U.S. Navy bombing exercises near end on Vieques island amid protests

The Associated Press
Saturday June 30, 2001

VIEQUES, Puerto Rico — Fighter jets dropped dummy bombs on the U.S. Navy’s firing range on the island of Vieques on Friday, while security officers detained five protesters who invaded Navy lands. 

F-14 Tomcats and F-18 Hornets conducted exercises over the range on the island’s eastern tip, said Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Katherine Goode. She said the exercises would continue into the night and would conclude either Friday night or Saturday. 

Among three protesters detained Thursday was New York State legislator Adam Clayton Powell IV, who was turned over to U.S. marshals. In a court appearance on Friday, he refused to post $2,000 bail and was returned to a federal detention center in the San Juan suburb of Guaynabo. 

No trial date has been set for Powell, the latest of several New York City politicians to join local protesters in calling for an immediate end to the bombing.  

At least 73 people have been arrested for trespassing on restricted lands since the bombing resumed last week, Goode said. 

The five detained on Friday were captured near the fence bordering the island’s civilian area, where most protesters have been detained. 

Although President George W. Bush this month ordered the Navy to leave in 2003, many Puerto Ricans say that is too long to wait. 

Three other New York politicians who were imprisoned for protesting were freed Friday morning after spending 37 days in jail. 

State Assemblyman Jose Rivera, 65; Bronx County Democratic Party chairman Roberto Ramirez, 51; and New York City Councilman Adolfo Carrion Jr., 40, walked out of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn shortly before 9 a.m. 

Their fellow prisoner, the Rev. Al Sharpton, also convicted of tresspassing during Vieques protests, must remain in jail until Aug. 15. 

In the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan, meanwhile, tensions had subsided after a Thursday night clash between opponents of the bombing and pro-U.S. statehood activists, who raised a U.S. flag above a chapel built as a center of prayer for those who oppose the Navy bombing. 


Five people were injured in clashes between the groups, and many demanded that the U.S. flag be lowered. 

On Friday, the U.S. flag still flew at the top of the pole, above a Puerto Rican flag and a smaller blue-and-white Vieques flag. Police stood guard around the flagpole. 


On the Net: 

U.S. Navy site: www.navyvieques.navy.mil 

Anti-Navy site: www.viequeslibre.org