Today, and for the rest of the weekend, School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch) will gather on its 25th anniversary to connect activists and organizers from across the Americas. The continental movement will converge in Georgia to call for the closure of the School of the Americas and the closure of Stewart Detention Center, one of the largest private for-profit immigrant prisons in the country. SOA Watch continues to make the connections between SOA violence and the root causes of migration from violent and impoverished Latin American countries.
Originally called the U.S. Army School of the Americas, the now-named Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) is a United States Department of Defense academy located at Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia, that provides military training to government personnel in U.S.-allied Latin American nations.The school was founded in 1946 and from 1961 was assigned the specific goal of teaching “anti-communist counterinsurgency training,” a role it continues to fulfill.In this time, it educated several Latin American dictators and generations of their military, and included the uses of torture in its curriculum. Its graduates have been among the most brutal military thugs in the world, responsible for coups, wholesale murder, and complete economic submission to Washington.
Actions this weekend will denounce the failed U.S. policies, which have left a sickening legacy of impunity and human rights violations throughout the hemisphere. Since 1990, SOA Watch has brought together torture survivors, human rights defenders, students, teachers, families, inter-faith groups, labor activists, migrants and immigrant rights activists for a weekend of collective action, education, commemoration and solidarity across all fronts of the struggle.
From Ferguson to Ayotzinapa, SOA Watch denounces the militarization of police across the Americas and calls for an end of state-sponsored terrorism and violence against our communities. “Our clamor for justice must be heard!” they say, echoing a thunderous, multilingual hemispheric voice.
As in previous years, the weekend schedule of events includes an impressive lineup of speakers and performers, including:
• Nadín Reyes Maldonado, a Mexican human rights defender and founder of ¡Hasta Encontrarlos!
• Tawana Honeycomb Petty, Detroit-based poet, author, mother, social justice organizer and activist
• Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch
• Music by Aaron Fowler and Laura Dungan, Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, ¡Aparato!,Charlie King, Colleen Kattau, Emma’s Revolution, Francisco Herrera, Kuumba Lynx Performance Ensemble, Olmeca, and Omari.
Impressive gains against the U.S. militarization of Latin America have been scored in many countries, such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, El Salvador, Nicaragua, not to forget Cuba, of course. But the pressure from SOA is unrelenting, as the U.S. tries to establish independent relationships with the military and police as a wedge to use in subverting progressive governments. There is no end to this struggle as long as a powerful nation seeks to exert control over its weaker neighbors.
SOA Watch continues to demand justice and accountability. The weekend involves workshops, peacemaker training, puppetry, informational tabling, printed informational brochures, and direct action. Oftentimes, arrests of activists participating in direct action (such as attempting to scale fences) has led to long public trials in which the role of SOA is exposed, thus becoming part of the effort to get the word out to the American people as to just what our government is doing in its name.