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Hundreds Illegally Arrested at Ground Zero

August 31, 2004 – 7:40PM

Hundreds Illegally Arrested at Ground Zero

Over 50 “Die-In” Outside of Republican National Convention – Arrests in Progress

Contact: Eric LeCompte 253.988.4927 School of the Americas Watch

New York, NY – Over 200 peaceful activists were illegally arrested today after gathering at 3PM at Ground Zero. Calling for an end to current US military intervention and the closure of the School of the Americas (renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), a group of over 2000 people had planned to walk in a solemn two by two procession to the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden. Instead, police surrounded a large part of the group and refused to allow any of those surrounded to leave. Those surrounded were arrested despite following police instructions to walk two by two on the sidewalk.

Those who were not surrounded continued to walk two by two toward Madison Square Garden, site of the RNC. At 7PM they arrived at the intersection of 28th and Broadway, where 54 people laid down in the intersection in a “die-in”, to portray the death and suffering caused by the invasion of Iraq and at the hands of SOA-trained soldiers. They effectively shut down the intersection.

The “die-in” participants wore shirts and held signs that connected the victims of torture at Abu Graib to the history of torture in Latin America at the hands of SOA-trained soldiers. “The Bush administration claims it’s bringing democracy to Iraq. Past administrations, while supporting death squads, made the same claims about Latin America,” said SOA Watch activist Tom Mahedy, who is presently being arrested in the “die-in”.

The School of the Americas, recently renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC, is a military training school for Latin American security forces located at Fort Benning, Georgia. The school, funded by US taxpayer money, has trained over 60,000 Latin Americans in such courses as counter-insurgency, sniper training, psychological warfare and interrogation techniques. Graduates of the school have been consistently linked to human rights violations across the Americas.

SOA Watch has been working in conjunction with the War Resisters League, the A31 Action Coalition and other organizations in planning for a full day of nonviolent direct actions throughout New York City today during the RNC. Nonviolent direct action has been a key element in publicly exposing the connections between training at the SOA/WHINSEC and human rights abuses across Latin America.

SOA Watch is a nonviolent grassroots movement that works through creative protest and resistance, legislative and media work to stand in solidarity with the people of Latin America, to close the SOA/WHINSEC and to change oppressive U.S. foreign policy that institutions like the SOA represent.

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