Retired Teacher Headed to Prison for Human Rights Protest 

click to enlarge street05_simmons_200.jpg

Al Simmons will soon have lots of time to think about his inaugural day trip to Washington — two months, to be exact, in a federal prison where he'll serve time for protesting his government's support of third-world dictators.

Simmons, 64, is a mild-mannered, retired preschool teacher at Second Presbyterian Church. He was arrested Nov. 23 for protesting the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, Ga.

Formerly known as the School of the Americas, the facility trains military and militia leaders from South and Central American countries. It has been linked by several groups to numerous instances of torture and human rights violations.

He joined a different scene Jan. 20. “We had a glorious day,” Simmons says of his chilly walk from a friend's Arlington house to the National Mall and back again for President Barack Obama's inauguration. That was on Tuesday.

By Thursday he was back in Richmond, taking his car to the shop in anticipation of his next trip — to Georgia for a sentencing hearing in federal court the next day.

He was convicted along with five others who were among thousands participating in the protest, organized annually by School of the Americas Watch.

Simmons and his five companions' crime was taking the protest onto the army base, which is in the middle of town, open to daily civilian traffic and lacks any significant gates to keep out “trespassers.” The trespass statute was instituted a few years ago and applies only to the one day of the year when protesters descend.

Simmons, a Vietnam veteran, doesn't yet know when or where he'll be reporting to federal prison.
“I'm going to have to explain this to my 10-year-old grandson,” Simmons says. “He basically thinks of good guys and bad guys — and bad guys go to jail. I'm going to ask him if he knows about Martin Luther King. Sometimes in this country, good people go to jail.”

Simmons says his busy week — witnessing the inauguration of the country's first black president and then being punished for speaking out against human-rights violations — represents “two sides of the same coin, in that each action is a furthering of human freedom.”

Comments (4)

Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

Arabian Nights

Family-friendly stage fantasy with life-sized puppets, live music and exotic costumes....

Wittenberg

Comedy written by David Davalos and directed by J. Paul Nicholas starring...

Artsy Infants: Let's Make Music

Music class for infants aged 3–15 months in the Art Education Center....

View all of today's events

  • Re: City Council Meeting Degenerates Into Weird, Chaotic Mess

    • Richmond City Council members also heard pleas for more funding for schools, police and firefighters…

    • on April 16, 2014
  • Re: Confederate Flaggers Inspire Hip-Hop Counter Protest

    • The only thing that annoys me is how much time these people waste on such…

    • on April 16, 2014
  • Re: Confederate Flaggers Inspire Hip-Hop Counter Protest

    • Oh poor poor white people. Such language. Such sensitive ears. I feel sorry for you…

    • on April 16, 2014
  • More »
  • Facebook Recommendations

    Latest in News and Features

    Copyright © 2014 Style Weekly
    Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
    All rights reserved
    Powered by Foundation