|Media Release: Immigrant Rights Activists Converge on Georgia Immigrant Prison, then School of the Americas|
For immediate release
November 22, 2014
Activists Protest one of Largest US Immigrant Prisons, Caravan to Fort Benning, home of the School of the Americas
5 Human Rights Activists Arrested
On Saturday, November 22, hundreds of human rights defenders converged in the remote town of Lumpkin, Georgia, whose largest employer is the Corrections Corporation of America at the Stewart Detention Center. Stewart is one of the largest immigrant prisons in the US, currently warehousing 1,800 men for profit. These detainees' only “crime” was to flee the economic and political violence in their home countries, violence created by US policies and training like at the SOA/WHINSEC.
In the wake of President Obama’s announcement about his executive actions in regards to immigration, the activists marched 1.7 miles from central Lumpkin to the Stewart Detention Center. At a vigil in front of the prison, the activists demanded the release of the immigrants who are imprisoned at Stewart, an immediate end to mass deportations, and the closure of the Stewart Detention Center. Five activists were arrested for their nonviolent civil disobedience at the gates of Stewart: longtime union activist Maureen Fitzsimmos of Michigan; Rebecca Kanner, former SOA Watch prisoner of conscience from Michigan; Anton Flores, the vigil organizer from the Alterna community and the Georgia Detention Watch coalition; Jason McGaughey, of Washington, DC; and Kevin Caron of the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition. Bail was set at $25,000 for Anton Flores, and $1,000 for each of the others, but the SOA Watch Legal Collective negotiated bonds down to $250 each.
"Love crosses borders -- fear erects walls," said organizer and Georgia Detention Watch coalition founder Anton Flores, lifting up his Alterna community slogan. "The depth of a loving society is going to be marked by how quickly we can close these facilities down."
Following the protest at the detention center, a caravan drove to the main gates of Fort Benning, the military base that is home to the US military training camp known as the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or SOA/WHINSEC). The activists call out the connection between US-sponsored military repression in Latin America and forced migration. SOA training is among the roots causes of migration, which forces people to flee their countries in Latin America. Many immigrants to the United States are victims of US-sponsored military training and atrocities in Latin America.
In its fight to close the School of the Americas, SOA Watch continues to work towards a world that is free of suffering and violence. SOA Watch considers deportation quotas, mandatory detention, for-profit immigration detention centers, the militarization of the border, the "War on Drugs," and the training of repressive forces at the SOA/WHINSEC, as all parts of the same racist system of violence and domination. A dismantling of these and other policies is needed for there ever to be true "Comprehensive Immigration Reform." On Sunday, November 23, thousands will converge again at the gates of Fort Benning, for a solemn funeral procession to commemorate all victims of US militarization and violence. Visit http://SOAW.org/november for updates.
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