Two US Navy warships hove into sight off the coast of Vieques yesterday as protesters occupying parts of the Puerto Rican island brace for an expected attempt by the US military, led by the FBI, to oust them. Protesters have occupied the Navy bombing range in a yearlong standoff aimed at ridding Vieques of the US military altogether.
According to published reports on the island, the USS Bataan and the USS Nashville left Norfolk, Virginia last week and were carrying over 1,000 Marines on a mission to clear the bombing range of protesters. Officials quoted anonymously in various reports over the past few days predicted that the clearing of Camp Garcia will take place some time this week, most likely today.
Yesterday was May Day, and there were large-scale protests in cities across the globe. We begin with the protests here in the US. In downtown Portland, Oregon, riot police fired beanbag rounds at demonstrators, as hundreds of workers and demonstrators occupied the city streets. Shortly after the protest began, officials declared a street-level emergency. More than fifteen people were arrested. Meanwhile, in New York, more than a thousand people marched for immigrant rights. In particular, demonstrators called for a general amnesty for undocumented immigrants. Police did arrest some protesters who were charged under a state law that bars people from obscuring their faces during a demonstration. Many protesters in Seattle and Washington, D.C., of course wore cloth masks soaked with vinegar to combat the effects of tear gas and other chemical agents used by riot police in previous demonstrations.
We now move to Europe, where there were large May Day protests. Anti-capitalist protesters demonstrated in central London yesterday, tearing down the famous golden arches of a McDonald’s and distributing food. Some protesters also carried out guerrilla gardening near the Parliament building. As protesters marched through the streets of London, they were confronted by riot police, who went on to injure more than two dozen protesters and arrested forty-two. British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the protesters “idiots.”
Meanwhile, in Berlin protesters staged a march against capitalism and imperialism last night. Police officers used water cannons, teargas and nightsticks against a crowd of 10,000. At least three dozen people were arrested. In Hamburg, Germany, protests were broken up by riot police using water cannons. More than 130 people were arrested.
In South America’s largest city, Sao Paulo, Brazil, hundreds of thousands of people gathered to protest low wages and high unemployment.
Some 20,000 workers, students and activists marched through Ecuador’s capital, Quito, protesting the government’s plans to adopt the US dollar as the official currency.
In Turkey, tens of thousands demonstrated against the International Monetary Fund.
In Lebanon, workers marched through Beirut demanding better pay and job security.
In Japan, more than a thousand rallies nationwide drew nearly two million people.
In Hong Kong, protesters smashed rice bowls, the traditional symbol of the workers’ livelihood.
And Cambodia, more than 1,000 garment industry workers demanded higher wages and better working conditions.
Iraq said today Iranian agents fired six projectiles at civilian targets shortly before midnight, wounding eight people. The attack came hours after a mortar attack in Tehran for which an Iranian opposition group with bases in Iraq claimed responsibility.
Some South Korean experts investigating the No Gun Ri incident are to meet with Pentagon officials today. Both nations are conducting separate investigations into the alleged mass killing of civilians by retreating American soldiers during the Korean War. The South Koreans had hoped to talk with American veterans who say they were involved. US officials apparently turned down that request.
In an escalating corporate dispute, ABC was blacked out in the homes of three-and-a-half million Time Warner Cable customers around the country yesterday, just as the sweeps period was beginning, and Regis Philbin was about to quiz celebrities on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Instead of ABC programming, Time Warner customers saw a message saying Disney has taken ABC away from you on the channel that normally carries ABC.
And the nation’s $5 billion TV and radio commercial industry was thrown into chaos yesterday as the two largest actors’ unions launched a strike against ad makers, charging they’re trying to reverse hard-won gains. Picketing actors from the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists rallied in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.