More than a dozen School of Americas Watch protesters were arrested today on the first day of the annual demonstration in Columbus.
Police moved in after protesters with the Puppetistas failed to disperse in a zone along Fort Benning Road about 4:30 p.m. today. The protesters were loaded into a bus near the Circle K and transported to the Muscogee County Jail. Among those charged were a television photographer and a reporter. They will be held in the jail overnight for a special 3 p.m. Sunday hearing in Columbus Recorder's Court.
In a separate action, an elderly man and woman were taken into custody after illegally entering Fort Benning off Interstate 185. Louis John Vitale, 78, and Nancy H. Smith, also 78, were turned over to the U.S. Marshal to appear before the U.S. Magistrate, said Monica Manganaro, a Fort Benning public affairs spokeswoman.
Police estimated the crowd had reached 4,700 during the day but fewer people were around when the arrests were made.
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The protest is part of the SOA Watch's annual attempt to close the former School of the Americas, now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.