Special Reports

Rev. Bourgeois jailed in Washington, D.C., during sit-in at embassy

The Rev. Roy Bourgeois, founder of the School of the Americas Watch, and three other protesters were arrested Friday morning after staging a sit-in at the Embassy of El Salvador in Washington, D.C., to call attention to 17 Salvadoran women in prison for having had miscarriages.

Hendrik Voss, national organizer for SOA Watch, said it appears that Bourgeois and the others will be held in the lockup overnight and appear in District Court at 9 a.m. today on a count of unlawful entry and trespass.

Bourgeois was arrested with Ed Kinane, a retired educator and nonviolent peace activist from Syracuse, N.Y.; John Honeck, a counselor and activist from Hamlin, N.Y.; and Paki Wieland, a longtime peace and justice activist and member of Grandmothers for Peace from Northampton, Mass.

Members of the group delivered a letter to express their support and to seek release of the 17 women.

Before his arrest, Bourgeois said the imprisoned women face a grave injustice. “Where there is injustice, silence is complicity,” Bourgeois said in a release. “For that reason, we are at the Salvadoran Embassy in Washington, D.C., to express our solidarity with these women.”

The 17 women were convicted in a country with deeply conservative abortion laws.

The charges are for aggravated homicide and receiving illegal abortions, according to Amnesty International. Last month, Carmen Guadalupe Vásquez Aldana was the first of the 17 to be released.

Other names include Mirian, Martiza, Marina, Salvadora, Ena, Teodora, Guadalupe, Mariana, Mirna, Cinthia, Verónica, Alba, Johana, Evelyn, Teresa and María, who make up the remainder of the 17. They are mothers of young children, and all have many years to serve under their current sentences.

Abortion laws in El Salvador were passed under the Arena government in 1997.

Bourgeois and 19 other activists were part of a March 19-29 U.S. Human Rights Delegation to El Salvador. They visited in prison five of the women who are serving 30-year sentences for having a miscarriage.

Bourgeois, a Vietnam veteran and priest, has led the annual vigil with thousands of protesters outside the Benning Road gate in November to close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, formerly called the School of the Americas. The group claims soldiers and police officers trained at the institute on post have been linked to human rights violations.