Dennis Kucinich Joins Rally to Demand Closure of U.S. Army School of the Americas Print
Washington, D.C.–On the weekend of November 16-18, thousands of human rights advocates from across the U.S. and Latin America will converge at Fort Benning, Georgia to demand a dramatic shift in U.S. foreign policy and the closure of the controversial U.S. Army’s School of the Americas (SOA).

WHEN/WHERE: Fort Benning – Columbus, Georgia

Saturday, November 17 - 10am-5pm: Vigil at the gates of Fort Benning – Fort Benning Dr.
Speakers include: Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), Ruby Sales of the Spirit House Project, Jim Schmitz of AFSCME, Michael McPherson of Veterans for Peace, Lydia Lopez of the Colombian flower workers union, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and many more.

Sunday, November 18 – 9am-3pm: Vigil, symbolic funeral procession and nonviolent direct action. Performers and speakers include: U.S. Representative and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, the Indigo Girls, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Fr. Roy Bourgeois founder of SOA Watch, Bread and Puppets, and more.

WHAT: The SOA, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Graduates of the school have been consistently linked to human rights violations and criminal activity in Latin America. In 2006, over ten SOA/WHINSEC graduates, including two former instructors at WHINSEC, have been arrested or are under criminal investigation.

In spite of an aggressive international PR campaign and lobbying efforts on behalf of WHINSEC, support for the institute continues to erode. In 2007, Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Oscar Arias of Costa Rica announced that they would cease to send military and police to the school, becoming the 4th and 5th countries after Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela to commit to a withdrawal from the U.S. Army training facility.

On June 21, 2007 a McGovern/Lewis amendment to the FY 2008 Foreign Appropriations bill that would have prohibited funding for the SOA/WHINSEC lost by a margin of only six votes. 203 members of Congress voted in favor of the amendment to cut the funding for the school quoting its connection to human rights abuses throughout Latin America.

The annual Vigil to close the SOA at Ft. Benning has grown from a dozen people in November of 1990 to more than 20,000 in 2006. The annual event is held on the anniversary of the November 16, 1989 massacre at the University of Central America (UCA) in El Salvador where 14-year old Celina Ramos, her mother Julia, and six Jesuit priests where murdered by the Atlacatl Battalion, an SOA trained unit of the Salvadoran army.

The events will culminate on Sunday, November 18 with a symbolic 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, 226 people have served federal prison sentences.