Lt. William Calley was convicted for his role in leading the 1968 massacre of Vietnamese civilians at My Lai. His conviction was later overturned by Judge Robert Elliott. Calley now runs a jewelry business near Ft. Benning in Columbus, Georgia. Elliott is still a judge in Columbus, but he’s apparently no longer in the pardoning business.
In late July, Elliott handed out long prison sentences to five opponents of the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas. The peace protesters had altered a sign at Ft. Benning’s main entrance to read "Home of School of Americas/School of Shame" and "SOA=Torture." For that they received sentences of 12 to 18 months. Judge Elliott did not explain why Calley, convicted of directing the massacre of 500 people, was released while the peace activists, convicted of protesting the U.S. support for human rights violations throughout Latin America, were sent to prison.
Sister Marge Eilerman, one of the protesters who received a 14-month sentence, told the judge that "given the scale of terrorism perpetrated by SOA-trained militaries now operating in Chiapas, Mexico, and Colombia, ...our time in prison will be worth it if it hastens the closure of the SOA."
SOA graduates continue to engage in human rights violations throughout Latin America. For instance, most of the human rights violators named in the report issued by Guatemala’s Bishop Juan Gerardi two days before his assassination were SOA graduates.
A joint resolution to restrict funding for the SOA was narrowly defeated, 212-201, this September in the House. A vigil and civil disobedience action calling for the closing of the School of the Americas will be held November 20-22, 1998, at Ft. Benning. According to the SOA Watch Web site (www.soaw.org), organizers hope that 1,000 people will engage in civil disobedience during the event.