Words and photos by John Heckenlively
Stephanie Nistler, Sharin Tellez, Sue Craanen, Gary Craanen in Columbus, Georgia, shortly before the procession ceremony Sunday morning. Nistler and Tellez are students at Saint Catherines; The Craanens represented both St Catherines and the Racine Dominicans.
Last weekend (November 21-23) marked the 18th annual protest at the gates of Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia to protest the School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation. The WHISC is a training facility for Latin American military personnel that has been linked with most of the major human rights abuses in Central and South America since the 1960s.
Over 20,000 people gathered at the northern entrance of Fort Benning and placed crosses with names of victims on the fence. During a procession which took over two hours, names of the dead were read as the crowd responded "Presente" -- "here" or "present" in Spanish.
Six people crossed onto Fort Benning property to protest the school, and are facing up to six months in federal prison for trespassing. Since 1995, almost 300 activists have spent time in prison for protesting against the School of the Americas. The six activists will be tried in Columbus in late January.
Craanen makes cross during Wisconsin prayer service Sunday morning, with Sharin Tellez and Stephanie Nistler
Gary Craanen attaches his cross to the fence during the "Presente" ceremony. This was Gary's second trip to Ft Benning; his first was in 1998.