Vieques Protesters Arrested

Michael Hoover hoov at SPAMfreenet.tlh.fl.us
Thu May 4 06:41:13 MDT 2000


forwarded by Michael Hoover

Vieques Protesters Arrested
06:01EDT
By CHRIS HAWLEY
Associated Press Writer
05/04/00
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
VIEQUES, Puerto Rico (AP)  U.S. marshals began arresting protesters at a
disputed U.S. Navy bombing range today, including a U.S. congresswoman.
In Washington, the Justice Department issued a statement saying, "this
morning federal agents began removing a group of trespassers who have been
unlawfully camped out on Vieques.''

In the dark before dawn, masked FBI agents in dark uniforms arrived at the
gates of the bombing range on Vieques, and the Navy commander ordered them
to move.

"You must leave the property immediately ... If you do not leave promptly,
we will have to remove you,'' Adm. Kevin Green, the training ground
commander, said over a megaphone at 5:15 a.m.

Within minutes, four helicopters, one with red lights blinking, swept over
the range where dozens of protesters have been camped out for more than a
year to block the Navy from bombing.

Demonstrators on the range include religious figures and two Congress
members from the U.S. mainland as well as Puerto Rican nuns and
independence and labor leaders who have camped on the bomb-littered range
for 382 days.

The vast majority of protesters have said they would surrender peacefully.
But some militants have threatened to scatter into the bush around
unexploded ordnance they have marked out  posing a threat to themselves
and any pursuers.

Anti-riot police advance
Earlier, outside the gates where dozens of other protesters have prevented
military personnel from entering the camp, about 40 Puerto Rican anti-riot
police in bulletproof vests advanced toward demonstrators and set up a
line in front of them.
The demonstrators sat in circles and sang.

The Navy says the Vieques range is vital to national security and is the
only place its Atlantic fleet can conduct simultaneous air, sea and
amphibious training using live munitions. It has been blocked since stray
bombs killed a civilian security guard in April 1999, unleashing pent up
frustrations throughout Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory of 4 million Spanish
speakers.

A raid to clear the base has been expected since Monday, when three U.S.
warships, reportedly carrying 1,000 Marines, arrived in the Vieques area,
looming ominously offshore before retreating a little farther to sea. The
Marines reportedly would secure the range's perimeter once protesters are
removed.












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