SOA Watch and God Bless Fort Benning to share downtown turf this weekend

Downtown will be the center of it all this weekend as the SOA Watch protest and the God Bless Fort Benning rally collide.

The protest, held annually for the last 18 years at the gates of Fort Benning will have a substantial presence downtown. SOA Watch, the group seeking to close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, has rented the Columbus Convention and Trade Center for concerts and workshops on Saturday. God Bless Fort Benning, a pro-troop rally now in its fifth year, has moved from the Columbus Civic Center to the median of Broadway. The organization has also opened a downtown office in the 1110 block of Broadway.

Organizers on both sides welcome the obvious intermingling that will occur. "My biggest hope is the lines at Ruth Ann's, Cannon Brewpub and Country's won't be too long," said SOA Watch organizer Eric LeCompte.

God Bless Fort Benning will start with a downtown 5k run and will continue through the day with concerts and pro-military speakers. The majority of the SOA protests will occur 4 miles away on Fort Benning Road, as they have for the last 18 years.