Democracy Now covered the SOA Watch protest outside of the gates of Fort Benning in November 2014 Watch their video here!
Video of veteran SOA Watch activist Nashua Chantal hopping the fence for the third time, risking another 6-month prison sentence:
Father Roy, Paulina Candia Gajá from Mexico, Adriana Portillo Bartow and Maria Luisa Rosal leading the solemn funeral procession on Sunday, November 23:
Sunday, November 23, was an historic gathering at Fort Benning, remembering the 25th anniversary of the UCA martyrs, standing against the militarization of police and security forces, and celebrating the hope and power of communities in resistance all around the americas.
Nashua Chantal crossed the line shortly before noon on Sunday, amidst a vibrant crowd cheering "Close Down the SOA!" (see video, above). Around 9 am, longtime peace activist and demonstrator, 83-year-old Eve Tetaz, of Washington, DC, successfully crossed the line onto Fort Benning, carrying with her a poster Mauricio Ortega Valerio, of one of the 43 students disappeared in Ayotzinapa, Mexico and the verse from Isaiah 2:4, "They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." More civil disobedience is expected this morning.
Saturday was an amazing day, beginning with the caravan to Lumpkin, GA, where we gathered more than 1,000 strong, to call for the closure of the for-profit Stewart Detention Center. After marching 1.7 miles to the CCA-run immigrant prison, where five were arrested for crossing the line there (Anton Flores, Jason McGaughey, Kevin Caron, Maureen Fitzsimons, Rebecca Kanner). We then caravanned to the gates of Fort Benning, home to the SOA, and listened to amazing speakers, musicians and puppetistas before heading to the Columbus Convention Center for workshops and the evening concert with Aparato, Sobrevivencia, OLMECA, and the Peace Poets.
Footage from the arrests at the Stewart Detention Center:
Initial bonds were set at $25,000(!) for Anton Flores, $1,000 for the four others, but following negotiations by Alison McCrary from the SOA Watch Legal Collective with the judge, the bonds were lowered to $250/each!
Joseph Kay's recent documentary "Return to the Scene of the Crime, Volume III: 25 Years of the School of the Americas Protest" documents the journey of a group of peace activists from Milwaukee, WI as they travel to rally at the gates of Fort Benning, GA to protest the crimes that have been committed by graduates of the U.S. Army School of the Americas (now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation). The film chronicles the 2014 November Vigil, the history of the SOA, the SOA Watch movement to close it, the rally at the gates, and everything in between regarding the trip.
The 25th annual November Vigil kicked off Friday night with a packed plenary session and opening concert. Saturday morning, SOA Watch activists with other allies, led by the Georgia Detention Watch coalition and the Alterna community in LaGrange, gathered outside of the Stewart Detention Center to stand in solidarity with those who continue to be impacted by the SOA and to emphasize the connection between closing the SOA/WHINSEC and the root causes of migration.
Saturday afternoon, our message of solidarity and resistance was taken from the gates of the Stewart Detention Center directly to the gates of Ft. Benning and the SOA/WHINSEC to emphasize the connection between these two institutions of oppression and the interconnectedness of our struggles for justice in the Americas. We heard from activists, human rights defenders, musicians, and others from across the Americas impacted by the SOA/WHINSEC.
Sunday morning, we continue to commemorate the martyrs. The Central American refugee crisis, the "Drug War" massacres and disappearances in Mexico, and the protests against police brutality in Ferguson have made clear -- we must unite our struggles and push back against the militarized security forces that only "serve and protect" the interests of the elites.
Join thousands of teachers, farmers, students, unionists, religious communities, veterans, LGBTQ activists, environmentalists, migrants - as we converge at the gates of the School of the Americas (SOA; also known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, WHINSEC), where we continue to reaffirm life and our creativity in the face of Empire.