"Civil Rights Violations in Vieques,"by Denise Rivera Portis May/June 2002 issue of Poverty & Race
The National Puerto Rican Coalition (NPRC), the leading national Puerto Rican advocacy and policy organization, responsible for representing the interests of 7 million Puerto Rican United States citizens, held its Annual Policy Conference April 3 – 6 in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico.
Among the special sessions was one titled “Vieques: After the Bombing Ends.” On April 6, a “Quality of Life Tour: Visit to Vieques” was offered to conference participants and for members of NPRCs quality of life delegation - formed to assist Vieques in the development of social and economic programs for when the Navy stops using the island as a bombing range.
The attendants had completed their “Walk for Peace,” and while over 100 members of the group had already boarded buses, which were taking them to see the lands that were returned to Vieques by the Navy in May 2001, Navy personnel attacked them. They were fired upon with tear and chemical gases. Many were seriously affected by this unprovoked attack. The majority of victims were senior citizens, college students and children, who suffered both physically and emotionally.
There is no justifiable explanation as to why the Navy would fire upon unarmed US citizens exercising their constitutional right to engage in a peaceful assembly, especially as their demonstration had already ended. According to “Peace for Vieques leaders,” these were the worst acts of aggression by the US Navy against civilians on the island ever witnessed.
On April 8, NPRC filed a formal complaint of civil rights violations at the FBI office in Puerto Rico.
For more information, contact Betty Paugh Ortiz, 202/223-3915.
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