Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Protesters Call for Closing of Ga. Military School

Protesters Call for Closing of Ga. Terrorist Training Camp


November 23, 2008


Filed at 7:18 p.m. ET

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) -- Demonstrators renewed their call Sunday to shutter a school on a Georgia Army base for Latin American military and government officials and say they're optimistic the new president or a more sympathetic Congress will act within the next year.

School of Americas Watch protests each November outside Fort Benning to mark the 1989 killings of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador. A United Nations panel concluded that some of the killers had attended the School of Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest who has been leading the demonstrations since 1990, said his supporters view President-elect Barack Obama as the ''president who stands for peace.''

''Our movement has worked hard to get him into the White House,'' Bourgeois said. ''We think it is very reasonable to have a meeting with President Obama.''

Protesters also blame the school for human rights abuses in Latin America.

Obama could close the school by executive order or Congress could deny funding, a proposal that was narrowly defeated earlier this year, Bourgeois said.

''There is a good possibility we'll shut the school,'' Bourgeois said. ''If we do, we're going to gather here next year for a fiesta.''

Bourgeois has also taken on another cause. He has been threatened with excommunication by the Vatican for supporting the ordination of women as priests. But as of Sunday, he was still a man of the cloth, he said.

''I'm waiting to hear from Rome,'' he said.

Fort Benning officials had no comment other than to say they worked with local officials to ensure a safe, peaceful gathering.

The protesters, many of them students from as far away as Minnesota and Washington state, listened to music, speeches and marched in a funeral procession. Some, dressed in black robes, carried mock coffins while the majority lifted white crosses as the names of alleged victims of human rights abuses were read.

They cheered an announcement that the crowd had grown to 20,000. But Capt. Mike Massey of the Muscogee County Sheriff's Department said deputies had counted about 8,500 entering the area in the morning. Most years, the group and local officials differ on crowd estimates.

Eric LeCompte, an SOA Watch organizer, said six protesters crossed a line on the military base and were arrested.

Juanita Sherba of Canfield, Ohio, has been attending the demonstrations for 12 years.

''We believe that Obama's words are true,'' she said. ''He seems to be a man of conscience and I think he's going to look into the way our government does business and truly make it a democracy again.''

(This version CORRECTS Corrects in last graf to 'conscience')


Copyright 2008 The Associated Press


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1 comment:

Just Steve said...

As a life long resident of Columbus and Criminal Defense Attorney I have to say I find a few things sad about all this. I am a strong believer in peace. I work and even teach to help insure the right to free speech. I accept that at times there will be war. I know that some evil things have been connected to people who attended the SOA. But I also see a few other things. A few years ago the Judge hearing these cases made an offer to those who had been convicted of trespassing or who plead guilty. A couple of months in jail OR simply attend and observe some of the classes (they could pick which ones). They all REFUSED to go to the classes. I have taken the time to review the Law setting up the school. The course outline and materials. I have meet with officials from the school, as while as teachers and students.
The way we spread Democracy is by teaching other folks how it works, including their military leaders. Programs teaching respect for Civilian authority, human rights classes taught by a Judge from the International Court in the Hague and drug fighting programs serve to help the people of these countries.
Did some of the students from these school do evil things yes. Does that mean the school teaches them, I don’t think so. The best example I can give is this. Many children have been molested by graduates of Catholic Seminaries. Does that mean they teach priest to molest children? I don’t think so. Should we close the Seminaries because of the actions of a few? I don’t think so.
Is the SOA a bad place that teaches bad things? I don’t think so.