by Dave Buchen and Just Seeds
In 1941, the US Navy expropriated 75% of the island of Vieques. The residents were forced to live in a narrow swath of land while the rest was turned into a bombing range. For the next six decades, the Navy launched bombs from ships, dropped napalm from planes, fired depleted uranium shells, staged mock invasions on the beaches, and rented out the island to arms manufactures to test their munitions.
That all changed on April 19, 1999, when the US Navy dropped a 500 lb bomb on David Sanes—a Vieques resident who worked on the base—killing him instantly. The next day a group of activists entered the restricted zone as an act of remembrance and resistance. One of them, Tito Kayak, spent the night camped out on the base. Two days later, 15 boats of protesters returned and built Campamento Monte David, the first of what would be 14 encampments which shut down the Navy base. Their eviction by the Navy launched a campaign of civil disobedience in which over 1,000 were arrested and the largest political demonstration in the history of Puerto Rico was held. The Navy closed the base in 2003, but the residents are still fighting to have their island fully cleaned of the toxic remains.
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