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41 arrests at soa protest { October 2005 }

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Posted on Mon, Nov. 21, 2005
Protest leads to arrest of 41 at Fort Benning

Demonstration calls for school closing at Georgia military base


The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ga. — The Rev. Jerry Zawada has already served a federal prison term for trespassing on government property to protest a Fort Benning school he blames for human-rights abuses in Latin America.

On Sunday, the 68-year-old Catholic priest risked another one.

Zawada was among at least 41 protesters arrested during an annual protest calling for the closing of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Corporation, formerly known as the Army’s School of the Americas, organizers said Sunday.

School of the Americas Watch, the group that sponsors the annual rally, alleges the school’s graduates have committed murders, rapes and tortures in Latin America. Military officials deny the charges.

“We want to stop this,” said Zawada, who was released from a seven-month sentence in November. Another prison sentence would be “nothing compared to the suffering of torture survivors and war victims,” he said.

Citing growing concerns about the war in Iraq and reports of torture by U.S. soldiers, organizers predicted a record turnout of 19,000 — 2,000 more than last year. The protest has been held every year since 1990.

Protesters typically are arrested each year when they enter the west-central Georgia military reservation. The Army added a second fence topped by razor wire last year, and erected a third fence this year, but the protesters — even the older ones like Zawada — seem to find a way to scale or get past them.

The protests are timed to coincide with the anniversary of the November 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador. A congressional panel concluded that some of the killers were School of the Americas graduates.

“We feel this school is connected to suffering and death for the people of Latin America — a school that is paid for with our tax money,” said School of the Americas Watch founder Roy Bourgeois, a Catholic priest. “We are saying, ‘Not in our name.”’

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