Peaceful grandma going to prison

Dateline: Thu 15 Mar 2007

My friend Marilyn Culler at the DePauw University media center has forwarded an email regarding the fate of Valerie Fillenwarth. The 64-year-old Indy grandmother is on her way to prison for protesting the former School of the Americas in Georgia.

Marilyn's contact for this update is Sally Howard, a freelance travel writer with DePauw connections. Sally says the Indianapolis Star is refusing to cover Valerie's case and Sally is urging friends to put pressure on exeuctive editor Dennis Ryerson. I'll second that.

The SOA is the notorious U.S. institutiion that has trained killers and terrorists to wreak vengence on the poor in Latin America. It's been around for a long time, and every year, it is the object of protests -- always newsworthy events.

The original email comes from Bob Schultz, whose job it is to promote Indianapolis' convention and tourism business. I didn't realize he is Valerie's son in law. He sent this out yesterday, which includes Valerie's email to her friends and family:

"Sal -- my mother-in-law -- just got her assignment for federal prison. See her note to her children below. Here is a link to a story that the Catholic newspaper did on her -- about what she did and is doing. Thanks for your interest:

http://www.archindy.org/Criterion/local/2007/01-19/protest.html

"Hi! THE CALL we've been waiting six weeks for came this afternoon,

Tuesday, March 13.

"My prison assignment is to FCI Danbury, in Connecticut, and I will report on April 17.

"That place has two parts, a low-medium security building and a minimum

security camp.

"Our friends Dee Mattingly and Alice Gerard were in the minimum security

camp, so I assume I will be, too. When Ed and I visited them in September, 2005, they told us the camp was built in the '70's for the Watergate bad guys. Now it's crowded with twice that number of inmates, all women. They live in dormatories, not cells, and do jobs to earn 12 cents an hour so they can buy toothpaste and all that.

"Well, my home for one hundred days is 782 miles from our house. I feel really sad for Ed and the kids about that. That will be the hard part. Alice Gerard will report to the same place on March 21.

"I'll do my best to take part in the National Days of Fast (water and

juice only fast April 25 -27) as we prepare for a vote in Congress to close the SOA. You can keep track of the Bill to be introduced in the House soon by Jim McGovern (D-MA) and pretty soon you can also find addresses for the sixteen of us going to prison on the (SOA) website.

"Ok, stick together like glue, hold hands crossing the street and eat your carrots. And work and pray for peace, ok?

Love to you all,

Mom / Mop / Val"

First, I would love to see the Star give this story the space it deserves. While every year thousands protest this SOA, the fact that a 68-year-old grandma from INdy is willing to spend time in prison for her beliefs is certainly news. Secondly, I hope all of our elected representatives get behind Rep. McGovern of Massachusetts to close this place. Third, I hope we elect leaders in the next election who will pursue policies of global peace on earth.

comments: ruth@ruthholladay.com

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