SOA Watch Founder Fr. Roy Bourgeois Speaks on US Human Rights Abuses (Part 1) listen02/23/10 Lisa Marzilli
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Close to a hundred people packed the small Lakewood United Church of Christ in St. Petersburg Friday night to listen to a man who has spent the last two decades working to shut down the School of the Americas, or SOA, now known as WHINSEC. The US Army facility has trained some 60,000 Latin American military personnel in counter insurgency and torture since it opened in 1946. Its list of graduates is a veritable whoâ€™s who of some of the worldâ€™s most notorious human rights abusers.
Twenty years ago, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, a soft spoken man with a Louisiana drawl and a fiery message, embarked on a mission to shut down the SOA. The 72 year-old Catholic priest espouses liberation theology and has spent over four years in federal prison for his non violent protests against the school. He was awarded a Purple Heart for his military service in Vietnam â€“ a war he said changed everything for him.
Bourgeois talked about the incredible act of violence committed by SOA graduates that propelled the formation of the School of the Americas Watch.
He talked about his time in prison.
Fr. Bourgeoisâ€™ visit was sponsored by the Tampa Bay chapter of Pax Christi, a national Catholic peace organization. Many in the audience have been part of the annual SOA protests for years and some, like Dwight Lawton of Veterans for Peace had actually spent time in jail, alongside Fr. Roy.
Pax Christi member John Stewart has also stood on the front line with the SOA Watch.