2012-01-15 "Theresa Cusimano Sentenced to Six Months in Federal Prison for Crossing the Line to Speak out against the School of the Americas"
To read her full speech from the stage and for contact information for
some of the media outlets that Theresa mentioned, click here [http://soaw.org/take-action/november-vigil/bodies-on-the-line-direct-action/3824-theresa-cusimano]. To send a
message to the media through the SOA Watch webpage, click here [http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/727/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=9187].
“There is but one law for all: the law of humanity and justice” - Jimmy Carter.
Those words adorn the wall inside the courtroom of Judge Stephen Hyles at the Columbus courthouse. And there they remain, strong words that ring hollow in face of injustice, merely adornments. For her act of peacefully crossing the line at Fort Benning, Georgia – a misdemeanor offense – a 6-month sentence was imposed on Theresa Cusimano. Those who train men with guns at the SOA/WHINSEC, those who created those torture manuals, have never had to defend their actions, yet Theresa is being sentenced to six months in prison for nonviolently calling attention to the US military’s role in the violence carried out against her sisters and brothers in the Americas.
Theresa Cusimano wrote the following statement to Judge Stephen Hyles before her sentencing, telling him that his complicity goes on record today as obstructing international justice and U.S. Rule of Law, and that she wished that he had the courage of Father Roy and the honor of being a subversive.:
“22 years ago, Father Roy Bourgeois played a recording of Bishop Romero’s final homily from the day before he was assassinated by School of the America graduates. Romero was labeled a subversive for identifying with the poor. Roy was so sure that once Romero’s community heard this homily, their hearts would be changed. So he climbed a tree with his friends, replaying Romero’s words to Salvadoran soldiers who were being trained at the School of the Americas to kill their brothers and sisters. Roy wore a Navy uniform representative of his military service in Viet Nam. Because of this action, Roy and his friends joined this circle of “subversives” by shining light on the truth of how the U.S. was spending our tax dollars on its gambling game known as U.S. foreign policy. In this dirty war business “subversives” become fair game for U.S. trained and financed militias while the U.S. continues to profit, sitting back and watching the body count grow, with mass graves filled with hundreds of thousands of mutilated children, raped women and countless, faceless corpses of unknowing communities. Who are we?
Columbus is a proud community that does not deserve the stain that the Schools of the Americas brings. The Fort’s barbed wire fence was not built to aid and abet the U.S. from international accountability for the human rights crimes facilitated by the SOA, violating U.S. statutes requiring transparency, not to mention military ethics. Yet you handcuff, videotape and fingerprint me as a criminal.
It seems we are in a bit of a stalemate. Our prisons are over filled, and our courts underfunded. Yet, you, Stephen Hyles, allow this expensive stalemate to continue. You pretend we are here for trespass, wasting precious resources, ignoring talent and idealism that could be put to better use. Because the Columbus magistrates do not recuse themselves despite their conflicts of interest, because you continue to deny defenses that would allow this debate to come to light. Since international law experts are not granted admission to this hearing, you and I are here today on Friday the 13th… you forced to listen and me sentenced to your prison, as a peaceful protestor. Nowhere else but in Georgia can such extreme sentencing be found to protect a base with a tagline, Maneuvers in Excellence. Is this what you call excellence? I want my tax dollars back. I suppose I should be grateful to make use of my tax dollars in another boondoggle economy that lacks accountability, the U.S. prison system.
I beg your pardon while you make a mockery of justice and we pay the price. General Eisenhower warned us of this stalemate as he left the White House. He warned that the military complex would suck all of the resources our country needed for its people, our schools, our hospitals to fuel its addiction to war. Nobel Peace Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu begs Americans to, “Stop exporting U.S. warfare.” My witness today Judge Hyles, is to hold you accountable, for the schools that will close this year, the veteran benefits that will be too expensive to make good on, the national service programs like AmeriCorps that will be threatened because you sat silent as precious resources fund the renamed School of the Americas in its latest Honduran coup. You may not hold a machete, or ask children to detonate the landmines used in U.S. financed coups with the protections of a soldier trained here, but your complicity goes on record today as obstructing international justice and U.S. Rule of Law. You have other choices. I only wish you had the courage of Father Roy and the honor of being a subversive.
With employment at an all-time low, who are we to challenge Georgia’s largest employer? We are 300 prisoners of our conscience who have served more than 100 years in prison, collectively. We are supported by hundreds of thousands of protestors. Our legislative campaign with no real funding comes within ten votes of inviting accountability. Today you could choose justice, Judge Hyles… it’s well within your reach.”
Theresa Cusimano, SOA Watch Prisoner of Conscience, January 13, 2012
Before carrying her protest onto the base in November 2011, Theresa addressed thousands of human rights activists at the gates of Fort Benning with a request:
“…Our message is not being heard in Congress, our lawmakers have been purchased by other priorities, so youth and students in the movement ask for you to help us in the Court of Public Opinion and go online to the Daily Show’s Facebook page, register in for their Forum. Request that Father Roy be invited onto the Daily Show, and the Colbert Report. Don’t stop until we get Roy’s voice into the media mainstream, Hardball with Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann and the Sunday morning circuit. Don’t let my civil action go to waste.”