A Letter from the Trenches of Vieques

by Maria

Saludos desde Puerto Rico,

The Navy has been bombing Vieques since Friday the 27th. We have more than 40 people in the middle of the firing range. The Navy knows it and has just briefly stopped the bombing on a few occasions. Each night our people on the range send up some signal so we can see they are still there. We also have cell phone contact.

On Friday four of Vieques schools were shut down by the students and teachers in a protest against the US Navy bombing. Among the people on the firing range at that point and still there as of Monday, April 30 is Damaso Serrano mayor of Vieques, Ruben Berrios, Puerto Rican Independence Party president and 38 other people. Each night more people are peacefully entering the firing range to replace those the Navy finds and takes away. The firing range is about 6 miles from the entrance to Camp Garcia. Each day other Peaceful protesters enter Camp Garcia in protest near the main gate and are hand cuffed, then pepper sprayed (sometimes within sight of the protesters on the other side of the gate) and taken away. We have at this point more than 150 people either in jail or in the processing stage. Including 3 Puerto Ricans senators , 3 Puerto Rican Mayors, US Congressmen Luis Gutierrez, Dennis Rivera, Robert Kennedy Jr., Chicano actor, Edward James Olmos, Robbie Draco (the one that writes the songs for Ricky Martin), Puerto Rican Singer Danny Rivera and many others.

On Saturday night, a small group of women lead by Puerto Rican actress Rosita Velazquez were cutting the fence and crossing into Camp Garcia near the main gate, almost in the Navy’s face. Across the street at the Peace and Justice Camp we were in the middle of a Mass being celebrated for the safety of those on the firing range and those going peacefully in. The US Navy threw tear gas into the crowd of more than 400 people which included Puerto Rican police, old folks, women and children. One of the small canisters thrown had this on it 8230 Tactical Grenade LD Smoke. A three month old infant had to be taken to the hospital and several other people had to be attended by paramedics. After that at hour intervals the Navy kept throwing gas near the camp until about 4 AM.

Please pray for us. We want to keep this peaceful. In addition to gas, Navy is now resorting to something that looks like little rubber bullets in a white sac. One of these things hit Vieques Priest Father Nelson in the back as he was trying to keep everyone peaceful.

Since Thursday many groups have been trying to get into the firing range. Saturday night I thought my group would get in. But at the last minute it was called off again. Then the pepper spray came and in taking my glasses off to put water and vinegar on my face they fell and cracked. I do not have spares. I realized that my chances of going into the firing range were now zero. If I went there was a chance that I would loose them completely and thus jeopardize the chances of the group to do its job. I do not want to be one of the ones that cut the fence in the Navy’s face and cross over. I think that people that do that are super brave. But in my vanity I want the Navy to work a while before they get me. I am home in Mayaguez, getting new glasses and working the computer in the process. Then I will go back and try again. I think that one of the meanest things I have seen the Navy do is dig their fingers into people’s eyes in the process of hand cuffing them and then once handcuffed to pepper spray them at point blank range in the face. A guy called Wilkens dug his fingers into Chicago Congressmen Luis Gutierrez’s eyes in full view of everyone.

Send us positive thoughts and prayers.


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