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Florida students to protest the School of the Americas, demand ‘Peace for Colombia! Free Simon Trinidad!’

By Tom Burke |
November 16, 2015
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Tampa, FL - Anti-war activists and students from Florida are mobilizing to protest the School of the Americas (SOA), Nov. 20-22. The SOA was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) a few years ago, but it is still widely known as the SOA meaning “School of Assassins.” It is based at Fort Benning, near Columbus, Georgia.

Chrisley Carpio with Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) said, "College students from Florida, the South, and other parts of the country are coming together to protest the School of the Americas. This school trains soldiers to slaughter progressive activists, trade unionists, and dissenters in Latin America, especially in Colombia.”

Carpio explained her role, “Students are going to make the best of our time there. We're going to try to gain support for the Colombian peace process. We're going to demand that Simon Trinidad, a notable negotiator for the FARC-EP, be freed from the supermax prison in Colorado, so that he can resume his important work negotiating for peace.”

Colombia sends more soldiers to the SOA than any other country in Latin America and consistently has the worst human rights record. A Colombian general, who taught classes at the SOA, along with 23 other officers, many who took classes at the SOA, were forced to resign their posts a few years ago. In the ‘False Positives’ scandal, the Colombian military officers murdered over 3300 civilians, dressing them up as FARC fighters to claim victories in battle and to collect money and other rewards.

Thousands of anti-war and international solidarity activists come to the SOA protest every year. This year many are excited to join a Saturday, Nov. 21, morning protest demanding an immigrant detention center be closed, as well as the Sunday morning peace procession to the gates of Fort Benning.

Jessica Schwartz is traveling with a large group of students from University of South Florida in Tampa, and meeting up with students from Florida State University in Tallahassee. She explained, "I'm going to hand out flyers and speak with other anti-war activists, building support for the freedom of Colombian revolutionary Simon Trinidad and the peace process in Colombia. The U.S. has its hands dirty in conflicts all over the world, and Colombia is no exception. In fact, Simon Trinidad is imprisoned on U.S. soil. We must demand his freedom and liberation for Colombia!"

A growing number of countries, including Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Venezuela and Nicaragua, no longer send troops to train at the SOA/WHINSEC.