Persistent Protesters

Slamming Noriega's alma mater


The School of the Americas (SOA), recently renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is infamous for training dictators such as Manuel Noriega. But it may as well be regarded as an ongoing internship program for American political protesters, who have been demonstrating against the school for 15 years.

In July, 37 defendants were tried in federal court for trespassing on Georgia's Fort Benning as part of the annual protest of the U.S. government-funded military school. The institute is dedicated to establishing links with the elite of Central and South American countries by training them in the art of soldiering, but protesters charge that it is a "School of the Assassins," teaching the latest techniques in violent repression.

Receiving sentences ranging from six months in jail to fines, the trespassers joined over 70 past protesters who have served more than 40 combined years since the protest's inception, according to the organization School of the Americas Watch. They are also part of a much larger cohort of people simply arrested for trespassing but not charged. Since 1997 Fort Benning police have detained over 2,300 protesters.