View Full Version : Vieques protesters burn flags, shout slogans, destroy property

05-02-03, 06:32 AM
May 01, 2003

Vieques protesters burn flags, shout slogans, destroy property

By Michelle Faul
Associated Press

VIEQUES, Puerto Rico — Burning American flags and shouting anti-Navy slogans, hundreds of protesters broke through a fence at the Vieques bombing range Thursday, smashing vehicles with sledgehammers to mark the Navy’s departure after nearly 60 years of bombing.
Activists also set a vehicle and boat ablaze, and attacked workers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, now in control of the land.

“This is certainly not a good start,” said Sam Hamilton, director of the agency’s regional office in Atlanta, which oversees 10 southeastern states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The agency pulled people out of the area after the violence. One Fish and Wildlife employee suffered minor injuries after being punched by protesters and he had his camera equipment stolen, Hamilton said.

The Navy on Wednesday handed more than 15,000 acres of land on eastern Vieques to the Department of the Interior, which will help transform the land into a wildlife refuge.

As part of the handover, it also transfered 19 vehicles to the U.S. Department of the Interior. Many of the those were damaged Thursday.

About 20 federal enforcement officers and 80 Puerto Rican police officers were on standby to prevent more vandalism and clashes.

“We had assurances from the mayor that it would be a peaceful organization,” Hamilton said. “We wanted a peaceful transition.”

President Bush announced in 2001 that the Navy would stop using the island this year.

“We are here today to mark the beginning of a new era in peace and prosperity for Vieques,” Gov. Sila Calderon said before the celebrations. “It is a moment of great joy, for we have achieved our dream.”

She announced she will ask Congress to put Vieques on the National Priority List for a cleanup of the bombing range.

The eastern third of the land will be administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, forming the largest federal wildlife refuge in Puerto Rico. The Navy gave up another 3,100 acres where a munitions warehouse was located on the western end in 2001.

In the 1940s, the United States bought up 25,000 acres — about two-thirds of Vieques — to make way for a bombing range, forcing out families and farmers with scant compensation. Military exercises began in 1947.

However, some activists now want that land turned over to Puerto Rican authorities. They say islanders should be allowed to open inns and environmentally friendly lodges there to boost tourism and help unemployment that runs at about 12 percent.

Simmering local resentment to the Navy exercises exploded in anger and protests when two 500-pound bombs were dropped off target on the range and killed civilian guard David Sanes in 1999.

Protesters stormed the range and occupied it for a year before federal marshals forcibly removed them. The exercises resumed, restricted to dummy bombs, but protesters continued to invade.

The cause drew celebrities including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., New York civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and actor Edward James Olmos. All were jailed for trespassing on federal land, along with more 1,000 local protesters.

Sharpton, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, arrived in Puerto Rico Wednesday to join the festivities and said he felt vindicated after spending 90 days in prison in 2001.

Bush “did a good thing by finally listening to the people,” said Sharpton.

Protesters say the bombing has fouled the environment, stunted an economy limited to fishing and tourism, and damaged the health of the 9,300 islanders.

The Navy denies its practices have been harmful.

The Department of Defense announced the land handover in a statement posted Wednesday afternoon on a Navy Web site. It said the Navy will retain responsibility for the cleanup; the final cost has not been determined. The Navy announced this month it was laying off or reposting nearly half its 6,300 employees at the sprawling Roosevelt Roads Naval Station on the main island of Puerto Rico.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press




05-02-03, 06:45 AM
They're going to be moving these firing/bombing exercises just off shore of Camp Lejeune. I think we should also close our base as Roosevelt Roads and watch their economy go to shlt.

05-02-03, 07:14 AM
[BOLD] In the 1940s, the United States bought up 25,000 acres — about two-thirds of Vieques — to make way for a bombing range, forcing out families and farmers with scant compensation. Military exercises began in 1947. [\BOLD]

If we bought it, and they want it back, let them cough up the greenbacks for it... and no low interest loan BS either. If we got a deed, we have the rights to use it as WE see fit.

05-02-03, 09:16 AM
Let's just wait and see what happens to that place....they were living off of us. Same thing if the bases in Hawaii closed. We pump a lot of money into their economy, I remember when they wanted us to stop exercised on the dead island over there.

05-02-03, 09:25 AM
For anti-protest things in general check out protestwarrior.com a great site.

05-02-03, 11:56 PM