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Grand Rapids demands ‘Justice for Vanessa Guillen!’

By Tom Burke |
July 11, 2020
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Grand Rapids, MI - Fifty local people gathered for an emotional vigil to remember Vanessa Guillen, the U.S. Army soldier murdered and disappeared by another soldier at Fort Hood, Texas. The U.S. armed forces are rife with sexual harassment and rape, both on and off military bases. The unrelenting response of Guillen’s family, demanding answers, has top military leaders on the defensive, scrambling.

The U.S. Army was slow in its investigation, taking over ten weeks to find Vanessa Guillen’s body, despite her mother Gloria’s impassioned pleas. Officials were also dishonest about the events leading up to Guillen’s murder.

Vanessa Guillen reported to her mother that an officer was sexually harassing her on the base, but that she was reluctant to report him. Guillen explained to her mother that the officer’s harassment of women in the past was reported, but no actions were taken to discipline him or stop him.

At Pleasant Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan, women and girls wore yellow shirts and the crowd held candles in memory of Vanessa Guillen as they surrounded an alter. Mexican community leader and artist Reyna Garcia read a poem and spoke the words of Vanessa Guillen’s mother, interspersed with chants of “Justicia!” or “Justice!”

In cities and towns across the U.S., people gathered, and neighbors stopped to demand justice for the young Chicana who was part of a military that dishonored her. She was beaten to death, dismembered, and burned like trash while officials covered up and lied about the circumstances.

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