LUMPKIN, GEORGIA-The Early Morning News team is on location to bring you coverage of the 25th School of the Americas Watch Vigil outside the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia as KGNU has for the past several years. There the notorious School of the Americas or SOA was renamed by the Pentagon in 2001 as the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC, but those who say that the move was a public relations stunt, shun the use of the new name. For 25 years, a vigil outside of the gates has taken place to honor those who have been killed by graduates of the school. 25 years ago, a handful of people participated, but the vigil has since grown to tens of thousands of participants. Now the annual event includes a conference, performances, speakers, a funeral procession, and a march to the largest for-profit immigrant detention center in the US. Organizers say that they want to highlight the connection between the training that has taken place at the School to the profits that are made by private corporations who gain from the weapons, surveillance equipment, transportation, and detention facilities that are all used in the detention industrial complex.
An element of that connection is immigrant detention and in Lumpkin, Georgia this year, KGNU brings you coverage of the annual march and rally to the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. The facility is owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a multi-million dollar for-profit business and the largest immigrant detention corporation in the country. Some of their facilities are located right here in Colorado.
The weekend finished with the traditional funeral procession where this year one person climbed the fence and entered onto the grounds of Fort Benning to protest the school’s activities. This year, Nashua Chantal, of Americus, Georgia, used a ladder to cross onto Ft Benning as he did in 2012 and for the first time in 2004. KGNU covered his trial in 2013 where he was sentenced to 6 months in federal prison for criminal trespass-the maximum penalty for such a charge. It is expected that he will receive the same sentence.