Thousands Protest in Georgia Against the "School of the Americas"
November 23, 2003
On November 22-23, thousands of people participated in protests at Fort Benning, in Columbus Georgia, to demand the closing of the "School of the Americas" (SOA). The SOA, which has recently been renamed by the Pentagon as the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation" (WHISC) is a U.S. army training facility for military officers from Latin America.
On November 22, over 8,000 demonstrators (the largest first-day gathering in the 14-year history of the protest) rallied at the gates of the base. Anti-war speeches targeting U.S. military aggression in Latin America as well as in Iraq, and an anti-war "puppet-parade," highlighted the day's events. The next day, on November 23, over 10,000 demonstrators participated in a march through the front gates, demanding that the school be immediately shut down. Scores of demonstrators "crossed the line" and were arrested for trespassing. One arrested protestor commented "The SOA is a terrorist training camp on U.S. soil...it needs to be closed!"
Since 1991, every year in November, demonstrations have taken place outside the gates of the base at Fort Benning. The struggle to close the SOA-WHISC, like the fight against the war in Iraq and the U.S. "war on terrorism," is part of a broad current of opposition to the aggressive foreign policy of the U.S. government.