Fort Benning, GA - Over 4000 people gathered here, Nov. 19, at the School of Americas Watch protest of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). Despite the change of name from School of the Americas (SOA) to WHINSEC, the legacy of half a century of training in counterinsurgency techniques, psychological warfare and interrogation tactics continues to this day in places like Colombia and Honduras.
‘Students’ of SOA/WHINSEC’s curriculum have been linked to death squads attributed to the rape, murder and torture of labor organizers, religious leaders, teachers and human rights activists.
Jimena Paz, a leader in the Honduran resistance movement, said, “In my country SOA graduates continue to repress social movements who stand up against a coup led by graduates of this school right here in Fort Benning.”
Standing up to political repression
The Committee to Stop FBI Repression (CSFR) had organizers from across the country mobilize for the demonstration. CSFR organizers passed out flyers explaining the connections between the repression abroad and the FBI attacks on activists at home and received hundreds of petition signatures to defend Carlos Montes, a target of FBI repression. Thousands of flyers were also distributed promoting the upcoming NATO/G8 protests in Chicago and the RNC 2012 protest in Tampa Florida, with a common emphasis on defending the right to protest and speak out against injustice at these events.
The CSFR hosted a workshop on Saturday night, attended by over 100 people, to raise awareness of attacks on activists by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI has been used as an apparatus to infiltrate and repress peace, solidarity and civil rights movements, past and present. These attacks are relevant to the SOA/WHINSEC protest and its attendees in many ways.
The activists who have been attacked most recently are all prominent international peace and solidarity activists, indicating that this is a movement which is currently in the cross-hairs of the FBI. The volume of resources spent to harm this movement is alarming and the activist community across the U.S. should be aware of the vast scope of the repression, as well as the unjust methods and tools, which, in flagrant abuse of privacy rights and lacking due process, are at the ready disposal of federal Investigators.
As we continue to witness inaccurate media coverage of the ongoing Occupy actions, we should note the myriad systems of repression, often violent, that have been used in attempts to suppress a movement protesting the richest 1% in society. According to the Gothamist, the New York Police Department’s raids on Zucotti Park were advised by the Department of Homeland Security, in a coordinated effort of aggression to preserve the status quo. However, the similarities in repressive methods against free speech and activist movements have been met with resistance.
“Just as people have linked arms and successfully defended Occupy encampments from police repression,” said Kosta Harlan of the CSFR, “in the same way our movements for justice, peace and equality are uniting to defend the Anti-War 24 and Carlos Montes,” targets of government raids and subpoenas to appear before federal grand juries.
CSFR activists stressed the necessity of taking up the fight against repression of activist movements, setting a precedent for resistance. Workshop facilitators encouraged attendees to write or phone President Obama, Attorney General Holder and local representatives to demand that they call off attacks on free speech in the U.S.
“We came to Fort Benning this weekend to challenge the killers of the SOA,” stated Daniel Ginsberg of Peace Action. “We’ll be heading home to our Occupations to continue defending activists from government repression.”