Nov 17: School of Americas Protest-Ft Benning , GA
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From: Atlanta Independent Media Center

7:00 PM -- In an act of solidarity with the arrestees housed inside, a boisterous crew of 20 circled the Muskogee County Jail with samba drums and a giant puppet.

4:20 PM -- As the massive protests at Fort Benning come to a close, 95 people have been placed under arrest for conscious acts of civil disobedience. One additional protestor, Karl Meyer, was arrested [full audio] for refusing to consent to the police metal detector scan and bag search which each and every protestor was subjected to prior to entry. 18 have been incarcerated in the local jail. The rest, inclusing a 12-year-old child, remain detained, and are being 'processed' on the base. Protestors plan a vigil at the Muscogee County Jail this evening in support of the arrestees.

Story | Photos | Video | Audio

3:00 PM -- As the puppet pageant approached the main gate of Ft. Benning, about 100 people staged a mass die-in where they lay down in front of the gates to symbolize the deaths of the thousands killed by SOA graduates in Central and South America. When the police tried to arrest them, they got up and kept marching towards the checkpoint, where hundreds of people are rallying and chanting with drums.

2:08 PM -- 2 people arrested for entering the base. One is a Veteran for Peace who tried to shake the hands of the military police and personnel stationed there. The other, an elderly woman, knelt down to pray and was arrested. The legal collective has counted 92 arrests so far today.

1:46 PM -- 9 more arrests of people who walked onto base around fence.

1:21 PM -- 10 people were just arrested at the front gates. Currently it is estimated that over 77 people have been arrested for crossing the line.

1:03 PM -- 5 middle-aged people have just been arrested for crossing the side gate. Stay tuned for updates on this story

12:58 PM -- The gates to the base are lined with crosses and other objects from the Presente! procession. Pictures here

1:02 PM -- Three generations of a family, a grandmother, mother, and her 12 year old daughter, have just been arrested by Ft. Benning military police for crossing the gate.

12:49 PM -- An affinity group consisting of fourteen people dressed in black and covered in blood are currently participating in a "die-in" with coffins at the front gates of the Ft. Benning sign. Other peaceful protesters have decided to join the affinity group. Official numbers of people participating in the die in have not yet been confirmed.

12:40 PM -- Four people from Regis College (Denver, Colorado) have crossed the line and have been placed under arrest by Fort Benning military police. An estimated 50 people have been placed under arrest so far.

12:23 PM -- Seven nuns from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington, and three Sisters of Providence crossed onto the base at a break in the fence. They were subsequently arrested.

12:11 PM -- Twenty students have crossed the gate, sitting down linking arms or laying down going limp. Military police are currently placing the students under arrest for trespassing and resisting arrest. Stretchers have been brought to retrieve the students that have gone limp.

12:15 PM -- Three people who crossed the line were arrested including one IMC videographer. Following their arrest a man also crossed the line and was arrested.

12:04 PM -- Two people who attempted and succeeded in cutting the lock to the Fort Benning base have just been arrested and taken into custody by the military police. An unknown individual attempting to retrieve the bolt cutter was also then taken into custody by Columbus law enforcement. Earlier, Catholic worker, Carl Meyer, was also arrested for refusing to be searched at the checkpoint.

11:42AM -- A dozen people have just crossed the line and are currently being arrested. Stay tuned for updates.

11:30AM -- The "presente!" procession has just begun. Names of women, men, and children who have died are currently being read off.

10:57 AM -- About 100 members of the Veterans for Peace marched in military formation to the SOA Security Checkpoint and protested the illegal search by the local Columbus area poilce. National administrator of the Veterans for Peace, Wilson "Woddy" Powell, read the protest statement on behalf of the veterans present who responded en masse "We do not consent to this search." However, the veterans were still searched and proceeded through the checkpoint.

9:30 AM -- Protesters are being searched in order to enter the designated 'protest area', and crosses more than 1/8 in. thick are not being allowed in.The crosses are traditionally carried by SOA protesters to memorialize victims of massacres linked to SOA graduates. The confiscated crosses are piled on garbage heaps at the neighboring housing subdivision next to the police checkpoint, in ironic contrast to the demonstrators' reverence for human life and the spiritual theme of the day's events.

9:00 AM -- The speakers have begun. More reports of confiscations of various items including crosses at checkpoints

8:30 AM -- Police have been harassing anyone wearing a bandanna on his/her face. [Eyewitness Account]

1) Nuns Arrested During Military Protest (Assoicated Press)

1) Nuns Arrested During Military Protest

.c The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) - With supporters cheering her on, Caryl Hartjes squeezed through a 10-inch opening in a chain-link fence to risk jail for her beliefs.

The frail, 67-year-old Roman Catholic nun from Fond du Lac, Wis., was among nearly 100 demonstrators, including at least 7 nuns, who were arrested for entering Fort Benning to protest a U.S. military program that trains Latin American soldiers.

About 7,000 protesters gathered Sunday for the 13th annual demonstration by the School of the Americas Watch, which conducts the protests to mark the killings of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador on Nov. 19, 1989.

Some of the killers had attended the Army's School of the Americas, which moved from Panama to Fort Benning, an Army training center, in 1984.

``I go in solidarity with the men and women - especially the children - of South America who were just whisked away and continue to be whisked away,'' said Hartjes, a hospice worker. ``I feel some anger at the outrage of it all. I feel angry at the deliberate treachery and violence.''

A line of military police officers awaited Hartjes and the others who crossed the boundary into Fort Benning. The protesters were directed up a hill, where they were arrested.

``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.''

The protesters who were arrested could face up to six months in jail for trespassing on U.S. government property. Bond hearings were scheduled for Monday.

The School of the Americas was replaced last year by a Department of Defense school called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. It still trains soldiers, but also focuses on civilian and diplomatic affairs. Human rights courses are mandatory.

But Roy Bourgeois, founder of School of the Americas Watch, said the change in the school was only cosmetic.

``It's still about men with guns,'' he said.

Army officials called the protest a positive example of American democracy at work and said they use it as a teaching tool for the students from Latin America. The institute hosted an open house on Saturday for about 300 protesters.

``The peaceful protest today outside the gates is a celebration of democracy,'' said the institute's commandant, Col. Richard Downie. ``At a time when our nation is engaged in a war on terrorism, it is absolutely crucial that we build friendships. We try to teach our students that their duty is to protect and serve their citizens, not abuse them.''

11/18/02 05:20 EST

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