VIEQUES, Puerto Rico – Actor Edward James Olmos said Saturday that ending the U.S. Navy's bombing on Vieques was a "question of humanity," visiting the island a day after finishing a prison sentence for trespassing during anti-Navy protests.
Olmos, released Friday after serving 19 days in a federal detention center on the main island of Puerto Rico, was flanked by U.S. labor leaders as he spoke to about 100 supporters at the colonial Conde de Mirasol Fort.
"This is not politics; this is a question of humanity," said Olmos. "There can be no bombing where people live."
The Mexican-American actor was among 180 people detained in protests during Navy bombing exercises in April and May. He was accompanied in Vieques by Andy Stern, president of the powerful Service Employees International Union and Dennis Rivera, who heads New York City's 210,000-member health care union.
Olmos and Rivera trespassed on Navy lands after disembarking from a fishing boat along with environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy. The Navy said the incursion halted bombing exercises for some two hours.
Kennedy and Rivera were released earlier this month after serving 30-day sentences.
"The experience of doing time is uplifting," said Rivera on Saturday. "Everyone should take part in the civil disobedience campaign."
Stern, whose union has 1.4 million members, said his lobbyists are pressing U.S. congressmen to end the bombing immediately. "We will increase our lobbying efforts," he said.
The Navy has used the Vieques range for six decades, but President Bush has said the exercises should stop in 2003. Opponents want the training to stop immediately on this island of 9,100 people, east of Puerto Rico. The firing range is some nine miles from civilian areas.
Anti-Navy sentiment swelled after a civilian guard was killed on the range by off-target bombs in 1999. Protesters have said they fear the bombing also harms islanders' health, an accusation the Navy denies.