Sunday, November 30, 2003

WOMAN PROTESTER ABUSED BY SOLDIERS AT FORT BENNING

On Sunday, November 23, I took part in a nonviolent civil disobedience action at Fort Benning, GA, to protest the U.S. Army´s School of the Americas (SOA, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). Shortly after more than two dozen of us entered Fort Benning and were arrested, US Military Police took us to a warehouse on the base for "processing." I was directed to a station for an initial search, where a woman soldier began shouting at me to look straight ahead and spread my legs. I turned to ask her why she was shouting at me and was ordered to keep my mouth shut, look straight ahead, and spread my legs wider. She then began an aggressive body search. When ordered to raise one leg a second time, I temporarily lost my balance while still being roughly searched and, in my view, 'womanhandled.'

I decided that I shouldn't go along with this dehumanizing action any longer. When I lowered my arms and said, quietly, "I'm sorry, but I can't any longer cooperate with this," I was instantly pushed to the floor. Five soldiers squatted around me, one of them referring to me with an expletive (this f_ _ _ er) and began to cuff my wrists and ankles and then bind my wrists and ankles together.

Then one soldier leaned on me, with his or her knee in my back. Unable to get a full breath, I gasped and moaned, "I can't breathe." I repeated this many times and then began begging for help. When I said, "Please, I've had four lung collapses before," the pressure on my back eased. Four soldiers then carried me, hogtied, to the next processing station for interrogation and propped me in a kneeling position. The soldier standing to my left, who had been assigned to "escort" me, gently told me that soon the ankle and wrist cuffs, which were very tight, would be cut off. He politely let me know that he would have to move my hair, which was hanging in front of my face, so that my picture could be taken. I told him I'd appreciate that.

I was then carried to the next station. There, one of the soldiers who'd been part of pushing me to the floor knelt in front of me, and, with his nose about two inches from mine, told me that because I was combative I should know that if I didn't do exactly as instructed when they uncuffed one hand, he would pepper spray me. I asked him to describe how I'd been combative, but he didn't answer.

After the processing, I was unbound, shackled with wrist and ankle chains, and led to the section where other peaceful activists, also shackled, awaited transport to the Muskogee County jail.

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