Vieques Protest Raises Worldwide Awareness Against Militarism
PROTESTERS PEACEFULLY LED OFF OF BOMBING RANGE
Vieques is part of Puerto Rico, which is part of the United States. The U.S. military often drops live bombs on Vieques. The problem is, this is not just a military exercise -- people live on Vieques. And sometimes bombings are not very accurate. Is this any way to treat U.S. citizens? Protesters said no. Here is what happened this week.
About 50 federal agents, some wearing masks and many carrying weapons, led about 300 protesters, including U.S. elected officials such as Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), off the bombing range at dawn Thursday morning. The FBI said that none of the protesters will be arrested, but instead held in custody at a detention center for an indefinite period of time.
According to a White House spokesman this morning, President Bill Clinton was briefed on the plan Thursday and "fully supported" it.
"I think we're pleased thus far that the raid is proceeding in a calm, peaceful and professional way," said Deputy press secretary P.J. Crowley to United Press International.
Aside from the scores of Vieques residents, area fishermen, clergy and activists led away this morning, a who's who of celebrities and political figures from both the United States and Puerto Rico were there to be led away.
"They may remove us, but there will be many others to follow," said Congressman Luis Gutierrez as he was led away. Also escorted out were Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), New York City councilman Jose Rivera, New York State Assemblyman Roberto Ramirez, and singer Danny Rivera.
Today marks a high point in a year-long protest of this bombing range, a protest which began soon after the death David Sanes Rodriguez, a civilian security guard who was killed by an errant bomb during a U.S. Navy practice maneuver.
In January, President Clinton and Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Rosello decided an agreement that allowed Navy practices for three more years, gave $40 million in federal aid to Vieques and a referendum in 2003 for Vieques residents, who may then wish to vote to end the maneuvers. If they were to vote to allow the U.S. Navy to continue bombing them, the agreement claims, Vieques would receive another $50 million in aid to invest in the local economy and other concerns.
Meanwhile, dozens of protests by Vieques supporters were scheduled in the United States and abroad. Protests happened in such places as New York City, Boston, Orlando, San Francisco, Albany, Springfield Massachusetts, Tucson Arizona, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Hartford, Minneapolis, New Orleans, lots of college campuses, and -- get this -- Seoul (South Korea) and Toronto (Canada).
This report was distributed by the Latino Online News Network. You can find them at latnn.com CNN, UPI and AP contributed to this report.
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