Saturday, November 27, 2010

AFSC At The Gates Of Fort Benning

Our Atlanta office has worked with the Georgia Peace and Justice coalition for the last few years to provide as much space for Georgia youth to come down to the gates of Fort Benning for the yearly mobilization to close the School of the Americas, which is organizing by the School of the Americas Watch.

The School of the Americas (SOA), in 2001 renamed the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation,” is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Initially established in Panama in 1946, it was kicked out of that country in 1984 under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty. Former Panamanian President, Jorge Illueca, stated that the School of the Americas was the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.” The SOA, frequently dubbed the “School of Assassins,” has left a trail of blood and suffering in every country where its graduates have returned.

Over its 59 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Americas.

This year with the help of a $500. contribution from the Atlanta Chapter of the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition(GPJC) we we able to provide lodging and some transportation for 18 youth. Many of the young folks that came down also helped AFSC and GPJC staff literature tables at the gates Fort Benning. They also attended, along with about 30 other Georgians, our yearly Georgia activist meet-up which is a sort of an informal gathering which provides space for folks organizing in Georgia to get to know each other, connect issues, and explore opportunities to collaborate and share resources.

One thing I personally noticed was that despite the number of total number of folks at SOAW this year being lower then years past, there seems to be more folks from Georgia not only showing up but playing active roles in various aspects of the demonstration. From building intricate giant puppets, to performing on stage, to facilitating workshops Georgians seemed more present this year.

To learn more about the SOAW visit:

To visit GPJC Atlanta chapter go to:

Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee

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