The School of the Americas Watch annual protest is leaving Columbus and moving to the border of the United States and Mexico.
The announcement was made by the organization's national organizer Hendrik Voss on Sunday as this year's participants gathered outside Stone Gate on Benning Road.
"There will still be a presence here but we are not clear about what shape it will take. It will certainly be scaled down. Our major focus will be on the border," Voss said, near the end of the day's activities.
He was not sure where on the border the protest might take place, but said, El Paso, Texas was a possibility. He also mentioned Nogales, Mexico near Tucson, Arizona.
This is the 25th year for the protest, the aim of which, is to close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation formerly known as the School of the Americas.
The school provides professional education and training to military, civilian and law enforcement personal from eligible nations in the Western Hemisphere. School literature says one goal is to encourage cooperation among the U.S. and other countries.
The protest began in 1990, a year after the Nov. 16, 1989 slaying of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her 16-year-old daughter in El Salvador.
Soldiers trained at the school, operated at Fort Benning, were linked to the deaths.
The number coming here for the event has dwindled from more than 20,000 to fewer than 2,000.
Protest founder Father Roy Bourgeois said that is not the reason for the move from what he called a "sacred place" for those in the movement.
"We have heard the cry of the migrants," he said of those trying to leave Central American countries, particularly Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. He said they are people who want to escape poverty and violence.
"We feel there is an urgency to be on the border and the moment has arrived to express our solidarity with the migrants. We can't be silent," Bourgeois said.
Bourgeois said earlier this week that despite a shocking human rights record, the School of the Americas continues to operate with U.S. taxpayer money.
"Closing the School of the Americas would send a strong human rights message to Latin America and the world," he said.
Voss said conversations began about moving the protest began earlier this year after seeing that a border patrol agent graduated from WHINSEC.
"We are very concerned about the militarization of the border patrols," Voss said.
SOA Watch says the militarization at the border patrols punishes those escaping violence and oppressive economic policiies.
Bourgeois said it will be tough to leave Columbus but "things change" and that he expects the movement to grow and be vibrant.
As to how many gathered in Columbus will follow to the border is not known.
Shortly following the announcement, a man from Minnesota came up to Bourgeois and threw his arms around him, saying he would be wherever the movement goes.
Gene Kruger, 83, from Wautoma, Wisconsin. has been here about a dozen times. He said he would find it difficult to be out west but said he had been to Central America and knows the movement is needed there.
Voss said SOA Watch has a lot of supporters out west who have had to fly across country to be here and others could not make it at all.
"I see a lot of young people getting involved. I see growth," Voss said.
Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said it will mean "tremendous savings" for the city as it is expensive to provide security for the event.
"We have been scaling back the last few years as the numbers have waned," she said.
Tomlinson said the city should hear sometime during the summer what SOA Watch does have in mind for Columbus.
"We will wait to see their plans and we will work with them," Tomlinson said.