Fort Hood closed its east gate at the intersection of Fort Hood Street and Rancier Avenue from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday and today, and a protest was held Friday and another is planned for today.
According to a post on Fort Hood’s Facebook page Friday morning, the closure of the east gate — a major entrance and exit for Fort Hood — is part of “random security measures frequently enacted across Fort Hood.”
A group known as The Watchmen based out of Dallas is planning the protests at the intersection near the Fort Hood gate.
Friday, the group protested from noon to 6 p.m.; and today, the protest will run from noon to 8 p.m. with a candlelight vigil beginning at 6 p.m.
Approximately two dozen people, most from The Watchmen and its sister organization Not My Son, gathered to protest Friday afternoon.
Many held signs and chanted things, such as “This base is killing our soldiers” and “What if it was you?”
Several passersby honked the horns of their vehicles as they approached the intersection.
According to its website, The Watchmen is “designed to mitigate and minimize the constant and consistent systematic oppression that is so prevalent throughout all our communities.”
Jeff Kagen, a protest organizer, said the group is protesting in response to the deaths of Vanessa Guillen and other Fort Hood soldiers this year.
Kagen said the group’s request for a sound waiver was denied by the city 20 minutes before the protest began, preventing the group from using megaphones and speakers during the protests. He said he filed for the waiver on Sept. 9.
He took issue with Fort Hood saying the nearby gate closure was a “random” security measure.
“They are lying and hiding still, the fact that we’re out here. So, it just proves to the point that Fort Hood can not tell the truth to their own people. They can’t even post a factual statement on Facebook,” Kagen said.
Fort Hood officials confirmed Friday morning that they knew the protest was planned for the day. Fort Hood did not respond to further questions from the Herald about the gate closure.
Christina Scott, a member of Not My Son, the sister organization of Watchmen, said parents are seeing their children enter the Army, trusting that they will be taken care of. At Fort Hood, that has not been the case, she said.
“That lets you know if they can’t be looked after, who can be looked after?” Scott said Friday. “So, it is kind of hard to process whenever you realize that our own military, they don’t have the same voice that civilians have.”
Scott said that civilians have to be the community that speaks out for the soldiers.
Ofelia Miramontez, the spokeswoman for the Killeen Police Department, provided a statement on the protests Friday.
“We support everyone’s right to peacefully protest, and the department has a plan set in place in order to keep the demonstrators and community safe. We simply ask that everyone express themselves peacefully and with respect to fellow citizens and property,” Miramontez said.
Weekly Friday protests had been happening near the corner of Fort Hood Street and Rancier Avenue for much of the summer in the wake of the disappearance and death of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, a Fort Hood solider reportedly killed by a fellow soldier in a Fort Hood arms room in April. However, those protests stopped about a month ago, following Guillen’s funeral in Houston.