SOA Watch protest returns to Fort Benning after a four year absence

Local News

After a four year absence a protest returns to the Fort Benning Stone Gate.

SOA Watch kicked off their protest with a candlelight vigil-honoring the lives of thousands of people killed in Latin America. Protesters say they were killed by military and police officers that train here at Fort Benning.

Taide Elena says she came to the vigil today for justice for her grandson. She says her 16-year-old grandson was shot and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent. Devorah Gonzalez translated to News 3 what Elena thinks should be done to the school.

“So that it ends. So that it completely ends and moderate the training so that they’re not trained to kill in the way that they are being trained right now,” Gonzalez translated.

Father Roy Bourgeois started the first protest in 1989 after a massacre at The University of Central America in El Salvador. Bourgeois says the massacre was lead by officers trained at the former school of the Americas.After the school closed, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC was born.

Father Bourgeois does not distinguish from WHINSEC. He says it was an issue then and it continues to be an issue now and they are protesting to get the school closed down.

Father Bourgeois visited El Salvador to see how the people live first hand.

“When we were there we knew if we were living like the people here with our children. If we stay we die. So they’re seeking life as we would. They want to survive and that’s why so many of them are forced out of there countries in Latin America with a connection to what’s going on here,” Bourgeois said.

Fort Benning says that WHINSEC’s mission is to cooperate among the participating countries, promote democratic values, respect for human rights, and knowledge and understanding of United States customs and traditions.

The military post also says they learn what it means to “protect and serve.” Officers are trained on the moral and ethical reasons for doing what is right and just in their duties.

Fort Benning’s spokesperson Ben Garrett released this statement.

Fort Benning’s Directorate of Emergency Services is well prepared to provide a safe and secure atmosphere for the installation as well as for all organized activities.

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