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SOA Watch: About 50 protesters step onto Victory Drive, told they're conducting unauthorized demonstration; 4 accused of crossing onto Fort Benning

About 50 protesters stepped onto Victory Drive around 11:30 a.m. this morning, forcing eastbound traffic into one lane.

The Presente, a march in which protesters carry crosses, went from near the gates of Fort Benning toward Victory Drive this year. Protesters only have a permit for Fort Benning Road, and when some of them stepped into Victory Drive, police officers began telling them repeatedly that they were conducting an unauthorized demonstration.

Protesters in the way of traffic were given five minutes to return to Fort Benning Road, which they did. Victory Drive was unimpeded by 11:35 a.m.

Almost 4,800 at protest

Close to 4,800 are at the SOA Watch protest this morning, about 2,700 less than this time last year.

Columbus police said that at 10 a.m., 4,732 protesters were at the annual event on Fort Benning Road. At 10 a.m. last year, 7,497 were at the event on Sunday.

The Presente, a march in which protesters carry crosses, began around 10:40 a.m. This year, it is marching from the protest stage near gates leading onto post toward Victory Drive.

Police Chief Ricky Boren said the event has a permit only for Fort Benning Road. Officers will try to reroute protesters before they step onto Victory Drive.

Four arrested

Four people are accused of crossing onto Fort Benning at this weekend's SOA Watch protest.

Nancy Gwin, of Syracuse, NY; Michael Walli, of Washington, D.C.; Kenneth Hayes, of Austin, Texas; and Franciscan priest Father Luis Vitale, of Oakland, Calif. are currently in military custody, said Hendrick Voss, communications director with SOA Watch.

The four people stepped onto post sometime this morning at the Interstate 185 gate, Voss said.

Rain is pouring at the annual protest at Fort Benning Road. The Indigo Girls are currently performing, and protesters are about to begin the Presente. During the Presente, people will hold crosses and commemorate those they say were killed by soldiers trained by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

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