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OVER 16,000 CONVERGE AT FORT BENNING

by SOA Watch Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2004 at 8:24 AM
info@soaw.org 202-234-3440

Many Scale Barbed-Wire Fences and are Arrested While Calling for Closure of US Army’s School of the Americas

OVER 16,000 CONVERGE...
banner_on_sign.jpg, image/jpeg, 389x309

Columbus, GA – Over 16,000 people from across the Americas—including actors Martin Sheen and Susan Sarandon—gathered this weekend outside the gates of Ft. Benning, Georgia in the most diverse demonstration yet of opposition to the School of the Americas (SOA), a combat-training school for Latin American soldiers. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refuge by graduates of the SOA, renamed in 2001 the Western Hempishere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC.

The gathering culminated today with a solemn “funeral” procession to the gates of Fort Benning led by actor Martin Sheen. As of 4 PM, at least 20 people had been arrested in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, many negotiating a 10-foot-high barbed-wire fence to enter the base. They took this action despite knowing they likely face 3-6 months in federal prison.

“Prison will not deter us,” said Elizabeth Nadeau, who was among those arrested today. “We will be here until we close the school and change the foreign policy that it represents.” Nadeau, 27, is a student and member of the Steelworkers Union in Minneapolis, MN.

SOA/ WHINSEC graduates return to their countries to utilize their training domestically and are consistently cited for atrocities against their own people. New research introduced by SOA Watch earlier this year confirms that the school has continued to support known human rights abusers. Despite having been investigated by the United Nations for ordering the shooting of 16 indigenous peasants in El Salvador, a massacre recorded in the US State Department’s Human Rights Record Country Reports, Col. Francisco del Cid Diaz returned to WHINSEC in 2003.

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

Thousands of college students, labor unions, faith-based communities, torture survivors, immigrant organizations and numerous human rights groups gathered together to make this weekend’s demonstration the largest and most diverse yet for SOA Watch, which has held a vigil at the gates of Fort Benning every November since 1990.

As of Monday morning at 10 am, those arrested on the military base are being slowly arraigned by a federal magistrate and released on ,000 bond. They will be required to return to Columbus for trial in January of 2005.

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Chavez, Sheen and Puppet in Sunday procession

by SOA Watch Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2004 at 8:24 AM
info@soaw.org 202-234-3440

Chavez, Sheen and Pu...
martin__guadalupe__puppet_in_procession.jpg, image/jpeg, 305x596

Guadalupe Chavez, Martin Sheen and the Puppet of Mourning lead Sunday morning's procession. Photo by Michelle Yee, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

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Sunday Morning Procession

by SOA Watch Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2004 at 8:24 AM
info@soaw.org 202-234-3440

Sunday Morning Proce...
procession.jpg, image/jpeg, 450x338

Carlos Mauricio, Rev. Graylan Hagler, Father Roy Bourgeois, Davida Cody, Martin Sheen and others lead the funeral procession on Sunday, November 21, 2004. Photo by Craig Squires.

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