Columbus, Georgia - This year is the 25th anniversary of the 1989 University of Central America massacre, in which School of the Americas-trained soldiers murdered a 16-year-old girl, her mother, and six Jesuit priests. Every year since 1990, human rights activists have gathered to call for justice at the gates of Fort Benning. Thousands will gather this year, from November 21-23, to close the SOA/ WHINSEC, shut down Stewart Detention Center, and organize against the cruelly intertwined immigrant prison system and militarized US foreign policy.
The Central American refugee crisis, the "Drug War" massacres and disappearances in Mexico, and the racist police brutality in Ferguson have made clear, peoples' movements across the Americas are uniting and pushing back against militarized security forces that only "serve and protect" the interests of the elites. On September 26, 43 Mexican student activists were disappeared, prompting mass protests against the collaboration between the Mexican state and organized crime, and against the US-supported war on drugs, which is used as a cover for political violence.
Mexico’s security forces are being trained at the notorious SOA/ WHINSEC (School of the Americas, renamed in 2001 Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), and the institute continues to train the military muscle for US economic interests in Latin America. In 2009, Honduran president Manuel Zelaya made social reforms, considered closing a US military base on Honduran soil, and took on big business. In turn, SOA graduates staged a military coup and installed a repressive regime that was favorable to US corporate interests. Honduran security forces have since received increased US military aid and training, despite their well-known record of human rights violations and infiltration by the drug cartels they ostensibly combat.
“The annual November Vigil has grown to the largest annual anti-militarization gathering in North America,” said SOA Watch founder and veteran Father Roy Bourgeois, “because we stand with those whose bodies, lives, families and communities have been torn apart by militaries, police and prisons, on both sides of the border. We call for the closure of the for-profit Stewart Detention Center, just 30 miles from the SOA, and at the gates of Ft. Benning we will continue to call out the names of the martyrs killed by SOA/WHINSEC graduates. The struggles in Mexico, in Missouri, in Georgia, they stand together, as we will, with one voice, denounce those with blood on their hands and lift up our righteous demand for justice and peace.”
The three-day convergence will include a march to the Stewart Detention Center on Saturday, November 22, and a rally at the gates of Fort Benning in the afternoon. Speakers from North, Central, and South America will speak out against US military and political support of human rights abusers in their countries. A funeral procession will follow on Sunday, November 23 to commemorate the victims of US militarism. The event will also feature workshops, concerts and a movement strategy session. For a full schedule of events, visit SOAW.org/november