Protest at Murder, Inc., school

Jose G. Perez jg_perez at
Mon Nov 20 07:43:11 MST 2000

1,700 Arrested in War School Protest
Filed at 3:11 a.m. ET

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) -- Wearing white masks and black robes and carrying
cardboard coffins and crosses, thousands of demonstrators marched slowly
through the gates of Fort Benning.

As they've done every year since 1989, they came Sunday to demand the
closing of the Army's School of the Americas, which trains Latin American
soldiers. Critics blame the school for human rights abuses committed by some
of its graduates -- charges the Army calls absurd.

``I'd characterize it as false and as propaganda,'' Maj. Gen. John LeMoyne,
the post commander, said.

Police arrested 1,700 protesters, including actor Martin Sheen -- about half
the number that entered the west-central Georgia post Sunday. An estimated
3,000 others continued the protest outside the gates.

Most of those arrested were charged with trespassing, given a warning and
released, said Col. G.T. Myers, Fort Benning's provost marshal. Some who
poured fake blood on the street were charged with damaging government
property, he said.

The annual demonstration commemorates the Nov. 16, 1989, killings in El
Salvador of six Jesuit priests, to which some of the school's graduates have
been linked.

Though the school is scheduled to close Dec. 15 and be replaced by the
Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, opponents vow to keep
up the protests.

``We see this as cosmetic,'' said Roy Bourgeois, a co-founder of School of
the Americas Watch who has spearheaded the protests. ``It's like taking a
bottle of poison and writing `Penicillin' on it.''

The new school will be run by the Defense Department, under guiding
principles of the Organization of American States.

The demonstration Sunday took place in near-freezing temperatures and
occasional rain. Many protesters, wearing plastic parkas, shivered as they
marched to a point where they were halted by police.

Sheen, who plays the nation's president in the hit TV show ``The West
Wing,'' has joined the protests the past three years. Myers said he did not
know what laws the actor was accused of breaking.

Those arrested were given letters barring them from visiting Fort Benning
for five years. They could be subject to a year in prison if charged with
trespassing on the post again within that period.

Sister Mary Johnalyn, 68, of West Allis, Wis., said she was photographed,
fingerprinted and given a letter barring her from the post. She said she was
charged with damaging U.S. property for spilling fake blood.

``I was a missionary in Mexico and I found those people so loving,'' she
said. ``I don't want them to come up here and learn to be ugly murderers.''

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