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

  • Re: Jackson Ward Residents Debate Bike Lane Proposal

    • Just remember, cars don't kill people, people kill people, it's just easier to do it…

    • on March 23, 2017
  • Re: Six Things to Know About New VCU Men's Basketball Coach Mike Rhoades

    • The last time Rice went to the ncaa's was 1970(47 years). They have only gone…

    • on March 23, 2017
  • Re: Jackson Ward Residents Debate Bike Lane Proposal

    • It's funny how aggressive the fire marshall(s?) is to cyclists! I have been cut off…

    • on March 23, 2017
  • More »
  • Latest in News and Features

    More by Chris Dovi

    • Charter Bound

      Overmatched politically for years, the charter-school movement now has powerful allies: The fight for Patrick Henry.
      • Feb 17, 2010
    • Deleted E-mail Could Implicate Wilder Staff

      A missing e-mail relating to the 2007 attempted eviction of the School Board from City Hall could lead to criminal charges.
      • Feb 17, 2010
    • Ukrop's Owners Boot Girl Scouts

      Martin's Food Markets says no to Girl Scout cookies.
      • Feb 17, 2010
    • More »

    Copyright © 2017 Style Weekly
    Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
    All rights reserved
    Powered by Foundation