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DAILY TARGUM (RUTGERS UNIV.) - U-WIRE
April 26, 2000
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- Those protesting against the use of Vieques Island as a bombing range for the U.S. Navy have been duly warned of the possible harm that awaits them if they continue not to cooperate with federal marshals. Knowing that federal authorities have lawfully been given the ability to use Vieques, if they continue to remain camped out on the island, they do so at their own risk.
As long as these protesters remain stationed in Vieques, federal authorities have said they plan on using federal marshals, FBI agents, Marines and even Puerto Rican police in order to ensure that protesters are fully removed from the island. Protesters do have the right to protest, that is, until the federal government demand that they leave so that bombing activities can resume.
Protesters need to acknowledge that the U.S. Navy is not using arbitrary force in order to continue using Vieques . Rather, they are only abiding by the agreement that was made between President Clinton and Puerto Rican Gov. Pedro Rossello that enabled the navy to resume use of the island for their own purposes.
The terms this agreement were founded upon require that there eventually be a popular referendum to decide whether to close the range. This aspect of the agreement provides protesters with the avenue to enact the change they desire. If they continue to protest on an issue that has temporarily been decided upon, they may end up sabotaging the opportunity to close the range permanently.
The number of citizens that have camped out on the island since April 19 is relatively small -- no more than several dozen. Therefore, although people protesting may feel vehemently angered by the U.S. Navy's use of this land, for now they should abide by the law so that they will not jeopardize their chances of permanently removing federal occupation of Vieques .