Special Reports

Updated: Sites and sounds of the SOA Watch protest

Six people are accused of crossing onto Fort Benning this morning.

The alleged line crossers, who include a priest, a professor and a student, stepped onto Fort Benning around 9 a.m., a reporter with the Ledger-Enquirer learned. The information was announced from the main stage, and the thousands in attendance heard that the six people allegedly walked down Interstate 185 and onto post with the intent of reaching the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

Military Police took them into custody about a half mile into their trek.

According to a SOA Watch official, the accused are: Diane Pinchot-Osu of Cleveland, Ohio; Father Luis Barrios of North Burgen, NJ ; Louis Wolf of Washington, DC; Theresa Cusimano of Denver, COL; Al Simmons of Richmond, VA; Kristen Holm of Chicago, IL.

"So we are grateful for the six people that crossed onto the base," a woman announced from the stage around 1 p.m. "We believe that they'll be released today."

About 8,500 people had converged on Benning Boulevard as of about 11 a.m., according to Columbus police. Capt. J.D. Hawk said that's approximately 2,000 less than in years past. Hawk has been out here since about 6 a.m. The protesters permit expires at 4 p.m. he said.

Hendrik Voss, with SOA Watch, said 20,000 people attended today's protest. Some 12,000 were present Saturday, he added.

Law enforcement at the protest include Columbus police, Georgia State Patrol, Muscogee County Prison officials, Muscogee County Sheriff's Office, Muscogee County Marshal's Office and Fort Benning Military Police.

The smell of sausages and barbecue wafts through the air as thousand slowly march in a circle up and down Benning Boulevard chanting "Presente" to recognize those allegedly murdered at the hands of Latin American soldiers with ties to the School of the Americas.

The last "Presente" was given at 12:30 p.m. An announcer then began talking about those allegedly killed with a drum beat in the background as another delivered his message in American Sign Language.

All around are T-shirts and bumper stickers trumpeting various messages. Todd Henry is the sales and marketing director for Northern Sun Merchandising out of Minneapolis, MN. He is one of the vendors who came out to sell T-shirts "with progressive messages," as he put it. This is Henry's first visit to Columbus for the SOA Watch protest, which is in its 19th year. He said he would like this will be the last year he comes here, as organizers of the protest remain hopeful their efforts will close the school, now known as WHINSEC.

Here are a few more of the sights and sounds of the protest:

On a bumper sticker: "Friends don't let friends drink Starbucks" and "These colors don't run the world."

A T-shirt reads: "Shut down Guantanamo."

Several people have taken up the task of lying in the middle of the road wearing tattered, "blood" splattered clothing as representatives of those killed in the El Mozote massacre.

Residents of Benning Boulevard selling red beans and rice, barbecue, sausages and beverages to protesters.

A helicopter circling overhead the sound of which is almost drowned out by chants of "Presente."

Please check back with Ledger-Enquirer.com for more on the SOA Watch protest.