SOA Watch stands in solidarity with the “Stewart 5”, and continues to call for the closure of Stewart Detention Center   
Court Hearing on April 9 for Acts of Nonviolent Civil Disobedience    

 April 6, 2015

“The depth of a loving society is going to be marked by how quickly we can close these facilities down” 
~Anton Flores-Maisonet, Alterna

On Saturday, November 22, 2014, over a thousand activists from across the hemisphere converged in Lumpkin, Georgia to hold a rally, march and vigil to call for the closure of Stewart Detention Center. Owned and operated by the Corrections Corportation of America (CCA), Stewart is one of the largest private, for-profit immigrant detention facility in the US.

Amidst the expressions of love and solidarity with the 1,800 men detained inside Stewart, human rights activists Anton Flores, Jason McGauhey, Kevin Caron, Maureen Fitzsimmons and Rebecca Kanner were arrested for their inspiring acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. Hand-in-hand, the five courageous activists crossed the line onto Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) property to call for the institution’s closure.  

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Bail had been set at $25,000 for Anton Flores, and $1,000 for each of the others, but the SOA Watch Legal Collective negotiated bonds down to $250 each. Now, as the Stewart 5 prepare for their April 9th court hearing, SOA Watch reaffirms its’ solidarity with the struggle to shut down Stewart, and expresses gratitude to the Stewart 5 for speaking truth to power. If convicted, all face up to 12 months in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. Just as nonviolent direct action has been a core element of the SOA Watch movement to expose the horrors of the SOA, the Stewart 5 have embarked on an inspiring journey to expose the horrors of Stewart and an unjust immigration system.

As a grassroots movement dedicated to closing the SOA/WHINSEC and changing oppressive US foreign policy towards Latin America, SOA Watch considers deportation quotas, mandatory detention, for-profit detention centers, the militarization of the border, the “War on Drugs” and the training of repressive forces at the SOA/WHINSEC, as expressions of a culture of US militarism at home and abroad. Furthermore, we remain steadfast in our struggle to call attention to the connection between the destructive impact of US foreign policy and the root causes of migration. In fact, SOA/WHINSEC sources have confirmed and made public the training of the first Border Patrol agent this year.

As the struggle to call attention to the inhumane nature of immigrant detention centers continues, SOA Watch stands in struggle and solidarity with the movement to SHUT DOWN STEWART. Only when Stewart Detention Center is closed, as well as the over 250 other immigrant detention centers across the country, can we begin to see steps taken towards a true “comprehensive immigration reform”. It is clear, now more than ever, that the US-sponsored violence in Latin America has forced our brothers and sisters to flee their home countries, only to be met with racist and exclusionary policies in this country.

Interested in supporting the Stewart 5?1) Consider making a donation to support the Stewart 5
2) Join Fr. Roy in attending the hearing on April 9! Contact Maria Luisa Rosal for more information at 202-710-2343.

For more information on Stewart and immigrant detention:

1) Shut Down Stewart
2) Detention Watch Network, specifically their reporton Stewart Detention Center
3) Watch the documentary, “Immigrants for Sale”
4) Georgia ACLU report, “Prisoners of Profit”
5) Attend the vigil to shut down Stewart on Saturday, November 21, 2015!

Meet the Stewart 5

Anton Flores-Maisonet – LaGrange, GA
Anton is co-founder of Alterna, a bilingual community of Christ followers from the Americas devoted to faithful acts of hospitality, mercy, and justice. He was named “Person of the Year 2009” by the Atlanta Latinonewspaper. Flores is co-founder of the Georgia Detention Watch Coalition.

“I crossed the line, for the second time, because inside Stewart Detention Center are 1,800 stories of courage, resilience, and redemption wanting to be affirmed. When any human being is treated in an undignified and unjust manner, it is the moral obligation of all to resist such evil and incarnate a just alternative vision. Stewart Detention Center is a place of death and repression. By crossing the line I seek to convert our nation’s conscience so that we become a country that values liberty and justice for all.” 

Jason McGaughey – Washington, DC
Jason is a member of the Peace House Collective in DC, an anti-racist/anti-imperialist organizing body fighting for collective liberation. He took part in the action at Stewart Detention Center to help highlight the injustice and inherent racism of US immigration policy. No borders, no wars, no more deportations.

Kevin Caron – Atlanta, GA
Kevin taught high school science in Chicago for three years. In 2012 he moved to Atlanta where he works in public health. He is a member of the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition (GPJC).

“In May 2014, GPJC partnered with SOA Watch for the “Right to Peace Walk”. During part of the walk, I, along with others from GPJC had the honor of meeting with Anton Flores and several other members of Alterna. Throughout the day we learned about the history of Stewart Detention Center, and toured El Refugio. After hearing about countless families separated by unjust detentions at Stewart, combined with the horrid conditions that detainees experience there, I felt that the injustices taking place within Stewart must be addressed. Therefore, I was moved to join with those engaging in resistance through civil disobedience, by crossing onto CCA property.”

Maureen “Moe” Fitzsimmons – Detroit, MI
Maureen is a longtime union labor organizer.

“Corrections Corporation of America’s 2013 revenue in the US was $1.7 billion in 100% taxpayer money. The vigil at the Stewart detention facility inspired me to act on my faith that we can be kind to each other. 1,800 men imprisoned for profit, while millions of working families in the US struggle in or around poverty. Our taxes must be better spent. Close Stewart. Defund for-profit prison/detention industries.”

Rebecca Kanner – Detroit, MI
Rebecca has worked as a mechanical engineer, environmental educator and organic farmer. In 2001 Kanner served 6 months in prison for an act of civil disobedience at a School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) vigil. She is an active member of SOAW’s Labor Caucus. In a statement regarding previous civil disobedience actions at the SOA, she said, “I am inspired by the Jewish concept of tikkun olam. Translated from Hebrew, this means the just ordering of human society and the world, or, more literally, the repair of the world”.

“I decided to participate in nonviolent civil disobedience at Stewart Detention Center to shine a light on a facility that I have only learned about over the last few years. As SOA Watch activists have used peaceful, nonviolent resistance to expose the horrors of the SOA/WHINSEC and to express solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Latin America, I believe now is the time for similar actions to happen at the Stewart Detention Center. We need to expose the horrible conditions of this detention center and express solidarity with the 1,800 immigrants imprisoned there. I hope that as more people learn about this detention center, and other such facilities, our awareness will turn into action – action to close this private prison and action to change our country’s immigration policy. We are a nation of immigrants and our policies need to reflect this.”

Featured image art by Ricard Levins Morales.

By Published On: April 7th, 2015Comments Off on SOA Watch: Court Hearing on April 9 for Acts of Nonviolent Civil Disobedience

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