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Thousands Expected For
Mexico Border Action

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School Of The Americas Watch Is Moving Annual Vigil From Ft. Benning To Southern Arizona Oct. 7 to 10 With Support From Local Groups And Activists

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By Staff Report
Modern Times Magazine

Sept. 23, 2016 — After holding an annual vigil at the gates of Fort Benning, Ga., for 26 years, School of the Americas Watch and partner groups are planning a three-day action centered around Nogales that is expected to draw thousands to the area.

More than 20,000 regularly attend SOA Watch vigils.

“We wanted to respond to the dire human rights crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border where hundreds of people are dying in the desert and also call attention to the militarization of the border and call attention to the root causes of migration and why people are fleeing Latin America and have to come to the United States,” said SOA Watch National Organizer Henrik Voss. “Because we see U.S. policy in Latin America, U.S. militarization, U.S. economic policies, as some of the root causes that force migration.”

SOA Watch also pushed up the date of its annual vigil from November to October so that it will take place prior to the upcoming presidential election, said Voss. Border issues, always a hot topic during election season, have taken center stage this cycle due in large part to Republican nominee Donald Trump’s promise to force Mexico to pay for the construction of a massive border wall.

The vigil will take place on both sides of the border with events in Nogales, Ariz. and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. It will actually kick off north of Nogales on Oct. 7 with a vigil and rally held in conjunction with Arizona-based Puente Human Rights Movement outside of the Eloy Immigrant Detention Center at 1705 E. Hanna Road, Eloy , Ariz.

“We will first go to the detention center to be in solidarity with the people who are incarcerated just for fleeing economic conditions in their country and coming to the United States,” said Voss.

Other key events include a veteran-led march to the current border wall in Nogales on Oct. 8 that will precede a rally featuring speakers and musicians from across North, Central and South America. One group of veterans will lead the march on the U.S. side of the border while another group of deported U.S. military veterans will lead the march from the Mexico side.

“We need people to spread the word about U.S. foreign policy in Latin America and the reality of border militarization that is killing people every day,” said Voss.

School of the Americas Watch, or SOA Watch, was started by Father Roy Bourgeois and a small group of supporters in 1990 to protest the training of mainly Latin American military officers by the United States Department of Defense, at the School of the Americas. Graduates of the school have been implicated in murders and trampling of human rights for decades. Although Bourgeois was initially inspired by the murder of Archbishop Óscar Romero, who said "we who have a voice must speak for the voiceless," SOA Watch as a group sprouted from the November 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter at the Central American University in El Salvador by former students from the School of the Americas.

The group is one of the standard-bearers of non-violent protest and is also known for its use of puppetistas.

“Communities are being targeted for assassination and state repression throughout the Americas by U.S. trained military and police forces. People from Latin America continue to be forced to flee from U.S. trained repressive security forces, only to be confronted with a militarized border, racist laws, and xenophobic rhetoric in this election cycle,” according to a media release from SOA Watch.

Moreover, SOA Watch says such thinking is no longer isolated to migrant groups but is being extended to U.S. citizens as well.

“Black and Brown bodies in the U.S. continue to be targeted, systematically imprisoned and killed in the same way. We can no longer separate the issues and today we say enough!  We cannot look at immigration reform without looking at its root cause. We cannot discuss police brutality or the prison industrial complex in the U.S. without discussing its root purpose. State violence is used to exert control and oppress our communities in order to maintain an exploitative racist system that benefits the few. Today we say enough!” according to a SOA Watch media release.

In 2001 the School of the Americas was renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

SOA Watch is partnering with local groups, most notably Puente Human Rights Movement. Puente is organizing the kickoff event in the U.S. at the Eloy Detention Center at 5 p.m.

Hashtag for the event is #ConvergenceAtTheBorder

A full schedule of events and list of speakers can be found at the SOA Watch website.

Schedule

A People of Color or Directly Affected (POC) Space* is also being organized for the Convergence/Encuentro. In order to be accessible to undocumented folks (who are advised not to traverse the Border Patrol checkpoint between Tucson and Nogales), most programming for the POC Space will occur in Tucson. For questions concerning the POC Space, please contact Arturo at arturo@soaw.org

++ Denotes event in which one does not have to traverse a Border Patrol Checkpoint to attend


Friday, Oct. 7

— Vigil and rally at the Eloy Immigrant Detention Center, and Opening of the Convergence Weekend, Welcome, and Know Your Rights Information, from 5 to 7:30 p.m., 1705 E. Hanna Rd., Eloy, Ariz.++

— Welcome and Opening in Nogales, Mexico, 6 to 8 p.m.

— Concert in Tucson, Arizona at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., Tucson, from 7 to 11p.m., a benefit for No More Deaths. For all that are interested, including People of Color Space participants, and those unable to travel past the Border Patrol checkpoint to Nogales. ++

Saturday, October 8

— Veteran-led march in Nogales from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Kick off on the U.S. side at the Hotel Americana, 639 N. Grand Ave., Nogales. Kick off on the Mexico side at Plaza Miguel Hidalgo, Fundó Legal, Nogales, Son., Mexico.

— Rally at the border wall in Nogales with speakers and musicians from across the Americas from 9:45 to 11:45 a.m.

— People of Color & Youth Space Workshops, Plenary, & Break-Out Groups addressing inter-racial & transnational solidarity against state violence and gender justice are available all day.

— Workshops in Nogales, Arizona (United States) from 1:15 to 7:50 p.m.

— Workshops in Nogales, Sonora (Mexico) 1:15 to 7:50 p.m.

— Interfaith Ceremony at the border wall & candlelight vigil from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

— Cross-border concert at the Mexico/U.S. border wall, from 8:00 to 10:30 p.m.

Sunday, October 9

— ¡No Más! No More! & Presentes, musicians, protest, and art at the border wall from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

— Informal gathering/continuation of work at POC Space for those that cannot or choose not to travel to Nogales (time & location TBA)++

Monday, October 10

— Vigil for José Antonio Elena Rodríguez (time & location TBA)

— Indigenous People Day 2016 at the Global Justice Center, 225 E. 25th St., Tucson, Ariz., 2 p.m.

Wayne Schutsky and John Guzzon contributed to this report.

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