COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - August 9, 2013 stands as the 30th anniversary of the first protest the School of Americas performed against foreign militaries at Fort Benning, Georgia.
A Catholic priest first crossed the line with two other people to protest against the Army, while dressed as high-ranked officers at the time. Revered Roy Bourgeois is the founder of SOA Watch. He was sent to prison for a year and a half for criminal trespassing and impersonating Army officers 30 years ago.
When the lights went out, Rev. Bourgeois and two others climbed the tree and played a tape player. Bishop Oscar Romero's last sermon echoed throughout Fort Benning from the tape player during his protest of Latin American soldiers training at the post in 1983.
"Bishop Romero's last sermon that he gave in the cathedral was telling the military to stop killing," Rev. Bourgeois explained. "Lay down your weapons. We played his sermon that he gave the day before he was assassinated."
Rev. Bourgeois had been imprisoned for protesting and standing up against the Schools of Americas six times within four years. Rev. Bourgeois said he found peace instead of fear when he was in prison; he was no longer scared of standing up for what he believed in.
"I am a Vietnam veteran," Bourgeois explained. "However, that night when I dressed up as a high-ranked officer scared me to death. I really thought I was going to get shot. But it had to be done, so I went for it."
On August 9, 2013 Rev. Bourgeois along with a few determined SOA Watch volunteers went on a water-only fast. They held up signs and practiced a nonviolent vigil to honor and remember the 30th anniversary.
"To think that our tax money, American tax money, is being used to train Latin American soldiers just so they could go back to their home country to practice human rights abuse is terrible," Berrien Zettler said. "That's why I am here today, and I support SOA watch."
An annual protest for SOA Watch is held on November. News Leader 9 will provide more information on the event when the time comes near.