Thousands Demand Closing of SOA

November 26, 2006

On November 19, over 22,000 people demonstrated in front of the gates of the U.S. army's training school in Fort Benning, Georgia. The demonstration was the largest yet in a 17-year history of protests which are held every year in November at the army base.

The military training camp, known for years as the School of the Americas (SOA) was renamed by the Pentagon in 2001 as the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation" (WHISC). Since 1984, nearly 60,000 military and police officials have trained at the school and many of its graduating officers have become some of the most notorious leaders of death-squads and have been implicated in numerous war crimes, human rights abuses, and drug-trafficking. A 1996 report by a U.S. government oversight board admitted that school's "instruction materials.... condone practices such as executions of guerrillas, extortion, physical abuse, coercion and false imprisonment."

Since 1991, every year in November, demonstrations have taken place outside the gates of the base at Fort Benning. This year, as in the past, protestors not only demanded that the school be closed, but also called for an end to the war in Iraq, an end to the entire so-called "war on terrorism" and an end to U.S. intervention in Latin America and elsewhere.

The struggle to close the SOA-WHISC is part of a broad current of opposition to the aggressive foreign policy of the U.S. government.