ATLANTA -- Thousands of people demonstrated outside a big U.S. Army base on Sunday to demand the closure of a defense department training school they say promotes torture and murder in Latin America.
Long-shot Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich joined the annual protest outside the Fort Benning Army base in Georgia to shut down the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
The institute is the defense department's main Spanish-language training facility. It says it trains civilian, military and law enforcement students and holds the promotion of democracy at the core of its mission.
Protesters say it teaches security personnel from Latin American countries to use repressive tactics and that graduates have overthrown legitimate governments, citing a coup against Chile President Salvador Allende in 1973 as an example.
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"Over the course of several decades people trained here have murdered and tortured hundreds if not thousands of people," protester Bob Goodman of the Georgia Coalition for Peace and Justice said in an interview.
Goodman said 20,000 people attended the two-day protest. Monica Manganaro, a spokeswoman for Fort Benning where the institute is located, said there were 11,200 demonstrators and 11 people were arrested and charged with criminal trespass.
On its Web site, the institute, formerly known as the School of the Americas, said it has "developed and implemented meaningful and effective training in democracy, ethics and human rights."
The school teaches similar courses to the ones it gives U.S. Army personnel but in Spanish, Manganaro said.