an email letter, november 21, 2011
on sunday, november 20, 2011, thousands of people of conscience congregated at the entrance to fort benning, in columbus, georgia, to demand the closing of the u.s. army school of the americas (SOA), now officially called the western hemisphere institute for security cooperation, where the u.s. has long trained latin american dictators and their militaries in techniques of political repression, including torture, disappearance and assassination. activists slowly walked as speakers sang thousands of names of latin american victims of those trained at SOA. after each name, the assembly intoned, in spanish, "¡presente!" and many held aloft handmade crosses with the names of victims from across latin america. when known, the ages of victims were also read at the time of death or disappearance, reminding us that many, many victims have been children. as in past years' vigils, demonstrators left the crosses in the fence (actually the outermost of three layers of fencing that the base erects in anticipation of the protest). later, the day included protest theater, songs and speeches. more information on the SOA resistance can be found at the school of the americas watch, www.soaw.org.