LAS VEGAS – Protesters capped a weekend of demonstrations and arrests at the Nevada Test Site and the planned Yucca Mountain radioactive waste dump with a rally in Las Vegas claiming minority communities are disproportionately contaminated by federal nuclear facilities.
Officials said 66 people were arrested or issued summonses Saturday, Sunday and Monday, including some who refused to identify themselves and remained jailed in Beatty until the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada intervened.
“We are coming together from across the world to say no to nuclear energy and nuclear weapons,” Mildred McClain of Citizens for Environmental Justice of Savannah, Ga., said during the Monday rally outside the Grant Sawyer federal building in Las Vegas.
About 24 black, Hispanic and American Indian demonstrators claimed increased rates of cancer, birth defects and skin disorders in minority communities near nuclear facilities in South Carolina, Washington, New Mexico and Nevada and a chemical plant in Mississippi.
In Beatty, eight anti-nuclear demonstrators were released by the Nye County Sheriff’s Department after the ACLU intervened about noon Monday.
Nye County Sheriff Wade Lieseke said law enforcers at the federal test site have long detained protesters who refuse to give their names.
Protests and rallies are common at the gate to the test site, about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
ACLU lawyer Allen Lichtenstein said the arresting officers mistakenly cited a state law requiring suspects to provide their names upon arrest. He said the law has been invalidated by federal courts.
Most of the 66 men and women were issued trespassing summonses at gates to the test site, said Darwin Morgan, spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration in North Las Vegas. He said five were issued summonses for trespassing at the Yucca Mountain Project field office at the test site.
The administration, a branch of the Energy Department, operates the test site, where 928 full-scale nuclear weapons tests were conducted from 1951 to 1992.