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Bob Bytes Back Archives: Ohio Taking To The Streets (School Of Americas)

by Bob Fitrakis

The action was in the streets, and parks, last weekend. In Westerville, 50 or so activists from the Westerville Social Action group and Amnesty International exercised their First Amendment rights by demonstrating in front of Rep. John Kasich’s house and then marching down Main Street. They want Mr. Budget-Cutter to wield his ax and topple the notorious School of the Americas (SOA)–School of the Assassins. In Franklin Park, the African-American community and guests celebrated the heritage of Malcolm X, and up on campus at 16th and Waldeck–the original site of Community Festival–Anti-Racist Action (ARA) staged a very successful second annual Anti-Fest.
A common theme ran through these three events: the streets and the parks belong to the people, all the people.

Kasich’s house looks like it was built for a Hollywood movie about a wholesome and earnest young politician. That’s probably why the Congressman purchased it. So, imagine his surprise–no, he wasn’t there as usual–when he hears about an actual group of earnest and wholesome young neighbors of his calling his ethics and morality into question.

One notes Johnny has made a career out of trying to balance the U.S. budget, yet he conveniently continues to ignore the School of the Americas located in Ft. Bening, Georgia. The School recently underwent a $30 million renovation at taxpayers’ expense to better house the legions of murderers and assassins it trains. The official purpose of the School is to train Latin American soldiers in combat skills such as counter-insurgency operations, sniper fire, commando tactics and psychological warfare. But, wherever the graduates of the School go, atrocities and torture follow.

General Manuel Noriega is a graduate and so were over 60 Salvadoran officers cited by the 1993 United Nations Truth Commission Report for butchering civilians; two out of three officers cited in the assassination of Archbishop Romero were graduates; three out of five officers cited in the rape and murder of four U.S. churchwomen were alumni; 10 out of 12 officers cited in the El Mozote massacre of over 800 civilians held diplomas from SOA; and 19 of the 26 officers responsible for the slaughter of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter were educated there.

Alas, U.S. tax dollars at work, training between 700-2000 Latin American assassins a year. Most recently, Julio Roberto Alperez, who ordered the killing of U.S. citizen Michael Devine in Guatemala and Efrim Bamaca, husband of U.S. citizen Jennifer Harbury, calls SOA his alma mater. Harbury reported the last time she saw her husband, he was being blown up with various gases, his body four times its normal size, as he raved unintelligibly. In a recent Dispatch editorial, the paper rightly criticized Clinton for his failure to bring Alperez and other Guatemalan “allies” to justice. Now, if only they would hold their boy John equally responsible for funding the criminals, or at least cover the event like a normal paper. Westerville Social Action is asking citizens to write or call Rep. Kasich and tell him to support House Resolution 2652, a bill proposed by Rep. Joe Kennedy to close the School of the Americas and demand that we spend “Not a Dime for Death Squads.”

Many of the activists went from death squad protests to dancing in the streets and parks on Saturday. Talk about a “pro-life” celebration; that’s what you got at the Anti-Fest. It was a racist’s nightmare with interracial mingling, cavorting and boogeying in front of various people’s gods. The event started off with a certain amount of apprehension and fears that the Columbus police riot unit might show up uninvited. OSU President Gordon Gee’s office, in his attempt to re-establish in loco parentis (“I’m your daddy”) policy, demanded a meeting with ARA organizers. Jim McNamara, ARA leader and local attorney, declined the invitation. “I told him I’m 46 years old, I’ve got kids who’ve graduated from OSU. Why do I need to meet with the president’s office? This is my neighborhood in the city of Columbus. I’m not a college student,” said McNamara.

At the street fest, inevitably, talk turned to the topic of Campus Partners. Seems my penpals in the Glen Echo South Civic Association are sitting down in a neighborly fashion with the dissident Common Grounds Forum group and appear to be working out their traffic problems. Also, University Area Commissioners report that finally, after a year and a half, Campus Partners staffers are seeking real input from the neighborhood. Some small businesspeople originally opposed to the plan appear willing to compromise in exchange for Pearl Alley becoming a real street and some assistance in redeveloping their businesses there.

On the other hand, the Stache’s/Monkey’s Retreat complex is reportedly scheduled for demolition next year. Yet, if the streets still belong to all the people and the campus community organizes, who knows, pardner?

Bob Fitrakis ran for Congress against John Kasich in 1992.