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2002-07-17

Protesting the School of the Americas: A Woman Locks Herself to the Main Gate of Fort Benning After 36 Protesters Are Convicted

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On Saturday, a woman chained her neck to the main gate at Fort Benning with a bicycle lock, with a banner that read, "Lock Up SOA/WHISC, Not Peacemakers."

This after a federal judge last week convicted 36 human rights activists of trespassing at the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas in Columbus, Georgia. Ten thousand people gathered peacefully last November outside the School of the Americas, which offers counterinsurgency and combat training to Latin American soldiers. Critics say its graduates have been implicated in human rights atrocities abroad.

The school was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation last year after Congress narrowly defeated a bill to close the school.

The defendants peacefully entered the grounds of Fort Benning in a solemn procession, chanting the names of those killed by soldiers in Latin America.

U.S. Magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth offered to sentence the protesters to spend six months as a student at the school as an alternative to prison, but the defendants rejected the idea.

29 of the activists were sentenced to up to six months in federal prison and 7 placed on probation.

Guest:

  • Father Roy Bourgeois, School of Americas Watch.

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