Monday, November 7, 2011

SOA Watch, November 18-20, 2011

Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia is not only barracks for up to 120,000 US troops, it is also the site of America's assassin training program, WHINSEC, formerly known as the SOA or School of Americas.  Members of Occupy Birmingham will be attending the annual protest at the gates, 12,000 are expected.  Not only is this an awesome show of nonviolent resistance, it is also a event and protest it is also a huge educational, spiritual, and musical event, with Giant Puppets! See how protests are supposed to look like, this is what democracy looks like!  I was there in 2006, and I guarantee it will also make an impression on everyone who attends.  

Corporate oppression and colonial exploitation of Latin America is well-documented.  Many Latino people have attempted to flee economic disasters now flee for their lives here in Alabama where they came looking for work.  Now that the American economy has hit a wall, minorities are being forced to take the fall as usual.  Since anti-immigrant legislation HB56 passed, Alabama has once again become ground zero for human rights abuses in America.  People have had their very existence declared a crime, this is NOT what democracy looks like, this is the racist fascism of the same sort Alabama has been all too well known for in the past.  If we can resist successfully here in the heart of Dixie, we can fight back the evil trend towards inhumanity and racism.  The General Assembly of Occupy Birmingham has passed a motion to place HB56 at the forefront of the Occupy Alabama movement.  Because of Birmingham's  historical significance in the fight against racism, we of all communities must overcome the forces of hatred and bigotry that have reared their ugly heads, especially 'leaders' like Scott Beason and Luther Strange.  With togetherness, love and justified anger, we SHALL overcome. (More info on HB56)

About the SOA Watch, from  "SOA Watch is an independent organization that seeks to close the US Army School of the Americas, under whatever name it is called, through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as well as media and legislative work.

On November 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests, their co-worker and her teenage daughter were massacred in El Salvador. A U.S. Congressional Task Force reported that those responsible were trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA) at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

In 1990 SOA Watch began in a tiny apartment outside the main gate of Ft. Benning. While starting with a small group, SOA Watch quickly drew upon the knowledge and experience of many in the U.S. who had worked with the people of Latin America in the 1970's and 80's.

Today, the SOA Watch movement is a large, diverse, grassroots movement rooted in solidarity with the people of Latin America. The goal of SOA Watch is to close the SOA and to change U.S. foreign policy in Latin America by educating the public, lobbying Congress and participating in creative, nonviolent resistance. The Pentagon has responded to the growing movement and Congress' near closure of the SOA with a PR campaign to give the SOA a new image. In an attempt to disassociate the school with its horrific past, the SOA was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in January of 2001.

Driving through 280 - (280 becomes Victory Drive, which intersects with Fort Benning Road, where the main gates of Fort Benning are located).  People who are coming from from the North on I-185S to Columbus need to be careful to not miss the Exit 1N/Victory Drive, since it is the last exit before military base (the Hwy goes onto the base) In past years, people have been arrested by military police for accidentally driving onto the open base.  Those who wish to carpool or share a room please visit the forum posting at

Walter Simon
Occupy Birmingham

Saturday, November 5, 2011

OBham National Bank Transfer Day by Walter Simon

This is my personal account of the events of Fifth of November, 2011, National Bank Transfer Day, Birmingham Alabama. 

Tommy picked me up near my apartment and we were among the first to arrive, no one was especially early, but folks started to amass steadily and by 11 their was quite an accumulation of people.  There was a full supply of protest material, signs and public messages, especially the central one, "We!  Are!  The ninety-nine-per-cent!  Banks got Bailed Out, WE Got SOLD Out!" The crowd came to life, people were looking and listening to each other, felt the truth, and the 70 of our ranks solidified and I could see, feel and hear the wave of emotion sweeping the gathered numbers into the togetherness of solidarity as they strode out towards Wells Fargo Bank.  The marchers' chants rang out together in solid rhythm and harmony, as suddenly it seemed to me the emotion, the righteous indignation, the moment, the economy, life itself, had compelled us to react to the undeniable fact that something is wrong with us, and we need to be agents of its correction, not mindless idolaters of personalized corporate corruption.   The chorus reached an angry pitch when I finally set foot directly in front of the bank windows, and a loud voice rose up inside of me, and I'm certain many of my new companions would agree, a fearless call had been heard by all who stood there like Chris Nelson, brave and tall, and heroic poetry seemed, to me at least, had already been living in the air all along, 

Other notable moments occurred during the (roughly25 minute?) protest in front of Wells Fargo:
* Despite having a megaphone on hand (not sure about the law here), amplification was unneeded as evidenced by several rounds of "Human microphone", where words are heard and repeated by the gathering. The mic checks expressed authentic speeches by individual members, not the words of any authority but the consensus.  One particular human microphone, Allyn, included in his address to his fellow resistors the thankful appreciation and sympathetic brotherhood and common cause between the protesters and the Jefferson County/Birmingham Police department, whose pensions, healthcare, and livelihood threatened, they suffer as we are made to, and surely are feeling as we are, so too they are the 99%.  Relations with Wells Fargo security and the police was quite easy-going, and I'm not sure if there were any Birmingham Police at all, come to think of it.  Our organization had met with the City Attorney and everything seems to be open, accepted, and thankfully genuinely friendly, understanding and even transparent by all parties, Occupy Birmingham, the police, and the city government. 
*Here is a flyer I did the art for with a list of Alternatives to the corporate banking system that let us down: 
* Someone from a group who was setting up a table very close to the site of the Bank protest, right at the edge of the Wells Fargo property, in fact, had set up a table with charts, literature, and political quizzes. 
Oh yeah, and I stood there and watched someone from this group from the Libertarian Party claim to have "made" a flyer that actually I had designed with Tommy Bryant.  Not sure of the meaning of the word, "made" here, but it was most likely an honest mistake, perhaps.  I know what I heard, and she looked me directly in the eyes during the time she was explaining the meaning of "her" flyer.  Perhaps she came up with the text material, I'm not sure where Tommy got the information, actually, so we will hopefully get more centralized and/or organized.  If this sounds like petty gossip, then ignore it.  I just like keeping it real, if possible, but I could be wrong about the pettiness of this. Partisan politics, if in the open, honest, transparent, and in mutual interest, can be a great benefit to us all, and we have so much in common, let us keep our eyes on the prize and enjoy the camaraderie.  Peace.