military personnel.
Amnesty International USA called for the closing of the school, an
investigation into the human rights atrocities committed by its
graduates, an apology to its victims and reparations.
This week a federal judge in Columbus Georgia sentenced Ms. Webster to
two months in federal prison for stepping through a hole in the fence
onto the grounds of Ft. Benning to carry her protest to the doors of
Two other Grandmothers for Peace were also sentenced to federal prison
for the nonviolent protest -- Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse NY and Val
Fillenwarth of Indianapolis IN.
The three grandmothers were part of a
group of 16 human rights activists, ages 17 to 71, who were on trial
in federal court in Georgia this week. Fifteen of the activists were
given federal prison sentences of one to six months.
Alongside the grandmothers were five inspiring college students:
Melissa Helman of Ashland WI, Martina Leforce and Nathan Slater from
Berea KY, Graymon Ward of Raleigh NC and Whitney Ray of Grinnel, IA.
All were all arrested and prosecuted for trespass as well. Four were
also sentenced to prison.
Ms. Webster told the judge "You will notice that increasingly, it is
the elders who are speaking out and acting boldly and authoritatively
to bring understanding of what justice, kindness, generosity and
compassion mean in a world weary of the endless conquest and dominance
mindset of nations."
Ms. Webster estimated that over 1,000 grandmothers participated in the
November protest organized by School of Americas Watch which was
attended by nearly 20,000 people. The annual protest commemorates the
thousands who have died at the hands of the graduates of the
SOA-WHINSEC, which used and taught from publicly disclosed torture
manuals in its training of Latin American military personnel.
The grandmothers and the rest of the 16 protestors will join over 250
other activists who have spent a collective 92 years in prison and
dozens of years on federal probation for prior nonviolent civil
disobedience at the gates to Ft. Benning and the SOA-WHINSEC.
is a human rights lawyer and professor of law at Loyola University New
Orleans. Bill was part of the legal collective representing these
human rights protestors in federal court in Georgia. He can be
reached at: Quigley@loyno.edu.
For more on the human rights activists
going to federal prison and more on the campaign to close the
Other Articles by Bill
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Blood-Pouring Anti-Nuke Clowns Sent to Prison
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Convictions: The Trial of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Here
to Make It Home: New Orleans One Year After Katrina
of Mass Destruction Discovered Here
Months After Katrina: Gutting New Orleans
* HUD to
New Orleans Poor: “Go F(ind) Yourself (Housing)!”
Come Back to New Orleans Unless You Intend to Join the Fight for
Months After Katrina: Tales of Lunacy and Hope from New Orleans
* 6 Months
After Katrina: Who Was Left Behind Then and Who is Being Left Behind
Meeting with Pere Jean-Juste (12.13.05)
Leaders Call for Freedom for Jean-Juste, Neptune and Haitian Political
for the Holidays: Stop Evictions of Katrina Evacuees
Are They Making New Orleans a Ghost Town?
Orleans: Leaving the Poor Behind Again!