Monday, November 19, 2007

Getting arrested and speeches at the vigil

As the protesters gathered at the gates (SOAW says there were 25,000, up from 22,000 last year), blessings and speeches continued. By 8:30 a.m., it was very difficult to get to the front toward the stage and people continued to arrive until the funeral procession began, so that the crowd stretched far past the speakers. Many people spoke about being here 10 years ago, when there were hundreds rather than thousands of people and there was no fence blocking the gates. Instead there was simply a line (hence the phrase, crossing the line).

Each year they make it more difficult to get arrested. I noticed that the fenced-in area by the gates was smaller on one side this year. Ten people crossed before the funeral procession even began, it was announced during speeches (this picture is from the SOAW website, which lists all the line crossers). Going early, they apparently got closer to SOA/WHINSEC than anybody ever has. At the end of the funeral procession, as drums beat before the puppetista show, a man literally flung himself over the barbed wire fence right at the gates, making him the 11th person to get arrested.

Michael Lerner spoke on the need to not only show them that we are against war and torture, but also to show what we want. He, along with Sister Joan Chittister and Cornel West, has established the Network of Spiritual Progressives in order provide positive alternatives.

I was wrong that only one presidential candidate was present. A former Georgia congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney, spoke Sunday morning, telling the audience how she broke from both war-making parties and is running as a Green Party candidate.

Dennis Kucinich also spoke, receiving roaring applause as the crowd waved his campaign signs in the air. He has been an advocate for the movement to shut down the SOA since 1997 and told the crowd: "I commit to you that if I get elected president, one of my first actions will be to close this school." But he also reminded the crowd that it is not just about "a piece of real estate," it's about the mentality in Washington that favors war.

The connections between the SOA and war were strong as Father Roy said that "we are here in solidarity with the people of Latin American and of Iraq." The nonviolent crowd seemed quite happy with that connection, chanting the one word that Bourgeois said describes today's political situation: Shame. It seems the movement has grown to encompass all foreign policy, thanks to the war in Iraq.

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