This past weekend was one that Columbus, Georgia takes in stride each November. As thousands of protesters from all over the country head our way every year to show their displeasure for the School of the Americas-which, by the way, goes by the name Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC)– Columbus business owners look for the little boost to local economy and our local law enforcement officers prepare for a few more folks to spend the night in the county jail. While many view this as a bunch of long-haired, hippie type, pinko Commies, we here in the Chattahoochee Valley also see dollar signs, not just in court fees, but in motel (not HOTEL) rooms, restaurants, gas, and their favorite spot-and mine- Ruth Ann’s.
This year, 21 people were arrested with fines varying from $200 to over $1000, and 2 people were sentenced to six months in prison, the maximum the Judge could give. The two protesters sentenced to prison time, Father Louis John Vitale, 78, and Michael Omondi, 24, scaled the fence onto Post. After Omondi’s attorney told Judge Hyles that his client decided to climb to fence at the last minute, Omondi said:
“With all due respect to my attorney, I came from Los Angeles with the specific intention of climbing that fence.”
While most of folks protesting would argue that it is a “peaceful” protest, many come with the intention of breaking the law and trespassing on to Ft. Benning from Columbus. And that is why I have to brag on our local Police Department, Sheriff and Marshall Offices. With efficiency, authority, and the safety of Columbus citizens in mind, the three departments come together to enforce the law and keep general order. Yes, it is these protesters’ right to voice their opinion, but when they break the law, our men and women in blue and tan are there to restore the peace and make sure the proper consequences are put into place.
So, as the Hippies ride off into the night, we here in Muscogee County say “See ya next year…and don’t forget to bring your cash.”