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Call for Closing Terrorist School —
Protests Recall Victims
Of Latin American Military


Workers and students who traveled from western Pennsylvania with a message ...
Workers and students who traveled from western Pennsylvania with a message.

More than 10,000 Americans, among them UE members from Districts Six and 11, took part in peaceful protests Nov. 17-18 against terrorism sponsored by the U.S. government.

The U.S. Army School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga. trains Latin American troops here in commando tactics, military intelligence and psychological operations. The graduates have targeted labor organizers and religious leaders, students and teachers, peasants and workers. SOA graduates have been linked to assassination, torture, rape and intimidation.

For the eleventh consecutive year, concerned citizens gathered outside Ft. Benning’s gates to remember the victims and to call for the school’s closure. The vigils are organized by SOA Watch, founded by Rev. Roy Bourgeois.


On Jan. 17, 2001, the facility was renamed the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation. Opponents say, "a new name, same shame." The 66th UE Convention called for the school’s closure and endorsed the November demonstration and a spring protest in Washington (see: UE Policy- School of The Americas - The Ultimate Unionbuster).

"With confusion and fear gripping the nation after the Sept. 11 events, some thought the annual demonstration should not take place," says Local 690 Vice Pres. John Thompson. "Fortunately the demonstration went forward. It was an important event in terms of the struggle to end state-sponsored terrorism and to exercise our democratic rights of assembly and speech."

The city government of Columbus, Ga. attempted to prohibitthe protests from taking place outside the base; the Saturday event was removed to a ballfield. However, based on the impressive 10-year record of nonviolent protest, a federal judge ruled the city could not ban the solemn funeral procession on Sunday.

The Western Pennsylvania Coalition to Close the SOA, organized at the initiative of UE District Six, sent a busload of students, union members, church people, and members of peace organizations to Georgia.


Thompson, who is District Six political action co-chair, says the union and coalition have succeeded in convincing four of the six members of the Congressional delegation from western Pennsylvania to co-sponsor HR 1810, legislation to close the school. "That’s a big victory for us," he says. Efforts will continue to convince Representatives Melissa Hart and John Murtha to sign onto the bill.

In addition, the coalition will work to explain the connection between the army school and the bloody civil war in Colombia, where union members are targets of death squads linked to the military. "We’re going to organize people to go to Washington for the annual SOA Watch spring protest, April 19-22, which this year is focusing on Colombia," Thompson says.

UE News - 2/02

Home -> UE News -> 2002 Archives -> Article

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