Protesters Face Trial

By: Amy Gleason
By: Amy Gleason

More than 10,000 protesters joined at Fort Benning, GA last November to protest the former School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

"It's resulting in a lot of death and violence and disappearance for the Latin American people who are at no more at fault than just living on the land they've had for generations," said Abi Miller, an activist.

The U.S. Army runs the school, and Latin American soldiers, citizens, and police come there to train.

Activists say training manual from the school released five years ago revealed the soldiers were learning interrogation, torture and blackmail. They believe it's a textbook definition of terrorism. Those who work at the school disagree.

"That's absolutely untrue," said Lee Rials, WHISC. "And it's a slander to the military."

Congressman Bob Goodlatte agrees. He says even though massacres have happened by the hands of SOA school graduates, he says they are isolated incidents.

“That's been a concern for all of us in congress," said Goodlatte. "We have initiated investigations into this and the military has reformed the program at the school.”

For those facing jail time, they say a six-month sentence doesn't compare to the price the Latin American civilians have paid.

"It takes people making a sacrifice and putting themselves on the line to show everyone how serious these atrocities are," said Peter Gelderloos, a SOA Watch activist.

And though the protesters have been criticized as un-American and anti-military, they say keeping a watchful eye on our government is as American as you can get.

Harrisonburg residents Lee Sturgis and David O'Neill were also arrested at the protest and have been found guilty of trespassing and await sentencing. Abi Miller and Peter Gelderloos have not yet been tried. The four residents won't be sentenced until Friday. They could face six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

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