Protest slated for Nov. 21-22 to shut down "School of Assassins"
Joe Courter
November/December 1998

The power of protest launched against the Army School of Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia (dubbed the School of Assassins) has been growing and is expected to reach a crescendo the weekend of November 21 and 22 when an estimated thousand people are expected to risk arrest by walking onto the base. Six hundred people were arrested in the last demonstration against the Army School.

This truly national protest has been building for 15 years, as the paper trail which ties the school's graduates to gross human rights abuses piles higher and higher--from four nuns tortured and murdered in El Salvador in 1983 to the Christmas massacre in Chiapas in December 1997--and countless assassinations, disappearances, disruptions of unions and student groups, rapes and torture, anti-democratic coups, election fraud and other subversions of democracy in Latin America. The case to close the school has gotten stronger with each new revelation.

The Army School of the Americas was originally located in Panama by the U.S. until 1984 when the more nationalist Panamanian president Manuel Noriega began to cut their welcome short. It moved to Columbus, Georgia. According to a Veterans for Peace 1993 convention resolution, "For 50 years the School has participated in the training of foreign despots and mercenaries well outside the bounds of freedom, democracy and decency."

Major Joseph Blair, US Army (ret.) and a former School of Americas instructor says, "The School of Americas is a cold war dinosaur and should be closed."

Many thousands are expected to descend on the Columbus, Georgia area for the weekend for the protest. The motels are full and area campgrounds are expected to turn into peace camps. Columbus, and the Army School, are a 5 1/2 hour drive from Gainesville, and the Sunday event begins at 10 a.m. According to the organizers, those contemplating risking arrest must go through a civil disobedience/non-violence training on Saturday.

The Army has been so alarmed by the rising protests and bills in Congress to defund the School that they have started to move some of the school's functions to other bases. The protestors message is to shut down the function it serves entirely, namely, training death squads and dictators in Latin America to keep people from organizing and thus keep Latin America safe for multinational plundering.

Locally a carpool is being coordinated. Call Melissa at 381-8958.

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