Every year, grassroots activists from all over the western hemisphere converge outside Fort Benning, Georgia to take a stand for justice and accountability. The annual event, organized by School of the America’s Watch, includes several days of actions and workshops focused on human rights, particularly the abuses promulgated by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly known as the School of the Americas). This year, BORDC/DDF National Field Organizer George Friday was there.
Friday ran a workshop on the abuse of government power to silence dissent. Although the workshop had been planned for awhile, it suddenly took on a whole new meaning: on November 12, we learned that the FBI had been monitoring SOAWatch for a decade, even sending undercover agents to infiltrate the pacifist group, despite its reputation for non-violence.
In her workshop, titled “Challenging government surveillance, entrapment, and infiltration in the face of creeping fascism in the United States,” Friday related the recently-revealed surveillance and infiltration of SOAWatch to the long history of U.S. government harassment of social movements. But the answer is not to go silent in order to avoid government repression, it is to step up. “Dissent and action protects and maintains conditions to expose and address the hyper-militarism of domestic policing, the disdain for basic human rights, the scapegoating of immigrants and harassment and intimidation of those who dare to speak truth to power,” Friday says.
The workshop attendees explored tactics for building power to confront national and local law enforcement agencies’ participation in domestic surveillance or intelligence collection, undercover infiltration of activist groups and religious institutions, and cooperation between law enforcement agencies and military personnel.