Over the past 25 years, the School of the Americas (SOA) Watch has grown from a handful of people to a multi-generational, cross-continental movement against the militarization of the Americas. Thousands gather each year at Ft. Benning in Columbus, GA, to be educated, to take a stand against the US policies of training future terrorists and to engage in nonviolent direct action.
This year’s delegation included Dominican Sisters of Peace Kathy Broussard, OP, and Suzanne Brauer, OP, as well as Associates Chris Cahalan, OPA, Kevin Cahalan, OPA, Joanna Magee, OPA, and Jerry Stein, OPA. Sr. Francine Schwarzenberger, OP, who came to the SOA for the past 20 years, was not able to join us this year due to illness.
On Friday, November 20, we converged at the Columbus Convention Center to be welcomed and to learn about future directions of the movement. On Saturday, we participated in a rally to shut down the Stewart Detention Center, one of the 10 worst immigration detention centers in the country. After a 1.7 mile procession to the gates of the center, voices were raised in speeches and songs to protest the treatment of the over 1,000 persons who are now detained there. On Sunday we held a solemn funeral procession at the gates of Fort Benning. The mood was very prayerful and mournful, as we responded “presente” to the hundreds of names of victims being chanted. We each placed a cross with the name and age of a person who had been killed by the terrorist military.
This will be the last SOAW march at Fort Benning because the leadership of the movement has discerned that it would be better to focus on the border into Mexico and join with persons who are working with immigration. Participants are being encouraged to move to the new location. Through the efforts of thousands of protesters and leaders in the movement, several South American countries no longer send soldiers to the SOA. Pressure and persistence make a difference.