Nonviolent Demonstrations to Close School of the Americas Continue into the Night Print
Columbus, GA. Protests at the entrance to Ft. Benning—home of the School of the Americas—continued into the night, as people from all over the country kept vigil, chanting, singing and drumming, calling for the closure of the SOA. At around 10PM Columbus police arrested 30 people who were sitting in a circle in front of the main entrance to the base.

Early in the afternoon military police arrested over 80 people who had entered Ft. Benning after participating in a solemn funeral procession. The procession was SOA Watch’s twelfth annual commemoration of the massacre of six Jesuit priests—as well as thousands of others—killed in Latin America by SOA graduates.

Nearly ten thousand people from all over the country participated in today’s demonstration, demanding a closure to “the terrorist training camp in our backyard.

Fourteen of those who were arrested on the base are being held on bail at the Muscogee County Jail. The thirty arrested by Columbus police are still being processed. Many of them are fasting.Supporters are holding an all night vigil at the jail.

Ft. Benning is a U.S. Army infantry-training base. It hosts the School of Americas (recently renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). Since 1946, SOA/WHISC has trained tens of thousands of Latin American soldiers in counter-insurgency tactics.

Human rights organizations have linked hundreds of SOA grads to widespread terrorism – civilian-targeted torture, disappearance and killing. SOA-trained soldiers have targeted civilians in Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America.

Of the over 8,000 who took part in last November’s commemoration, over 20 are now serving six-month sentences in federal prison for trespass. Over the years, 70 SOA Watch activists have cumulatively served 40 years in prison.