Sunday, November 23, I took part in a nonviolent civil disobedience
action at Fort Benning, GA, to protest the U.S. Army´s School of the
Americas (SOA, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security
after more than two dozen of us entered Fort Benning and were arrested,
US Military Police took us to a warehouse on the base for "processing."
I was directed to a station for an initial search, where a woman soldier
began shouting at me to look straight ahead and spread my legs. I
turned to ask her why she was shouting at me and was ordered to keep
my mouth shut, look straight ahead, and spread my legs wider. She
then began an aggressive body search. When ordered to raise one leg
a second time, I temporarily lost my balance while still being roughly
searched and, in my view, ‘womanhandled.’ I decided that I shouldn’t
go along with this dehumanizing action any longer. When I lowered
my arms and said, quietly, "I’m sorry, but I can’t any longer
cooperate with this," I was instantly pushed to the floor. Five
soldiers squatted around me, one of them referring to me with an expletive
(this f_ _ _ er) and began to cuff my wrists and ankles and then bind
my wrists and ankles together. Then one soldier leaned on me, with
his or her knee in my back. Unable to get a full breath, I gasped
and moaned, "I can’t breathe." I repeated this many times
and then began begging for help. When I said, "Please, I’ve had
four lung collapses before," the pressure on my back eased. Four
soldiers then carried me, hogtied, to the next processing station
for interrogation and propped me in a kneeling position. The soldier
standing to my left, who had been assigned to "escort" me,
gently told me that soon the ankle and wrist cuffs, which were very
tight, would be cut off. He politely let me know that he would have
to move my hair, which was hanging in front of my face, so that my
picture could be taken. I told him I’d appreciate that.
was then carried to the next station. There, one of the soldiers who’d
been part of pushing me to the floor knelt in front of me, and, with
his nose about two inches from mine, told me that because I was combative
I should know that if I didn’t do exactly as instructed when they
uncuffed one hand, he would pepper spray me. I asked him to describe
how I’d been combative, but he didn’t answer.
the processing, I was unbound, shackled with wrist and ankle chains,
and led to the section where other peaceful activists, also shackled,
awaited transport to the Muskogee County jail.
our bond hearing on Monday, Nov. 24, a military prosecutor told the
federal judge that the military was considering an additional charge
against me for resisting arrest. I explained my side of the story
to the judge, grateful that there are at least sevreal witnesses upon
whom I could call.
federal judge determined that most of us were "flight risks"
and increased by 100% the cash bond required before we could be released,
from last year´s $500. to $1000.
I have a black eye and the soreness that comes with severe muscle
strain. Mostly, I’m burdened with a serious question, "What are
these soldiers training for?" The soldiers conducting that search
must have been ordered not to tolerate the slightest dissent. They
were practicing intimidation tactics far beyond what would be needed
to control an avowedly nonviolent group of protesters who had never,
in thirteen years of previous actions, caused any disruption during
the process of arrest. Bewildered, most of us in the "tank"
inside the Muskogee County jail acknowledged that during the rough
processing we wondered, "What country do we live in?" We
now live in a country where Homeland Security funds pay for exercises
which train military and police units to control and intimidate crowds,
detainees, and arrestees using threat and force.
morning’s aches and pains, along with the memory of being hogtied,
give me a glimpse into the abuses we protest by coming to Fort Benning,
GA. As we explore the further invention of nonviolence in our increasingly
volatile time, it’s important that we jointly overcome efforts to
deter our determination to stand together against what Martin Luther
King once called, "the violence of desperate men," and