Torture, assassination, murder of innocent civilians--these practices are far from American values and ideals. However, the School of the Americas (now Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC) has been teaching these practices to Latin American militaries and their leaders for years. This past weekend, I went to the 18th Annual School of the Americas Protest. Father Roy Bourgeois started the School of the Americas Watch in 1990 after the brutal murder of 6 Jesuit priests, their co-worker and her teenage daughter on November 16, 1989.
A U.S. Congressional Task Force reported that those responsible were trained at the School of the Americas at Ft. Benning in Columbus, GA. Father Roy and a small group protested outside the gates of the military base. And the protest has grown. This year, there were 20,000 people to remember the people that have been killed by School of the Americas graduates and to demand that the school be shut down!
In the picture above, all 20,000 of the participants in the funeral procession sing presente as we hold up crosses with the names of those killed by SOA graduates. The leaders sang the names of the dead for 2 solid hours, and that was only a portion of those killed by SOA graduates.
As the names were sung, I thought about my friends in Nicaragua who I had met when I went there with Outreach International. I wondered if any of their friends or family had been killed by SOA graduates. I remembered how proud they were of the change they had made in their communities. And I hoped that this school would be shut down so my Nicaraguan friends and other Latin Americans would have more control over their destinies, instead of having to endure oppressive regimes supported by my tax dollars.
Let's tell Obama to shut the SOA down! Sign this petition. There is great hope that 2009 will be the year the School of the Assassins is shut down for good. Let's make it happen!