Human rights activists walked from Ft. Benning, Ga., to the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta during the days from April 26 to May 8 to bring attention to the role played by these institutions in the illegal and criminal drone warfare being carried out by the U.S. This “Right to Peace” march was sponsored by the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition with cooperation from SOAWatch.
The goal of the march was to tie together the decades-long policies of repression and extrajudicial killings practiced by Latin American officers and soldiers trained at the notorious School of the Americas, based at Ft. Benning, with the high tech murder by drones equipped with missiles and bombs that terrorize communities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.
Ft. Benning is also a testing site for newer drones made possible by research being done at Georgia Tech to build fully autonomous ones that will operate from a computer program, locate a target and destroy it without any human intervention or guidance.
The peace walkers made a side trip to the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga., a Corrections Corporation of America facility that holds almost 2,000 immigrant detainees in inhumane conditions and often for months and even years, without legal due process. While holding a brief vigil at the gates, they had an opportunity to talk with family members of the detainees who must travel long distances to this rural location to visit their loved one for a single hour. Many of those held inside detention centers fled the violence and poverty created by U.S. policies in their home country.
The Right to Peace walk went through a number of small to medium towns and cities, carrying their signs such as “When Drones Fly, Children Die” and “Stop Killer Drones,” slogans which evoked honks of approval and questions from passersby, leading to thoughtful conversation and rarely, hostile responses.
The last three miles of the walk began at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center with a short rally, and then proceeded along Peachtree Street, ending at Georgia Tech in front of the building where graduation ceremonies were to take place.
Fr. Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOAWatch, who walked the entire way, called on the Georgia Tech administration to educate for peace and to reject militarism and violence. He invited the students to join the movement for peace and justice, to help ban drone warfare and to close the School of the Americas.