School of Assassins: 22,000 at the Gates

SOA Watch – Nov 19, 2006

22,000 at the gates of Fort Benning

Human rights activists arrested for taking the protest to close the SOA onto the military base

Sunday, November 19, 2006 at 12:30 PM
Fort Benning, Georgia

Over 22,000 people are marching here at the gates of Fort Benning in a beautiful and massive funeral procession led by Latin American torture survivors and social justice movement leaders, among them Renato Antonio Areiza from the Colombian Peace Community of San Josi de Apartads.  Last year, Renatoss sister was murdered by troops under the command of an SOA  graduate.  This gathering, our largest and most diverse ever, stretches over the length of Fort Benning Road, with thousands holding crosses, stars of David and other symbols of hope and resistance.  As musicians sing out Deyanira Areiza and the names of hundreds more victims of School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC)-sponsored violence, the crowd responds, Presente!

Along the procession route people have begun to transform the fences surrounding the protest site into expressions of hope and remembrance,  placing their symbols in and around the three-layer chain-link barriers erected by the city of Columbus and military personnel.

Thirteen people just went through a hole in the fence and carried their protest onto the military base in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience.  Two of the human rights activists that engaged in the civil disobedience action were part of the 1000 Grandmothers organizing effort. The military police just arrested and handcuffed the linecrossers and are guarding the breached fence to prevent others from entering the base.

Cathy Webster, a 61 year-old peace activist and grandmother from Chico, California, was among those arrested by the military.  “As a grandmother, I feel deep compassion and an urge for protection for the vulnerable, the young, and families”, said Cathy Webster. “It breaks my heart to know about the continual murders and disappearances of countless people in Latin America.  SOA trains the perpetrators of these crimes.

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