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Students venture to Georgia for protest

By molly boes
On November 30, 2011

What started as a handful of students and faculty traveling to

Ft. Benning, Ga. to partake in a protest has evolved into a group of over 30 students and faculty coming together to stand up for something they believe in. On Nov. 8, this group hopped on a bus for a 10-hour ride to its destination.

Ft. Benning is home to the Western Hemisphere Institute

for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly known

as the School of the Americas (SOA). WHINSEC is a school run by the U.S. military that trains soldiers sent by countries in Latin America. SOA Watch hosts the protest annually every mid-November. The SOA Watch started in 1990 after the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests, their co-worker

and the co-worker's daughter. According to the SOA Watch

website, a U.S. Congressional Task Force reported that the people responsible for this massacre were trained at the SOA. "The goal of SOA Watch is to close the SOA and to change U.S. foreign policy in Latin America by educating the public, lobbying Congress and participating in creative,

nonviolent resistance," according to www.soa.org.

Throughout the years, the SOA Watch has grown from a small group of people working out of an apartment in Ft. Benning into a large movement. The people present at the protest vary from college students to nuns and feature various speakers including Martin Sheen and the Georgia NAACP State President, Edward DuBose. On Saturday, the protest consisted of multiple speakers, some speaking about their personal experiences and others retelling the

stories of families and friends, live music, dancing and a performance by the puppetistas – large puppets controlled by volunteers. That evening a teach-in was held at the Columbus, Ga. Convention Center, where attendants

could pick from a selection of informational sessions. On Sunday, the call "¡Presente!" filled the air as a funeral procession marched through the barricaded area of the protest and to the main gate of Ft. Benning. During the procession, names of the people killed in Latin America were read and protesters lifted crosses bearing victims'

names. These crosses were then placed on the fence that was built in front of the main gate after 9/11. After the funeral procession, protesters at the fence chanted and sang various songs and offered words of support as one of

their fellow protesters set a ladder against the fence and "crossed the line" — an act of civil disobedience — and was taken away by stationed officers. Not everyone at the protest was in support of the closure of WHINSEC/SOA.

A small group of men from Pennsylvania wove through the

crowd, passing out sheets of paper arguing for the preservation of WHINSEC/SOA. The group was from the

American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), whose message was "A Call to Gratitude: who will thank our heroes?" "We're protesting the protesters," one of the TFP protesters said. Each person at the protest had his or her own reason for being there. Some had lost family members in one of the massacres.

Others were there to protest the protest itself. "Every year the protest is a source of much hope and renewal for me," senior Anna Robertson said. "Seeing so many people in one place who share my values and hope for the same changes fills me with energy that sustains me in my own journey of coming to know my place in solidarity with

others."


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