In 2001, the School of the Americas, in Fort Benning, Georgia, changed its name to the much less memorable and much more wordy Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. For 55 years – since its founding in 1946 – the military training institute had kept the same name. But by 2001 they needed a facelift, to improve their image. The reason? Since 1989, every fall, hundreds and sometimes thousands of protesters have gathered outside the compound to protest the training that goes on behind its wall. Because the graduates of this school – mostly visiting soldiers from Latin America – have been involved in some of the worst atrocities against human rights in the history of their countries. The event that sparked the protests in November 1989 was the murder of 6 Jesuit priests in El Salvador by graduates of the program.
In spite of the name change, protests continue every November. This coming November will mark the 20th consecutive year. Last Fall, Jon Marck visited the demonstration outside what is informally known as the School of the Assassins.
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