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Festival of Hope / 1 in support of
Mary Burton Riseley, 
Betsy Lamb & Father Jerry Zawada

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Festival of Hope / 1

Festival of Hope 1

in support of
Mary Burton Riseley, Betsy Lamb and Father Jerry Zawada

On Sunday 18 November 2007 - following quite literally in the footsteps of Fathers Louie Vitale and Steve Kelly - Mary Burton Riseley, Betsy Lamb & Father Jerry Zawada crossed the line at Ft Huachuca to demand an end to torture by the US military and the Bush administration.  Their act of conscience resulted in their arrest and trial on charges of tresspass, failure to yield to orders to halt, and conspiracy - combined convictions having a potential sentence of years in a federal penitentiary.

The Festival of Hope took place on 3 February 2008 at St Mark's Presbyterian Church in Tucson, AZ - the eve of their trial in Tucson Federal Court.  Unfortunately, Lamb and Zawada were unable to attend as they were incarcerated without bail at the time of their arraignment in early December due to violations of previous probabtion and bail restrictions from previous protests.  Neither was Riseley able to attend as she was severely afflicted with the flu though she was able to appear at the trial the next day and, though weak, spoke eloquently and forcefully on the reasons for her actions.

The Festival was a show of support by the Tucson activist community - organizers of the Ft Huachuca protest - and included 

  • Ted Warmbrand and Charlie King
    "Old Folkies" and longtime activists in Tucson and across the coutry leading the crowd in song in the spirit of union and civil rights struggles of previous eras

  • Jack Cohen-Joppa
    Jack was MC and has been a primary organizer of the support group for the three defendants and for Father Vitale and Kelly who will soon be released from their 5 month sentneces in feral prison for their similar acts of conscience the previous year

  • Carlos Maurico
    Survivor of torture by US backed military death squads in El Salvador during the reagan era dirty wars throughout Central America.  Carlos now heads the Stop Impunity Project to bring torturers and war criminals to justice worldwide

  • Sally Manshart
    Sally is part of the Tucson activist community and conveyed Betsy Lamb's greeting to the Festival

  • Bill O'Neill
    Human Rights attorney and part of the legal team of the three defendants

  • Brother David Buer
    Franciscan and worker for social justice.He is a primary contact and coordinator for support of the three defendants and for Vitale and Kelly.

It must be noted that Tucson has been a hotbed of activism since the Contra War era and birthplace of the Sanctuary Movement which served as a modern day underground railroad conducting Central American refugees - many of them victims of torture by US supported death squads - to safety in, ironically, the United States.  See the RFS! program The Sanctuary Experience for an interview with our own Dorothy Pine who aided refugess at the risk of a federal prison sentence.

The trial took place on Monday 4 February 2008 in Tucson feral court and though found guilty of trespass and failure to yield, the more serious charge f conspiracy was dropped.  During the sentencing portion of the procedure, the defendants were permitted to speak on the reasons for their civil disobedience and acts of conscience.  All spoke movingly of their commitment to justice and when questioned as to whether he would violate the orders of the court or his sentencing conditions, Father Zawada refused to say that he would not do the same thing again if his conscience so dictated.

At the conclusion, Zawada & Lamb were released from custody and all three were sentenced to two years probation and a $5000 fine that could be paid by 500 hours of community service at a value of $10hr.  The judge went further to state that she would review the evaluations of their probation officers and that they would be allowed to perform their community service for anti-torture or other activist organizations so long as they broke no laws.

The now annual demonstration at Ft Huachuca has occurred for four years and is inspired by and in solidarity with the much larger annual demo at the gates of Ft Benning, GA.  That demonstration began 18 years ago and now brings over 20,000 citizens to call for an end to torture and US policies of war and oppression.  

Ft Benning is the home of WHINSEC, formerly the School of the Americas, now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation but it continues to be the School of the Assassins.  This is where the US government recruits succeeding generations of young army officers in countries throughout Latin America and indoctrinates them in the US policy of hemispheric domination and the use of the most brutal means of suppressing, disappearing, torturing and killing their own fellow citizens in the interest of US policy.  The list of those that have commited the most bestial acts in their home countries is heavily weighted with SOA graduates and the influence of their training on the military forces of their home countries tilits the political balance toward perpetuating the oligarchies that have long afflicted Latin America and impede the development of true democracy.

Carlos Mauricio (see his RFS! interview) spoke in harrowing detail of his disappearance and seemingly miraculous reprieve from a death squad dungeon.  His story, as he describes, is not his alone, but that of hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans similarly treated by the US backed death squads.  The ultimate horror of these crimes is that they are being repeated by US forces and their proxies routinely and without accountability on a worldwide basis today.  What was done to Carlos and others 25 years ago is now being done to Iraqis and anyone else who falls within the grasp of the US military, intelligence, contractor/mercenaries, and proxies in 3rd countries throughout the world.  We now know the horrors of Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo but have forgotten that these same crimes were the methodology of the Reagan era Contra Wars and have been used against millions throughout our history.

Ft Huachuca is the home of the Army Intelligence Center which is responsible for all manner of hegemonic methods but is particularly noted here as the place where the curriculum for the School of the Americas is devised and where the interrogators / inquisitors of the US War of Terror are trained.  The Tucson activist community has undertaken confronting this menace in conjunction with the School of the Americas Watch which organizes the annual demonstration at Ft Benning as well as promoting human rights here and abroad year round.

This program is part one of the event.  Part two - including Col Ann Wright - will follow in the coming weeks.

Click here to watch or here to listen.

Click here for 
Torture on Trial

Click here for 
SW Weekend of Witness

Click here for 
School of the Americas Watch

Click here for 
Bill Quigley at Loyola University

Click here for 
Bill's blog at The Smirking Chimp

Click here for 
Censored News / Brenda Nortrell's blog -
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Click here for 
NY Times on 2007 Guatemalan death squads kill
3 Salvadoran Congressmen

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