An estimated 25,000 people gathered in November at the gates of Fort Benning in Georgia as part of the 18th annual School of the Americas protest. The U.S. military asserts that the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly the School of the Americas, strives to promote “peace, democratic values, and respect for human rights through inter-American cooperation.” Many Americans strongly disagree. “We are a better country than what is on display at this school,” Rep. Jim McGovern, a lead investigator of the 1989 SOA-linked murder of six Jesuits and two laywomen in El Salvador, told the crowd.
Critics of the school want it shut down due to the numerous human rights atrocities and massacres associated with many of its graduates. Eleven people, ranging in age from 25 to 76, were arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience, risking up to six months in federal prison. The annual protest’s influence is growing: The 2007 congressional bill to suspend the school’s operations failed by only six votes.