Easter Sunday Services End in 16 Arrests at Nuclear Test Site

April 24, 2011

At 12 noon today, April 24th 2011, 38 people gathered near the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). The group held interfaith prayers and then eight women and eight men were arrested for alleged trespassing onto the NNSS. The prayer-action included local members of the Western Shoshone National Council, Buddhist Nipponzan Myohoji monks from Washington state and Catholic Workers from Nevada. Other demonstrators came from Arizona, California, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Wisconsin, The Netherlands , and Japan.

Today’s Easter services were the climax of a 60-mile walk from Las Vegas to Mercury along US Highway 95. The annual pilgrimage is the interfaith “Sacred Peace Walk”, which included a musical ritual at the NNSS.

The demonstrators include members of Nevada Desert Experience (NDE) and Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, including Fr. Jerry Zawada who celebrated Mass at less than half an hour prior to the ritual line crossing. NDE is an interfaith group based in Las Vegas which resists nuclear weapons and war. NDE has a long history of activity in this region near Creech Air Force Base, and NDE’s work helped lead to a cessation of full-scale nuclear testing in the early 1990's.

The prayer-action today focused on stopping the flow of money into nuclear weapons development, protecting the Nevada Desert, and protecting all people from nuclear disasters such as the recent one ongoing in Fukushima, Japan and the Chernobyl incident from April 26th 1986.

One of the demonstrators from The Netherlands, Annabelle Parker said, “It’s a terrible crime that the US government has committed by stealing and contaminating this beautiful land from Western Shoshone people. I found this week’s Sacred Peace Walk to be a very strong spiritual action—I felt very much connected to the earth and everyone else.”

Another demonstrator, Iris Wolfe from Arizona, went further, “We must also consider the powerful effect of nuclear radiation on the earth and her capacity to support life including ladybugs, bees, earthworms and others. We are wholly dependent and cannot survive without the interaction of all life forms together.” Tomorrow and Tuesday, April 25th and 26th , NDE will hold 7:00AM vigils at Creech AFB and the NNSS respectively, in concert with global events commemorating the Chernobyl disaster.

1420 West Bartlett Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89106 (702) 646-4814

Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray Released After Being Arrested For Protesting Budget Restrictions

by Jessica Gresko, Associated Press

AP Photo
City officials say Washington was used as a pawn in last week's budget bargaining, with new restrictions part of the price of a deal.

Angry that Congress appears ready to take away autonomy granted to the city in the last several years, Mayor Vincent Gray and six Council members including the chairman were among 41 people arrested Monday outside the Capitol while protesting the changes that might be inevitable. Seven hours later, they were released from jail.

"We needed to make a statement," Gray said after his release.

He said protesters' shoelaces, ties and belts were removed while they were in jail. The district restrictions that were part of the budget deal reached Friday were "completely unacceptable," Gray said.

The city will likely be unable to spend its own tax dollars on abortions for low-income women. It may also be banned from spending city money on needle exchange programs believed vital to curbing the spread of HIV in the district, where the disease is considered an epidemic. Also back: a school voucher program favored by Republicans.

The news is considered a setback for a city that is unique in that it has a city government but its budget and laws are overseen by Congress. It had enjoyed more freedom in the past four years when both the House and Senate were controlled by Democrats, the party traditionally more friendly to pleas of autonomy from the heavily Democratic city.

When Republicans took control of the House in January, the city readied for changes. Still, city leaders said they are outraged that Washington appears to have been used as a bargaining chip.

"If this isn't taxation without representation, I don't know what is," the mayor said before being arrested.

He and Council members, dressed in business attire, sat down in the street outside a Senate office building. U.S. Capitol Police arrested them, cuffing their hands behind them with plastic loops, and loaded them into police wagons to cheers from the crowd.

They were cited for blocking the street with an unlawful assembly, a misdemeanor that can be resolved by paying a $50 fine.

Gray said after he was released that he was proud to be part of the demonstration and would continue to fight the restrictions, but wasn't specific.

Gray became the second D.C. mayor to go to jail while advocating for home rule. Sharon Pratt Kelly was arrested during a statehood protest in August 1993. Gray also was a council member before becoming mayor, so he is familiar with the home-rule fight.

Ilir Zherka, the executive director of D.C. Vote, a nonpartisan group that lobbies for more independence for the district, said his group doesn't intend to let the budget pass this week without a fight.

"We're not going to accept that they decided to throw the District of Columbia under the bus," Zherka said.

But while the news is considered a setback for the capital city and its 600,000 residents, the restrictions wouldn't be new.

The city's ability to spend money on abortions for low-income women has seesawed over the last two decades. When Democrats have controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, in 1993 and 1994 and again in 2009 and 2010, the city has been able to spend its own money to pay for abortions for women on Medicaid. When Republicans have controlled at least one branch of government that ability has been taken away.

The fact that Congress will likely re-impose the ban on abortion funding wasn't a shock to Tiffany Reed, the president of D.C. Abortion Fund, a non-profit organization that makes grants to poor women to pay for abortions, which can cost $300 to $500 or more. Reed said her group, which helped pay for more than 300 abortions a year, had expected the ban to be re-imposed, but she was angry Congress had stepped in again to local affairs just as the lifting of the ban was beginning to take effect.

"It gives me a lot of rage quite frankly," she said. "I'm really disappointed in our pro-choice president that he allowed this to happen."

As for a possible reintroduction of a ban on city money for needle exchanges, it would be a step back. Congress prohibited the city from using its own money for the programs for two decades beginning in the late 1980s. Other groups stepped in to provide the service with private dollars, but it is a widely held belief that the city's inability to pay for needle exchange led to an increase in the number of residents contracting HIV. Approximately 3 percent of city residents are currently living with HIV or AIDS, a level considered by health officials to be epidemic.

When the ban was lifted in 2007, the city invested money in community programs that collected 300,000 used syringes in the last year. People who work at the city's three needle exchange programs say they aren't sure how they will cope if the city is again unable to provide money.

"It would be nothing short of disastrous," said Cyndee Clay, executive director of HIPS, an organization that works with sex workers and drug users and is currently exchanging about 8,000 needles a month. "I don't understand why they're doing this to us."

Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city's representative in Congress, said she has not yet seen the actual language in the budget but has been told the abortion rider and school vouchers are in. Norton, a Democrat who is not allowed to vote on the House floor, said she doesn't believe needle exchange is part of the deal, but she said she won't be sure until she sees final language.

"We got bargained away," Norton said of the budget deal. "I don't know for what."

Associated Press writer Ben Nuckols contributed to this report.

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