SOA Watch: We’re Still there Until the School of Americas Is Closed

by Wadner Pierre (originally published by The Maroon)
For the first time in two years, a group of Loyola students traveled to a US military- sponsored school in 

Fort Benning, Ga. to protest the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests and their two workers.

It has been 23 years since six Jesuit priests and their two workers were murdered at the Creighton University 

in El Salvador. The perpetrators of this crime were alleged to be trained at the School of Americas. For 

more than two decades the School of Americas Watch, a national organization, has begun a campaign to 

close the military school. The School Of Americas Watch annual protest coincides with the anniversary of 

the death of the six Jesuit priests.e group of musicians that support the SOAW movement for many years. Photodner Pierre

Business sophomore, Katie O’Dowd had no idea about the protest until her freshman year at Loyola through 

her involvement in LUCAP. She said she was struck by the many young people engaged in the movement. “I 

always want to advocate for the School of Americas Watch. I’ll continue to ask students to go in this 

protest,” she said.

O’Dowd said she hopes the school will be closed. In 1990, former naval officer and Catholic priest Roy 

Bourgeois started School Of Americas Watch in a house near the gate of the US military school in Fort 

Benning, Ga.

Twenty-two years have passed, but the goal has remained the same. Some progress has been made with a 

half-dozen Latin American countries like Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, 

which withdrew their troops from this school.

Two decades after Bourgeois founded School Of Americas Watch, thousands of students, teachers and 

human activists including lawyers from all over the world have joined the protest every year with one goal to 

“Close the School of Americas.”

The School of Americas, which now goes by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is 

known for training soldiers who have been responsible for killing people in their own countries. Loyola 

University New Orleans celebrates the lives of the six Jesuits and other victims of some of the School Of 

Americas allegedly trained military death squads every year through the “Martyrs Mass” in the peace quad. 

The university planted six trees and named them after each of the six Jesuit priests.

The Rev. Bourgeois S.J., in a prayer to bless the protesters said, “May love and mercy go with you, may 

you speak in solidarity with those who have been silent by death and repression.”

Bourgeois also believes that the voice of the School of Americas’ victims will be heard all over the American 


“Through your witness, may their voice be heard, here at the School of Americas, in the White House, in the 

halls of Congress and the heart of people all across the Americas,” he said.

This year, a delegation of the School Of Americas Watch movement met with President Barrack Obama’s 

deputy national security adviser, Denis McDonough. Loyola’s Law Clinic director, Bill Quigley was among 

the School Of Americas Watch delegates.

Quigley said McDonough told the delegation that he knows about the School Of Americas and people in his 

family have been asking him to close this school for years.

“We thank his family and people he went to school with and the other folks. But it’s clear that this is just a 

step of this journey we are on. We have to push him,” Quigley said to the protesters.

Quigley urged School Of America Watch supporters to keep the pressure on with hope that Obama’s 

second administration may close the military school. “We are going to close the School of Americas,” said 


Loyola students hope the School Of Americas will be closed one day, though they do not know when and 

how long it will take. They also know their actions to support the School Of Americas Watch movement 


Biology senior Carissa Marston, who attended the protest for the first time, said she will use her experience 

in her upcoming presentation for her Latin American class and continue to advocate for the closing of the 

School of Americas.

“I think I have more to contribute as far as the conversation about militarism and what SOA actually does 

and why it should be closed,” she said. LUCAP adviser, Joseph Deegan said students had to pay a $25 fee 

this year and special funding was available for those who could not afford to pay. Deegan said LUCAP 

financed this trip through a donation from Kevin Poorman, who currently serves as a chair on the Board of 


The School of Americas Watch protestors have made a promise that has become their slogan: “We will be 

there until this school is closed.”

Mass communication senior and The Maroon Photo Editor Wadner Pierre traveled with LUCAP 

to SOA Watch. He can be reached at