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  • School of America Protest

    Well here we are at our 13th annual protest. This is what its about.

    From the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

    Posted on Sun, Nov. 17, 2002

    Police brace for marchers
    Police defend use of hand-held metal detectors while protesters grumble
    Staff Writer

    Amid a heavy police presence, several thousand protesters gathered at Fort Benning's main gate Saturday to stage a rally against a school they claim is a teacher of brutality in Latin America.

    Taking place under overcast, drizzly skies, the demonstration came across more like a peaceful street festival than an agitated call to stop alleged torture and murder south of the U.S. border.

    A blend of young college students and more mature activists strolled Fort Benning Road back and forth, stopping to view puppet shows and buy bumper stickers, T-shirts and posters with slogans such as "Don't Attack Iraq."

    The crowd was estimated by the Columbus Police Department at 4,000. That number is expected to surge today as protesters return to the edge of the military installation that harbors the object of their disdain -- the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

    Columbus Police Maj. Julius Graham said his force is bracing for some type of "civil disobedience" during today's demonstration. In its 13th year, the protest has typically culminated with demonstrators crossing the boundary of Fort Benning and being charged with trespassing. That changed last year when a fence was installed along the post's boundary as part of the increased security after the 9/11 attacks.

    No arrests were made Saturday, Columbus police and Fort Benning authorities said. There was grumbling, however, about the decision to use metal-detector wands to screen those attending the two-day demonstration. One protester held up a sign proclaiming, "I will not consent to this search." SOA Watch officials also instructed those in attendance to fill out slips of paper saying they did not consent to the searches.

    "We need you to fill out the non-consent forms in case we need to contact you if we file a lawsuit," SOA Watch official Jeff Winder told the crowd from the main stage.

    Graham defended the decision to make the searches.

    "What we're trying to do is not necessarily control it, so much as we want to make sure that those participants that come in do not bring any weapons on site," he said. "We want it to be as safe as we can make it without intruding on anybody's rights or denying them freedom of speech or having equal access to this site."

    This year, police also have set up a mobile "sky watch" booth that hydraulically lifts spotters about 25 feet high. The booth is set up near the main stage, giving authorities a bird's-eye view of Saturday's rally and today's protest.

    On Saturday, they saw the Rev. Roy Bourgeois, the founder of SOA Watch, call for the closure of the institute, the successor to the U.S. Army School of the Americas.

    "Once again, we gather at this main gate to keep alive the memory of our brothers and sisters who were killed by graduates of a school not more than three miles from here," he said. "We are here to call for the closure of this school."

    There have been 99 protesters to serve prison sentences -- typically six months in duration -- for trespassing on the post. There are currently 26 serving time. Mary O'Donnell's brother, Father Bill O'Donnell, both of Berkeley, Calif., is one of those behind bars.

    "I'm going to send a photo of me to Judge Faircloth, showing him I'm a replacement for the cause as my brother promised the judge there would be," said O'Donnell, after having a photograph snapped of her with fellow protesters in front of the Fort Benning welcome sign. All were wearing T-shirts that read, "Father Bill O'Donnell's Replacement Brigade."

    While most of those wearing U.S. Army camouflage uniforms remained on the Fort Benning side of a 12-foot-high chain link fence, some ventured among the demonstrators. They included Col. Joe Torres, the post's garrison commander, who was looking to speak with those on the opposite side of the institute issue. Torres said he respects the activists' right to free speech, but added they also should learn about the military and its mission.

    "This is my third year with these things," he said. "My first year, people were amazed that we were normal people, just in uniform. We're a product of society, also."

    So far its been non-violent but this year there is a different feel with the crowd and more fringe groups are comming with their own agenda.
    What will happen is that the main civil-disobedence will start after the protest is officially over.
    Last year a large group blocked the street closing the road into Fort Benning. We had to arrest about 30 last year. This year we expect a lot more.
    Most of the crowd are college students following the "education" of their professors and some of them actually get college credits for being here. I wonder if they get extra credit if they get arrested? It doesn't really matter though, we just completed a new tower to our jail and have lots of room to hold them.
    Also what the newspapers alluded to but didn't get into detail with was the use of the hand-held metal detectors. When the SOA people found out about the plan to use them they took the city to Federal Court claiming it violated their First and Fourth amendment rights. The judge sided with the police.

    It will be a very long day.
    "There's only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And it comes with the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." P.J. O'Rourke

  • #2
    Even though 4000 people attended, not a single work day was lost, since all are unemployed and living off govt loans and grants to continue their "educations" at a nearby university.


    • #3
      Some halfwit girl from Salem was arrested and convicted of trespassing on post at one of the previous demonstrations, and the newspaper here had an article on her every day for a week and a half this summer. Apparently this "hero" (the paper's words) is spending a year at Club Fed on us. I think they should draft these folks and let them see what's it like to make a personal sacrifice to protect the right of their buddies to protest the government.

      "Bones heal. Chicks dig scars. And the United States of America has the best doctor-to-daredevil ratio in the world!" -- Captain Lance Murdoch, The Simpsons


      • #4
        Sentence them to 1 year picking up camel dung in Afghanistan.


        • #5
          So far, as I understand it, almost 100 were arrested by 4 pm. I believe about 30 are going through our courts so I would have to assume that the rest were arrested by the Military Police.
          Last year they waited until 8:30 or 9 pm to get themselves arrested. We'll see what happens tonight. Glad I was on the day shift today.
          I'll have better numbers tommorrow.
          I'll say this though - at least it has been non-violent so far.
          By the way I heard there were about 8000 protesters out there this afternoon.

          [ 11-17-2002, 08:46 PM: Message edited by: Taterhead ]
          "There's only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And it comes with the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." P.J. O'Rourke


          • #6
            If anyone really understood what SOA taught, they would applaud it. Back in the 80s, it was lessons learned at SOA that helped stop the expansion of Communism in Central America. Had the Soviet Union gotten a good foothold there, it would have been short steps to our borders.

            The world can be an ugly place, and wars aren't won by angels. You have to get your hands dirty to win.
            Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. - Ronald Reagan

            I don't think It'll happen in the US because we don't trust our government. We are a country of skeptics, raised by skeptics, founded by skeptics. - Amaroq


            • #7
              Nuns, huh?

              I'm working up a lesson plan for Defesive Tactics maneuvers when being attacked with a ruler.

              I understand their passion, but illegally entering an Army base is not smart.
              People have more fun than anybody.


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