School of the Americas Protest in 2003

Immediately after the protest in Miami against the FTAA, many of us headed to the annual demonstration organized by School of the Americas Watch at the main gate of Fort Benning on the weekend of Nov. 21-23, 2003.

The U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA), located in Fort Benning, Georgia, is a military training institution focused on training officers from Latin American countries. Since its creation in 1946, some 60,000 Latin American military officers have graduated from the school.

The mission of the SOA, known as the School of Assassins, is to train soldiers to protect the interests of multinational corporations, and maintain the economic status quo for the few rich and powerful in the U.S. and their cohorts in Latin America. Religions leaders union organizers, and indigenous communities have been the targets and victims of SOA violence.

In 2000, pressure on Congress to stop funding the SOA increased to the point where the Pentagon decided to rename the school the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, abbreviated as WHISC or WHINSEC.

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Demonstrations in Miami Against the FTAA

“In November, 2003, trade ministers from 34 countries met in Miami, Florida, to negotiate the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). FTAA threatens to devastate workers, the environment, and public services like health care, education, and water, and to destroy indigenous rights and cultural diversity across North, Central, and South America.

“Thousands of union members, environmentalists, feminists, anarchists, students, farm workers, media activists, and human rights activists who gathered in Miami to struggle against the FTAA were brutally attacked with rubber bullets, pepper spray, electric guns and shock batons, embedded reporters and information warfare, all coordinated by the new United States Department of Homeland Security.

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