<b>Thousands to Demand End of Impunity for the "School of Assassins"</b> Print
Thousands are planning to take nonviolent direct action to close the notorious School of the Americas, a combat-training facility for Latin American security personnel that was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/ WHINSEC). On November 20-21 people from across the Americas will gather at the gates of Ft. Benning, Georgia, site of the school. SOA/ WHINSEC graduates continue to be implicated in human rights violations against civilian populations throughout Latin America.

?Like many of its graduates, this school continues to operate with impunity,? said Carlos Mauricio, torture survivor and plaintiff in a successful lawsuit against two Salvadoran Generals living in the US. ?Shutting down the SOA would send a strong human rights message to Latin America and the world.?

The gathering will culminate on Sunday, November 21 with a solemn ?funeral? procession to the gates of Ft. Benning. Many will negotiate a barbed-wire fence to enter the military base in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. Since protests against SOA/ WHINSEC began more than a decade ago, over 170 people have served federal prison sentences.

The weekend?s program will feature music and speakers from Latin and North America, including Susan Sarandon, Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls; Llajtasuyo; Francisco Herrera; Jon Fromer; Utah Phillips; Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!; Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking; Bishop Gabino Zavala, Bishop President of Pax Christi USA; Betita Martinez, Chicana activist and historian; Bob King, Vice President of the United Auto Workers International; and many others.

SOA/ WHINSEC graduates return to their countries to utilize their training domestically and are consistently cited for atrocities against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others working for human rights and economic justice. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, ?disappeared?, massacred and forced into refuge by SOA graduates.

The Eleventh Circuit Court ruled unanimously in October that metal detectors used by the Columbus City Police to search protestors during the last two years? demonstrations are unconstitutional and may not be used at this November?s gathering. In a strongly worded ruling, the Court wrote that threats of terrorism cannot be used to justify the searches.

?We must be vigilant in defending civil liberties when they are threatened, both here and in Latin America,? said Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch.