A main access road onto Fort Benning was closed Friday night, Nov. 22, while protesters played soccer in the street. Barriers block the intersection at Torch Hill Rd. and chain link fences surround the newly erected stage at the Stone Gate.
"Fort Benning Road towards Fort Benning will be closed and it won't open again until 5 a.m. Monday morning," said Captain J.D. Hawk of the Columbus Police.
The main event starts Saturday morning, Nov. 23. It is a permit-approved demonstration that once boasted a huge attendance. The cause became much less relevant when the Army closed the School of Americas in 2001, an institution that accepted students from unstable countries in South and Central Americas to learn military tactics. Participants in the SOA Watch admit some of the issues they're protesting are dated.
"All over the Americas, we still have repression. It was worse in the 70s and 80s and 90s, but they are still there, and they are still very bad," said Marcos Rubinstein of Dubuque, Iowa.
"Once upon a time, maybe five years ago, there were about ten thousand people who attended this so it appeared that a lot more people cared about it," said Kalli Miner of Glenwood, Iowa.
Last year just over 2,000 people made it out for this event. All but a handful have come here from out of town.
Hawk said most of the participants are not here to cause trouble, but the checkpoints will have heightened security, and patrols will increase along the borders of the post just in case something unexpected occurs.
"You never know in these kinds of events whether somebody from outside their organization or just anyone in this area or the country who may try to use this event to send a statement," explained Hawk.
Even though Fort Benning Rd. is closed, if you need to get to the post from Victory Drive, there is a way around it. The National Infantry Museum will remain open and it is accessible from South Lumpkin Rd. From the museum, you can bypass the road block on Fort Benning Rd. by cutting through the parking lot and proceeding to the checkpoint.
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