Waterloo Region Mennonites Protest at School of the Americas

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Fort Benning, Georgia - Three Waterloo Region Mennonites— Nathan Gorvett, Josie Winterfeld and Richard Albrecht—took part in the 2010 protest at the home of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation - formerly the School of the Americas. The protests stretched over a three-day weekend.

Albrecht said the whole experJosie Winterfeld, missions, peace and justice worker at Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church, Kitchener, Ont., participates in the ‘die-in’ during the annual peace protest outside of the former School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga., in commemoration of those killed by graduates of the military training centre.ience of being at the protests felt risky to him. He was outside his usual middle-class comfort zone. In Waterloo, Ont., the police are there to defend him and make things safe for him. But at the protest he was seen by the police as someone on the other side of the line, outside accepted practice and belief.

Albrecht found it ironic that the police were “defending” a U.S. army base from pacifists, whose leaders encouraged the protesters to remember that the police, as well as the trainers and students at the institute, were also human beings worthy of respect.

Heavily criticized even within the U.S. government, the name change to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation was, for many, a smokescreen. U.S. Army Maj. Joe Blair, a former director of instruction at the school, was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle: “There are no substantive changes besides the name. They teach the identical courses that I taught, and changed the course names and
use the same manuals.”

 

Photo: Josie Winterfeld, missions, peace and justice worker at Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church, Kitchener, Ont., participates in the ‘die-in’ during the annual peace protest outside of the former School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga., in commemoration of those killed by graduates of the military training centre.

- excerpted from a story by Dave Rogalsky in the Canadian Mennonite, used by permission