COLUMBUS, Ga. -- More than 90 people, including at least 6 nuns, were arrested
for marching onto Fort Benning grounds Sunday during an annual protest of a U.S.
military program that trains Latin American soldiers.
"I feel anger at the deliberate teaching of violence," said
Caryl Hartjes, a nun from Fondulac, Wisc., as she entered the
compound. "I don't feel anger at the military who will put
handcuffs on me."
About 6,500 protesters gathered for the 13th annual
demonstration by the School of the Americas Watch, which continues
to protest the Nov. 19, 1989 killings of six Jesuit priests in El
Salvador. Protesters said they demonstrate because some of the
people responsible for the killings were trained at the military
Five Roman Catholic nuns march and carry crosses on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2002, during
a demonstration in Columbus, Ga., against a school at nearby Fort Benning that
trains Latin American soldiers. From right are, Dorothy Pagosa of St. Mary in
the Woods, Ind., 48; Rita Clare Gerardot, 76, of Chicago; Joann Quinker, of Oaklawn,
Ill.; Kathleen Long of Chicago; and Cathleen Jessick, of Chicago. All five risked
jail by by stepping Fort Benning property to protest. (AP Photo/Elliott Minor)
Demonstrators passed through gates, including one where they cut
the padlock and slipped through fenceposts to gain access onto the
Inside, a line of military police guided protesters up a hill
where they were arrested, a federal offense that carries up to six
months in prison.
"This decision to go in is a spontaneous thing. There was no
planning," said Bill Quigley, a lawyer representing the
protesters. "We're here to support the voices that are trying to
make our country's international actions more just."
Demonstrators carried American flags and crosses honoring the
alleged victims of the abuses in Latin America. Three protesters
carried a mock-coffin draped in black. Others wore shirts that said
"No War in Iraq."
"I don't want to give up my freedom and I would enjoy peace and
justice more, but as a person of faith, I can't stand back and
watch the atrocities," said Dorothy Pagosa, a 48-year-old nun, as
she was being arrested. "The atrocities that have happened have
brought shame on this country."
About 7,000 protesters took part last year, including 31 who
entered the post illegally.
The Army's School of the Americas was replaced last year by a
new institution operated by the Department of Defense and
supervised by an independent 13-member board that includes
lawmakers, scholars, diplomats and religious leaders.
Officials say the new school, known as the Western Hemisphere
Institute for Security Cooperation, still trains Latin American
soldiers, but also focuses on civilian and diplomatic affairs.
Human rights courses are mandatory.
Protest leaders say the change was only cosmetic, and they have
promised to continue the demonstrations.
Copyright 2002 Associated Press