Human Rights Activist Faces Six Months in Federal Prison for Nonviolent Civil Disobedience
Theresa Cusimano will stand trial on Friday, January 13, 2012 for crossing onto the Fort Benning military base in Georgia to protest the continued operation of the notorious School of the Americas/Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation
Theresa will be joined by supporters - including Edward DuBose, Georgia president of the NAACP; Theresa El-Amin, Regional Director of the Southern Anti-Racism Network; and Anton Flores, Director of the Alterna Community - for a press conference on Friday, January 13 at 8:30am at the Federal Courthouse in Columbus, Georgia, 12th Street & 2nd Avenue
Columbus, GA – Theresa Cusimano, 43, a resident of Kissimmee, Florida was arrested on November 20, 2011 after crossing onto Fort Benning, Georgia in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience, calling attention to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC). Theresa’s act of civil disobedience came at the culmination of a protest that drew thousands to the gates of Fort Benning, calling for the closure of the SOA/WHINSEC and a change in US policy towards Latin America. Protestors included actor Martin Sheen and human rights defenders from Honduras, Colombia, Haiti and Costa Rica. The annual protest denounced the institute’s lack of transparency, its ties to brutal dictatorships and the ever-growing number of human rights abuses and crimes committed by its graduates.
“Our message is not being heard in Congress because our lawmakers have been purchased by other priorities,” said Cusimano. “I choose civil disobedience because the lawless acts promoted by the School of the Americas are human rights crimes unfitting of a so-called World Super Power.”
Cusimano was arrested by military police on trespass charges and faces trial on January 13, 2012 – her second trial for such actions at Fort Benning. Cusimano also carried her protest onto Ft. Benning in 2008, an act for which she served two months in federal prison. She now faces up to six months. Protests against the SOA/WHINSEC began 21 years ago; since then over 300 people have been sentenced and collectively served over 100 years of prison time for nonviolent civil disobedience.
The SOA/ WHINSEC, a combat training facility for Latin American security personnel made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. SOA Watch is a nonviolent grassroots movement that works to close the SOA/ WHINSEC and to change oppressive U.S. policy.
Theresa Cusimano’s trial is scheduled to begin at the Federal Court in Columbus, Georgia at 9am on Friday, January 13, 2011 before Judge Stephen Hyles. Judge Hyles is known for imposing maximum prison sentences on nonviolent SOA Watch activists, who demand that institutions like the SOA/WHINSEC no longer protect the 1%’s corporate greed over the 99% and work to cultivate a culture of peace, mutual respect and justice across the Western Hemisphere.