Three Sisters of Providence to stand trial Jan. 27 for crossing government line during non-violent protest
Three Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., will stand trial Jan. 27 in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ga., for their arrest in November 2002 during a non-violent protest against the School of the Americas (SOA) at Fort Benning, Ga.
The SOA, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC), trains Latin American military in anti-insurgency tactics. For decades, numerous SOA graduates have been linked directly by the United Nations and human rights groups to the torture and massacre of their own people when they return home. The training school is supported by United States tax dollars.
Sisters Adele Beacham, Rita Clare Gerardot and Joann Quinkert will appear before U.S. Magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth. Sister of Providence Kathleen Desautels was arrested in November 2001 and sentenced by Judge Faircloth to six months in prison on federal trespassing charges. She is serving her sentence at FCI-Greenville (Ill.). She has a March 7 release date.
Sisters Adele, Rita Clare and Joann were arrested when they crossed an arbitrary line on base property. A total of 96 people were arrested; 85 were adults.
“Our hearts and our prayers go with our sisters as they continue their action for justice and peace. We are also praying for an unbiased mind and just actions on the part of the judge for all those involved in the trial,” said Sister Ann Margaret O’Hara, general superior of the Sisters of Providence. “It is only through courageous acts such as theirs that others can be made aware of what the military arm of our government is doing in our names.”
“The trial cannot come too soon. However, there is an abundance of preparation as I await the day,” said Sister Joann. “There have been many opportunities to share my experience of arrest and jail with family and friends. Comparatively few people have heard of the SOA/WHISC, so this presents a means of educating them.”
“A passion for justice was instilled in me by my father who, along with four fellow employees, was responsible for getting a union organized at International Harvester Company in Fort Wayne in the late 1930s,” said Sister Rita Clare. “I crossed the line as a statement of non-violent dissent against the training of torture techniques, and the terrorism of one’s own people which is part of the curriculum at the SOA/WHISC. I acted in solidarity with the victims of violence and the survivors.”
Sister Adele also drew from her late father’s strength. “I remember my Dad was a conscientious objector in World War I. But he loved his country! So he volunteered to join the Medical Corps because he refused to carry a gun. Armed with only a stretcher, he would crawl on his belly to the front lines to drag back the injured and the dying. He saved lives! How could I claim to be his daughter if I did not try to do the same,” said Sister Adele.
She also drew a parallel to other acts of civil disobedience such as Rosa Parks sitting in a bus seat normally used by whites and the Boston Tea Party during which revolutionaries objected to high tariffs.
The Sisters of Providence have participated in the annual non-violent protest for several years. About 20 members of the Congregation made the trip to Georgia this year. Several Sisters of Providence have traveled to Nicaragua, Colombia, Haiti and Guatemala where they have learned about the attacks by the military on people in those countries.