See below for an update

More than 10,000 activists from across the US–including actors Martin Sheen and Susan Sarandon and musicians Amy Ray and Utah Phillips–will gather at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, this Saturday and Sunday to call for the closure of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas.

A combat training facility for Latin American soldiers, the school has served as a de-stabilizing force in Central and South America since its formation in 1946–having trained more than 60,000 soldiers in courses such as counter-insurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. Graduates of the facility return to their countries to utilize their training domestically and are consistently cited for human rights violations throughout Latin America on behalf of repressive rightwing, US-supported governments.

From the slayings of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador in 1989 to the continued human rights abuses in Colombia, many of the most atrocious crimes of the past 50 years have their roots in the US-operated School of the Americas. The inhumane–and in some cases illegal–tactics taught at the institute have repeatedly been used against union organizers, educators, and religious workers.

Many American eyes were opened this past year with the Abu Ghraib revelations to the fact that the US does indeed use torture. The activists at SOA Watch have been in the vanguard of trying to halt the United States’s role in propagating torture globally since the organization’s founding in 1990. A grassroots group working in solidarity with the people of Latin America to close the military institute, SOA Watch stages an annual demonstration and rally and organizes lobbying, letter-writing and public awareness campaigns all year long.

Click here to learn more about SOA Watch, click here to make a contribution to support the group’s efforts, click here if you’d like to join SOA Watch’s Research Working Group and click here if you’d like to volunteer on one of the organization’s campaigns.

Update, November 22

At least 20 people were arrested yesterday while protesting the School of the Americas. Charges filed against the demonstrators range from trespassing to “wearing a mask,” a violation of a rarely invoked 1951 law originally aimed at fighting the Ku Klux Klan. Those arrested were among about a record 16,000 people who demonstrated outside the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, calling for the school to be shut down.