Vieques Island protesters jailed for trespassing

The Associated Press
Saturday May 26, 2001

NEW YORK — The Rev. Al Sharpton, handcuffed and escorted by police, arrived from Puerto Rico on Friday and was immediately taken to a detention facility to serve a 90-day sentence for trespassing on Navy land on Vieques island. 

Also on the flight from San Juan were New York City Councilman Adolfo Carrion, New York state legislator Jose Rivera and Bronx County Democratic Party chairman Roberto Ramirez. They were sentenced to 40 days. 

All were sentenced for a May 1 protest against bombing exercises on Vieques. Juan Felicino, a Sharpton acquaintance who was on the flight, said the civil rights activist “didn’t look too upset.” 

Sharpton was convicted of a misdemeanor but sentenced as a repeat offender because he had prior arrests for civil disobedience in New York. 

The four were taken to a lockup in Brooklyn, said Stanley Schlein, a lawyer for Carrion, Rivera and Ramirez. He said the earliest they could be released is Tuesday, when lawyers hope to argue for their freedom. 

“When convicted felons, murderers and convicted members of organized crime are allowed bail, it seems to me only fair for Rev. Sharpton, convicted for a misdemeanor offense of trespass for a peaceful protest ... to be free pending appeal,” said Sharpton attorney Sanford Rubenstein. 

The Navy has used its range on Vieques, home to 9,400 people, for six decades and says it is vital for national security.  

Critics say it poses a health threat, which the Navy denies. 

Opposition to the exercises grew after a civilian guard was killed on the range in 1999 by two off-target bombs.  

The Navy has since stopped using live ammunition, and islanders will vote in November whether the Navy must leave in 2003 or can stay, resuming the use of live ammunition. 


On the Net: 

Navy’s Vieques site: http://www.navyvieques.navy.mil