Thousands Demand Closure of Fort Benning's School of the Americas (partial)TRUTHOUT 22 November 2009

Thousands Demand Closure of Fort Benning's School of the Americas

Sunday 22 November 2009

by: Scott Galindez, t r u t h o u t | Report

Thousands Rally at the gates of Fort Benning. (Photo: Linda Panetta)

This weekend, thousands of people gathered at the gates of Ft. Benning to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the killings of 14-year-old Celia Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos and the six Jesuit priests with whom she worked at the Central American University in San Salvador.

Nearly 5,000 people are gathered in the pouring rain according to Larry White, a protester who spoke to Truthout. Earlier in the day, following a rally featuring a performance by the Indigo Girls, activists participated in the yearly "presente march," ending at Ft. Benning. During the march, activists carried crosses with the names of the victims of brutal repression in Central America. According to White, 50 of the marchers left the permitted route and are being threatened with arrest.

Four Arrests

Four people were arrested earlier in the day for crossing onto the base. They were Nancy Gwin, of Syracuse, NY; Michael Walli, of Washington, DC; Kenneth Hayes, of Austin, Texas; and Franciscan priest Father Luis Vitale, of Oakland, California. The four are currently in military custody, said Hendrick Voss, communications director with SOA Watch.

The four people stepped onto the post sometime this morning, at the Interstate 185 gate, Voss said.

Update-3:55 pm Eastern: Three of the four arrested for entering the base have been released and will face trial in January of 2010.

Michael Walli is continuing his protest by refusing to post bail and will remain locked up until their trial in January 2010.

Truthout will follow the events and keep you updated on further developments.

Organizers Nominated for Nobel Peace Price

According to a press release from the American Friends Service Committee:

Father Roy Bourgeois, MM, and School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch) have been nominated for one of the most prestigious awards in the world - the Nobel Peace Prize - for their sustained faithful nonviolent witness against the disappearances, torture, and murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians (peasants, community and union organizers, clerics, missionaries, educators, and health workers) by foreign military personnel trained by the US military at US taxpayer expense at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia.

The candidacy of Father Roy and SOA Watch for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize has been officially submitted to the Nobel Committee in Oslo, Norway by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. The official announcement was made by AFSC representative John Meyer on Sunday, November 22 at 9am at the gates of Fort Benning (home of the School of the Americas) during the annual November vigil to close the SOA.

"We are deeply honored, and deeply humbled, to be nominated for this prize for peace," commented Bourgeois, a Vietnam veteran, Purple Heart recipient and a Catholic priest, who helped found SOA Watch. "This nomination is a recognition of the work of the thousands struggling against militarism across the Americas."

SOA Watch is a nonviolent grassroots movement that works through creative protest and resistance, legislative and grassroots media work to stand in solidarity with the people of Latin America, to close the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) and to change oppressive U.S. foreign policy that institutions like the SOA/ WHINSEC represent.