Referring to the training facility as “School of Assassins”, protesters decried atrocities committed in Latin America by those trained there. Members of more than 50 human rights groups and organizations gathered Sunday at the gates of the controversial United States Military School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia state to denounce the SOA and call for its closure as part of a three-day event. The event against the controversial school was organized by a group called SOA Watch and was joined by members of Veterans for Peace organization branch in the state, as well as other local organizations. Calling it the “School of Assassins”, hundreds were seen at the gates of the SOA as they demanded its closure.
The institution—which is now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation—has a long history of providing military training to U.S.-allied Latin American nations in counter-insurgency operations against left-wing movements. Following the rally to the gates of the institution, protesters tuned in for a stage musical performance followed by speakers, musicians, Indigenous blessing and nonviolence guidelines at the gates of the SOA. Father Roy Bourgeois, the founder of SOA Watch, said Sunday that the school is now training U.S. border patrol agents, using the same dehumanizing tactics.
Victims of the SOA torture held photos of civilians brutally murdered by U.S.-trained death squads. Meanwhile, a daughter of a forced disappeared person in Mexico talked about how the U.S. intervention has brought death and dispossession for thousands of people as she called for closing the SOA and all the U.S.-backed schools that train military with the same brutal tactics.
Following the stage act, the activists and groups at the protest joined a funeral procession to commemorate the victims of SOA violence. Today’s rally comes as part of a three-day international weekend conference, vigil, and procession “highlighting the injustices and impunity set forth by U.S. policy organized by a coalition of more than 50 groups in the U.S.,” the SOA Watch said in a press statement ahead of the venet on Nov. 16.
On Saturday, the SOA Watch organized a rally and 1.7-mile march to the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin city in Georgia, which holds over 1,800 migrants behind bars. The host of teleSUR’s The Empire Files, Abby Martin, was at the rally Saturday and reported that thousands took part and were blocking the gates of the detention center and demanding its closure. “Activists say those fleeing US backed violence and wars should be welcomed not caged,” Martin said in a tweet from the protest.
According to a press release by the SOA Watch, that was confirmed on the ground by Martin, 11 people were arrested “on misdemeanor charges of Obstruction of Justice for obstructing the injustices that take place daily at Stewart Detention Center,“ the group said. However, during today’s protest, one speaker said the 11 people were released by a local judge and cleared of all charges.
SOA Watch’s 25th anniversary vigil comes just over a week after news that the FBI has been regularly spying on the organization for at least 10 years, with tactics similar to those used against Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter.