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Nuns arrested during protest of military training centre

At least seven nuns were among nearly 100 demonstrators arrested for entering the Fort Benning military installation in the southern US state of Georgia.

7000 gathered for the protest against a US military program that trains Latin American soldiers, for the 13th annual demonstration by the School of the Americas Watch, which conducts the protests to mark the killings of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador on 19 November 1989.

Some of the killers had attended the Army's School of the Americas, which moved from Panama to Fort Benning, in 1984.

"I go in solidarity with the men and women - especially the children - of South America who were just whisked away and continue to be whisked away," said Hartjes, a hospice worker. "I feel some anger at the outrage of it all. I feel angry at the deliberate treachery and violence."

The School of the Americas was replaced last year by a Department of Defense school called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. It still trains soldiers, but also focuses on civilian and diplomatic affairs. Human rights courses are mandatory.

But Roy Bourgeois, founder of School of the Americas Watch, said the change in the school was only cosmetic.

"It's still about men with guns," he said.

Army officials called the protest a positive example of American democracy at work and said they use it as a teaching tool for the students from Latin America. The institute hosted an open house on Saturday for about 300 protesters.


Fort Benning
School of the Americas Watch
Remembering the Martyrs of El Salvador (National Catholic Reporter 19/11/99)

19 Nov 2002