Thousands Converge at the gates of Fort Benning for 20th Anniversary of November Vigil to Close the SOA

Nonviolent Civil Disobedience Action Followed by Indiscriminate Arrests and Targeting of Journalists. Among those arrested by Columbus Police were three Journalists, including TV News Crew from RT America and Unrelated Bystanders.

Thousands of human rights activists, torture survivors, veterans, faith-based communities, union workers, students, musicians and others from across the Americas are gathered today at the gates of the U.S. military base Fort Benning to call for the closure of the School of the Americas (renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation).

Following the SOA Watch rally, human rights activists brought their nonviolent witness to close the SOA into the street leading onto the military base. The activists briefly shut down the road with a large sign that said, “Stop: This is the End of the Road for the SOA.” Their action is part of a longstanding tradition of creative civil disobedience to call attention to the atrocities committed by graduates of the School of the Americas. 10-12 people were arrested, and others charged, including the 90-year old Jesuit priest Bill Brennan, and ordained Catholic priest Janice Sevre-Duszynska.

Two human rights activists crossed onto Fort Benning through the highway entrance. They have been charged with federal trespass and face up to six months in federal prison and a fine up to $5,000.

When the rally participants tried to leave the vigil area, the police blocked off all exit points. After a few minutes, the police allowed people to leave on the sidewalk, only to follow them, indiscriminately arresting people who had neither committed any crimes nor engaged in civil disobedience. Among those arrested was the RT America TV crew, who was filming the police misconduct and bystanders. All arrestees are currently being held in the Muscogee County Jail for up to a $5,500 bond.

SOA Watch is a nonviolent grassroots organization that works for the closing the School of the Americas and a change in U.S. foreign policy –


  1. URGENT! We urgently need money to bond people out of jail.

    Please make a donation to the SOA Watch Legal Defense Fund

    As a community of resistance, we need to take care of our prisoners. The conditions in Muscogee County jail are deplorable and we need funds to pay the bond money, which has been set as high as $5,500 per person. Several people engaged in nonviolent direct action and blocked the road to the Highway entrance to Fort Benning, others were arrested by the out-of-control Columbus police as they were leaving the vigil area on the sidewalk. Several journalists and bystanders were swept up in the arrests as well.

    Background information about the events yesterday:

    Please donate to the SOA Watch Legal Defense Fund. We need the money urgently TODAY:

    In peace and solidarity,
    SOA Watch

  2. Update from Georgia – SOA Watch

    Live from the courtroom:

    We’re rolling live from the Muscogee County Jailhouse, down by the waters of the lovely Chattahoochee River!

    Of the 26 arrestees from Saturday, there are still many being arraigned at the courthouse, with the Columbus police trying hard to make an example out of the defendants, in the hope of intimidating them and preventing us from speaking truth to power. The arrested peace activists and bystanders have been brought into the courtroom in orange prison-issued clothing, some visibly shocked and frightened, others arguing calmly in their defense.

    We have verified that the Columbus police had at least five undercover law enforcement officers, who attended the direct action meetings, held signs at the rally, and were even arrested and kept in jail with the other activists in a clear attempt to learn names and fabricate stories.

    However, we have an excellent legal team who are fighting hard against the lies and keeping our spirits up. For years, our movement has refused to be silent, and we continue to refuse to be silent now. We don’t want to leave anyone behind!

    This is a moment for us to come together and fight impunity. Our fight for the truth here in the cases against our sisters and brothers here in Columbus is part of the fight against militarization, threats and impunity in Latin America, represented by the School of the Americas. The threats and repression taught at the School of Assassins in Ft. Benning are being reproduced in the Columbus courthouse.

    We also can’t win this without you at your home, office, public library or school. We ask you to continue to step forward and send us your donations. Since we started the online plea, we have raised over $18,000… but we need more. We encourage you to petition your community networks, friends and family to raise more money for the legal defense fund.

    You can make online donations to the Legal Defense Fund here.

    Please note: if you were present during the arrests and have any audio or video footage of the tapes, it is urgent that you send that material to us at soawpresente (at)


    Background on the arrests and the annual Vigil to Close the SOA:

    On Saturday, thousands converged at the gates of Ft. Benning, in the annual vigil and rally to close the School of the Americas/WHINSEC. Over the years since 9/11, under the pretext of “terrorism”, it has become increasingly more difficult for activists to engage in non-violent civil disobedience, which has been a cornerstone of our movement. Through fences, increased police presence, FBI pre-rally consultation with local police forces, security cameras, searches and in the past, metal detectors at vigil entrances, those who wish to cross the line into the base have been prevented in doing so.

    This year, some within our movement decided to accompany federal line crossers to their place of crossing at a different entrance. When activists tried to leave the “free speech zone”, they were blocked by police and only allowed to leave via the sidewalk. Many were simply leaving to return to their hotels or homes. When the Puppetistas followed the sidewalk towards the intersection of Victory Drive and Ft. Benning Road, the Columbus police moved in to arrest the Puppetistas, and began to arrest anyone, while also targeting various journalists who were filming the repression. One local man was arrested while taking pictures of the unfolding events.

    Bail was initially set at up to $5,500 per person, with many people being charged with several misdemeanors. This is still hindering a quick release from jail, and was intended to intimidate activists.

    Today, Sunday, we remembered the martyrs from across Latin America with our traditional solemn funeral procession, chanting “Presente!” after the names of SOA victims, including recent killings and disappearances in Honduras and Mexico.

    Two more young people joined the growing list of Prisoners of Conscience, risking extended federal prison time and fines. David Omandi of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker and Christopher Spicer of the White Rose Catholic Worker of Chicago took their witness to the School of the Americas, after jumping over the first set of barbed-wire fencing at the entrance to the base, and were immediately detained by military police amidst cheers from supporters.

    Yesterday, Father Louis Vitale (California) and Nancy Smith (New York) delivered their message of solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Latin America after entering the base from the highway ramp. This is the first time crossing the line for Nancy, Christopher and David, and the fourth time for Fr. Louis. They continue to keep the light of truth alive for the history books, so we can look back and see the flowers that grow from the seeds of resistance we plant today.

Comments are closed.