Thousands Converge at the gates of Fort Benning for 20th Anniversary of November Vigil to Close the School of the Americas (renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), also known as SOA - "The School of Assassins".
Thousands of torture survivors, veterans, faith-based communities, union workers, students, musicians, human rights activists and others from across the Americas are gathered today at the gates of the U.S. military base Fort Benning to call for the closure of the School of the Americas .
During the protest, the names of the torture, rape and murder victims of graduates of the school are read by the participants.
Many of the notorious human rights violators responsible for rape, torture, kidnapping, assassination and disappearance of thousands of people in Latin America and elsewhere were/are graduates of the School of the Americas.
Among them are generals Leopoldo Galtieri, Efraín Ríos Montt and Manuel Noriega, dictators such as Bolivia's Hugo Banzer and many of Augusto Pinochet's officers.
Members of the infamous Atlacatl Battalion of El Salvador who carried out the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador were also trained at SOA.
A database with graduates of both the SOA and WHINSEC who have been accused of human rights violations and other criminal activity is kept by The School of the Americas Watch, an advocacy organization founded by Father Roy Bourgeois and a small group of supporters in 1990 to protest the training of mainly Latin American military officers, by the United States Department of Defense at the School of the Americas (SOA).
SOA Watch conducts a vigil each November at the site of the academy, in protest over the murders, rapes and torture and contraventions of the Geneva Accord committed the graduates of the academy or under their leadership.
Today, November 20, 2010, is the 20th Anniversary of this November Vigil and regardless the well known abuses committed by some of the graduates of the School, it is kept open by the United States and in 2000 the United States Congress renamed the School of the Americas the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).