Más, No More" - Frank Woolever
by Elisha Peck
|Frank (far right) and Meme Woolever with SOA Watch founder Roy Bourgeois outside Fort Benning, GA.|
On the 20th of November, Frank Woolever, 72, spent the night in
jail for trespassing at Ft. Benning, Georgia.
Frank, a parishioner of St. Andrew's Catholic Church (124 Alden St., Syracuse) was protesting the School of the Americas (SOA) which is now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). Over the past ten years, 11 other people from Syracuse have been arrested for performing similar civil disobedience actions.
"It was done as a symbolic gesture of protest to focus on the death and violence," said Frank.
Every year since 1989, on the third weekend in November, people from all over the country gather to protest the SOA. This year, I was among the 19,000 people who gathered outside the gates of Ft. Benning for a funeral procession to honor those who have died at the hands of SOA graduates. During my trip with other LeMoyne College and Jesuit students, we also toured WHINSEC itself. According to the officers we met there, the student projection for 2006 includes 256 from Colombia, 94 from Honduras and 66 from Peru. It is not surprising that these are also the countries that have the most violence perpetrated by graduates from WHINSEC.
Frank first became interested in closing the SOA when the founder of SOA Watch, Father Roy Bourgeois, came to Syracuse for a presentation. His interest deepened when he traveled to Nicaragua in the 1980s. "I saw what they did to the people in Nicaragua. I've been down five times to that community. In the '80s I saw the terrible things that were going on from the Contra war."
Frank is a dedicated activist in the Syracuse community and has been arrested for nonviolent action in the past. "I've been arrested at least a couple of times-arrested at Romulus, arrested at Griffiss airforce base, where we used to go down four times a year protesting. And five years ago, I was arrested and given a 'ban and bar' letter at the SOA," explained Frank. The ban and bar letter stated that he could not enter Ft. Benning for five years without being subject to prosecution.
He explained why 2006 was the year to finally cross the line again. "The reason I couldn't go before is because I was the director at L'Arche, I had a responsibility to a greater community." The L'Arche program brings together people with developmental disabilities and some without to live together in faith-based communities. After a year of preparations, retiring from L'Arche, and the expiration of the ban and bar letter, Frank was ready for action again. He explained that his commitment, "springs from the work of Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, and indirectly from Jesus."
Frank further explained why the US is training Latin American soldiers on US soil and sending them back to their countries, where they often commit acts of violence against innocent civilians.
"The reason that we do it, is to provide our support for the countries down there that will allow the US business to flourish to help control a population that will espouse things that we don't want. We don't really want to help countries that are socialist or countries that want to help the poor."
Despite efforts to close it, the SOA remains open in the US, training increasing numbers of soldiers from Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, and Peru. Violence led by WHINSEC graduates also continues, which, according to Frank, means that "Today we are seen as hypocrites who boast of our democratic values, but act in violence."
Frank works with several local peace and social justice organizations, such as Time of Jubilee, Jericho Project, Syracuse Housing Authority, Onondaga Pastoral Counseling Center, Pax Christi, St. Andrew's Parish and the Syracuse Peace Council. In January, he was sentenced to three months in prison for his nonviolent action at WHINSEC. Family and friends gathered to honor Frank on February 26 as he prepared to begin serving his sentence in March.
Thank you Frank Woolever for your continued leadership and dedication!
PEACE ACTION OF CNY
OFFERS YOUNG PEACEMAKERS AWARD
|Peace Action of Central New York
is seeking high school seniors in Onondaga County who have shown a devotion
and commitment to peace, justice, and conflict resolution. Applications
are now available for a $500 Young Peacemakers Award to be given in June
to a student who has engaged in activities - in school, place of worship,
or community - which demonstrate his or her passion to work on the underlying
causes of war, violence, and injustice.
Peace Action of CNY, part of the largest peace organization in the country, began locally as the Nuclear Weapons Freeze in the early 1980s. It has presented awards to local peace activists for many years, but now for the fifth year is offering an award exclusively for high school students. Peace Action hopes the award will encourage young people to become more aware of the issues of peace and justice in our communities, in our country, and in the world.
To obtain an application, call the Peace Action office at 478-7442 or visit: www.peaceactioncny.org. The application deadline is March