November 20th, 2004

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Reports from SOA

So I ended up staying home instead of going to SOA this weekend. I have tons of work that I just have to get done and I won't have a free weekend again until December 20th or so.

But Amy went down there. It's her first major protest! She's calling in IMC reports that I'm recording from my cell phone. There have been two so far. (1, 2).

I attended this protest in 2001 and 2003.

For those who don't know, the Army School of the Americas (SOA), now PR renamed to Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WINSEC or WHISC or WHINSEC, is a tax-payer funded Army training school where South American soldier are trained in "counter-insurgency". The training course includes instruction on effective means of violent crowd control, torture, and other paramilitary/terrorist tactics. Graduates from the School of the Americas have gone on to form the Columbian and El Savadoran Death Squads, they've served in paramilitary groups serving as security for drug cartels, they've committed massacres, they've disappeared labor and social movement leaders. Even Manuel Noriega was an honored graduate of the SOA. Terrorist training on the American taxpayer dime since 1946. The tactics that we've seen in Miami and Abu Ghraib are right out of the SOA playbook.

Every year for nearly 15 years, people dedicated to a peaceful future gather at gates of Fort Benning, where the SOA is located, to call for it's shutdown. A silent vigil on Sunday memorializes the thousands of victims of SOA graduates. This march started out as primarily a Catholic movement, mobilized by the murder of six Jesuit priests by SOA graduates in El Salvador in 1989. Since that time the movement has grown to include people of many faiths, anti-authoritarians, anti-war activists, and many many others. It is an amazing moving site to see pink haired radicals and 80 year old nuns (themselves radical enough to willingly spend 6 months in jail for their belief in peace) side by side committing civil disobedience for peace and human rights.

Every year at this protest there is some new interesting twist from the local cops. Every year the courts find the previous year's tricks unconstitutional. This year it's a fence around the protest site. I'd love to see some affinity group drape banners over the entire fence area so that the cops can't see what is happening inside. That'd make them think twice about this stupid and unsafe practice of penning 11,000 people into a small space. Luckily, I don't expect that there will be any trouble. SOA has a 15 year history of absolutely non-violent protest with no problems ever. (And yet the cops insist that they have to be ready for a terrorist attack!)

I look forward to news of tomorrow's direct actions.
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