Thousands to Call for Closure of Controversial Training Facility for Latin American Soldiers

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Hendrik Voss, SOA Watch National Organizer, hvoss@soaw.org, 202-425-5128
Anton Flores, Georgia Detention Watch, anton@alternacommunity.com
Father Roy Bourgeois, SOA Watch founder, 706-682-5369

Thousands to Call for Closure of Controversial Training Facility for Latin American Soldiers

WASHINGTON - Thousands of human rights activists, torture survivors, union workers, veterans, migrants, faith communities, students, and supporters from across the Americas are ready to converge at Fort Benning, Georgia. A coalition of organizations and activists have organized a three-day international weekend conference, vigil, and procession highlighting the injustices and impunity set forth by US policy. The groups are demanding a fundamental shift in US intervention and migration policy, the closure of the controversial School of Americas (renamed the Westrn Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), and the closure of the Stewart Immigrant Detention Center.

For a full schedule of the November 20-22 weekend events, visit: http://soaw.org/november/weekend-schedule-of-events/

Anti-militarization, social justice-themed workshops start at 2 PM on Friday, November 20th at the Columbus Convention Center and continue through Saturday evening. The vigil procession starts on Saturday at 9:30 AM at the Stewart Immigrant Detention Center.

SOA Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois states "Despite a shocking human rights abuse record, the School of the Americas continues to operate with US taxpayer money. Closing the SOA would send a strong human rights message to Latin America and the world.” For the 9th year, the weekend mobilization will also focus on the nearby Stewart Detention Center that currently detains approximately 1,800 migrants. Bourgeois asserts "We have to address the root causes of migration, which to a major part lie in the deplorable economic and military policies, which the United States has imposed on Latin America."

The School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is a US military training school that is located in Fort Benning, Georgia. The school first made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Despite this admission and hundreds of documented human rights abuses connected to soldiers trained at the school, no independent investigation into the facility has ever taken place.

Located in Lumpkin, Georgia (45 minutes from Columbus), the Stewart Detention Center, run by Corrections Corporation of America, detains approximately 1,800 immigrant men for deportation proceedings. US policies consistently have created a flow of Latin American refugees by means of economic exploitation, military interventions, coups d'états, and other forms of state-sponsored violence. SOA Watch believes punitive immigration policies, the increasing militarization of the border, for-profit immigration detention centers, the "War on Drugs," the “War on Terror,” and the training of repressive police and militaries at the SOA/ WHINSEC directly contribute to the unjust social, economic, political, and racial caste systems affecting millions in Latin America.

On November 12th, SOA Watch and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund released FOIA documents exposing ten years of continual FBI surveillance. The documents reveal the FBI’s widespread monitoring of the nonviolent activist group’s annual vigil and activities using counter-terrorism authority despite consistently acknowledging the event and group as having “peaceful intentions.”  Read more about the FBI spying on SOA Watch here.

This year marks the 25th Anniversary Vigil commemorating those murdered by graduates of the SOA/WHINSEC. The first vigil began in November 1990 to commemorate the 1989 SOA graduate-led massacre at the University of Central America in El Salvador that murdered a 16-year-old girl and her mother, along with six Jesuit priests.

Today, SOA Watch has grown into a hemisphere-wide anti-militarization solidarity movement, addressing militarization at home and abroad.

For more information about the November 20-22, 2015 Mobilization, please visit http://soaw.org/november

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SOA Watch is an independent organization that seeks to close the US Army School of the Americas, under whatever name it is called, through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as well as media and legislative work.

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