School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) reports that the trial of the SOA 16 is over. Reverend Don Coleman was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison. Don and Ann Marie will return home Tuesday.
This past weekend the SOA 16 and supporters held a Festival of Hope in Columbus GA. Monday morning the 16 and supporters marched to the courthouse where they met with the press before the trial. Five of the 16 made statements.
Joshua Harris, Cathy Webster, Martina Leforce, Alice Gerard and Don Coleman.
In his statement, Joshua Harris spoke of the diverse backgrounds and inspiration of the sixteen defendants; Cathy Webster, in all her wisdom as a grandmother and peace activists reminded us of the importance of love and solidarity against all odds ; Martina Leforce spoke of the connections between the SOA/WHINSEC and the inherent injustice within the political and economical policies implemented by the U.S. government; defendant Alice Gerard's statement focused our need to defend our right to freedom of speech; the closing statement came from Don Coleman of Chicago, IL who told us the story of a family from Guatemala who was torn apart by SOA-trained military during the dirty war.
The defendants stood before Judge G. Mallon Faircloth in three groups.
Group 1 of the SOA 16 received the following sentences:
Graymon Ward - 1 month in federal prison
Tina Busch-Nema - 2 months in federal prison
Margaret Bryant-Gainer - 71 days time served
Philip Gates - 2 months in federal prison
Joshua Harris - 2 months in federal prison
Group 2 of the SOA 16 received the following sentences:
Martina Leforce - 2 months in federal prison
Melissa Helman - 2 months in federal prison
Nathan Slater - 2 months in federal prison
Cathy Webster - 2 months in federal prison
Don Coleman - 2 months in federal prison
Group 3 of the SOA 16 received the following sentences:
Whitney Ray, a minor, was sentenced to 1 year probation and community service
Valerie Fillenwarth - 3 months & 10 days in federal prison
Julianne Oldfield - 3 months in federal prison
Sheila Salmon - 3 months & 10 days in federal prison
Mike Vosburg-Casey - 3 months & 10 days in federal prison
Alice Gerard - 6 months in federal prison
The 16 certainly are a diverse group coming from all parts of America and walks of life and ranging in age from 17 to 71. College students, a chicken farmer/piano tuner, journalist and grandmother and more make up this group. Good luck to the 16 and their families as they go home to prepare to serve their sentences.
SOA Watch profile on Don.
Don Coleman is a co-pastor with his wife, Ann Marie, at University Church in Chicago. University Church is a member of two denominations: the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. Don and Ann Marie came to University Church and Chicago in September 1, 1991. University Church played a pivotal role in the Sanctuary Movement in the early 80s. Virgilio Vicente and Isabel Canu and their family came to University Church from Guatemala as part of the movement. Virgilio’s parents were killed when their village Saq Ja was razed by the Guatemalan military – trained by the School of the Americas.
His decision to cross the line at Ft Benning is not unrelated to this congregational history.
Don has been part of several delegations to Central America including trips to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and southern Mexico (Chiapas). These trips outside the country have helped provide Don with a critical perspective on US foreign policies. He is a member of the Illinois Mayan Ministries of the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ.
Ann Marie and Don were co-directors of the Guild House Campus Ministry at the University of Michigan for sixteen years. He was a campus minister at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas (1968-75) and began his ministry serving two rural churches in Springville and Payson, Utah (1963-68).
Don was born in Provo, Utah June 1, 1937, attended Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah, and graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1963.
For more info and profiles and updates regarding SOA check SOA Watch.