rt watcher | 23.11.2010 00:38
They were taken into custody despite complying with the police demand not to come close to the gates of the base. RT is now trying to find out the details of the incident.
The journalists were detained after the demonstration was over and everybody, including correspondents, was leaving the site. The arrest was very rough, RT Washington bureau informs, with hard plastic hand cuffs injuring Kaelyn Forde’s wrists. This type of handcuffs is commonly used by US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the footage she can be seen yelling, “We are press, why are you arresting me?”
Watch the exclusive footage of the detention
The RT correspondents, as well as the demonstrators, were charged with insubordination to the authorities, taking part in unlawful assembly and failure to disperse.
All those detained were transported to a jail, their private possessions, clothes and, in the men’s case, underwear were confiscated. They received prison jumpsuits with the tag “Muscogee County Jail”. The arrested were put in the same cells with convicted criminals serving their sentences. Kaelyn Forde managed to make a call from the prison.
After 24 hours of detention, all the arrested were brought before a judge.
After a six-hour interrogation of the arrested, and the policemen who detained them, the judge kept most of the charges in place.
In particular, the RT correspondent and a cameraman were facing the dilemma of admitting their guilt of “participation in unlawful assembly” and paying a fine, or going back to jail.
The decision was made to pay the fine.
Another charge, “insubordination to the authorities”, will require further investigative measures.
Eventually, at midnight Georgian time, 32 hours after the arrest, the correspondents were released.
Activists from a protest movement claim that this year's crowd dispersal was the toughest and most irrational. One of the organizers of the rally, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed that it was done on purpose in order to intimidate the protestors, with the message that, if the government can take such rough measures against the press, it can behave even worse to the activists.
Each year human rights activists gather at the gates of Fort Benning, which houses the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Co-operation (former the School of the Americas), demanding its closure. The institute has been training police and military personnel from Latin American countries, many of whom are said to have been allegedly involved in crimes against civil citizens and killings of foreigners.
Watch a YouTube video of the detention posted by Media4Movement.
Some call Fort Benning “America’s terrorist training camp”. About 60,000 law-enforcement agents have been trained there, having then returned to their countries.
They have committed all kinds of human rights abuses. For example, in 1993, the UN Truth Commission on El Salvador named the army officers who had committed the worst atrocities of the civil war there. Two thirds of them had been trained at the School of the Americas.
In Chile the School’s graduates rate both Augusto Pinochet’s secret police and main prisons there, which are often referred to as concentration camps. Generals who led the bloody military coup in Honduras in 2009 were trained at the School of the Americas, which is now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Co-operation – the name may have changed but the practices have not.
These, by all standards non-violent, demonstrations at Fort Benning happen every year.
The rally has brought together thousands of people protesting, including human rights activists, victims of torture. One of the arrested was a 90-year old priest.