Sixteen protesters have received terms of one to six months in federal prison in connection with a Nov. 19, 2006, demonstration at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia; they were demanding the closing of the US Defense Department’s Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), a combat-training school for Latin American soldiers, formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA). Some 22,000 people took part in the demonstration in 2006, the highest number since the annual gatherings started in 1990 to protest the school’s record of training many of the worst human rights violators in the hemisphere. Military police arrested 16 protesters who crossed into the base as an act of civil disobedience.
Six of the protesters reported to prison to begin serving their sentences on March 21. Eight began their terms on April 17. A 17-year-old protester was sentenced to one year of probation and 50 hours of community service. One protester was released earlier; she served 71 days in Muscogee County Jail in Georgia after refusing to post bail on Nov. 19. Their trials began in federal court in Columbus, Georgia on Jan. 29.
SOA Watch, which organizes the protests, is calling on activists around the US to hold fasts between April 25 and 27 to pressure Congress to pass legislation closing the school. An organizing packet for the fast is available from the group at:
People who wish to write to the imprisoned protesters can get their names and prison
(SOA Watch update, April 17)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 22
See our last post on the SOA.