On the eve of Independence Day, Chani Geigle, a Salem-based activist, boarded a plane bound for Columbus, Georgia, where she faces federal trespass charges stemming from a protest last November. Agitated by what she believes is the U.S. government-sponsored training of Central American dictators, terrorists, and spooks, Geigle took part in a vigil last November at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, which until recently was known as the School of the Americas. Many of the protesters crossed into the property of the Georgia-based military training compound.

The trial, which began on Monday, is a repeat of a similar sentencing last year in response to annual protests at the Institute. At that time, Federal Magistrate Mallon Faircloth sentenced 70 protesters to prison, including two Portland-based activists. (Portland resident Josh Raisler-Cohn completed his six-month sentence in April.)

Geigle recognizes that her chances of avoiding a six-month prison sentence and $1000 fine are slim. Yet, in spite of Geigle's bleak chances, Salem's City Council took a bold step to pass a resolution supporting her. On July 1, Salem's council members unanimously passed a statement that affirmed Geigle's protest "sent a message to America's leaders that we demand that our country's institutions live up to its principles in defending freedom and human rights." Their appeal was sent as a letter to Magistrate Faircloth. (Although many activists reside in Portland and Eugene, city councils in neither of those cities made similar gestures.)

Geigle was encouraged by the unanimous decision by Salem's city council, recognizing the politically risky nature of their support--including Mayor Mike Swaim, who is mulling a state senate run. Even so, Geigle is preparing to spend the next six months in a federal prison. But, as a means to stop the torture of persons in countries like Nicaragua and Colombia, it is a sacrifice she is willing to take. Geigle alleges that the Institute trains foreign spies in means of torture and assassination. "We don't have any of those sort of consequences facing us," she said. "We just have to give up a certain amount of time."