Religious leaders say that Puerto Rico is in mourning following Thursday morning's removal of hundreds of protesters from a controversial island where U.S. Navy ships have conducted target practice for years.

"Yesterday was a day of mourning, but also a day of nobility and glory for Puerto Ricans,"said Monsignor Roberto González Nieves following the anticipated action by federal agents following months of protest and occupation of the military testing ground. Among those arrested were 14 priests, 5 seminary students, 1 deacon, 5 religious workers, and 15 lay Catholic activists. Twenty-five Protestant leaders and protesters also were detained.
"Understand that this was a noble day because the peaceful way that demonstrators confronted the arrests demonstrated that we are a people of peace," Nieves said.
"It was also a glorious day because it demonstrated that civil disobedience is the way to follow."

The ongoing dispute over the U.S. bombardment of the island and the subsequent removal of protesters by federal agents has united the island's churches across normally divided lines.

"for the first time in our country, all religious sectors have come together," says Bishop Juan Vera of the independent United Methodist Church of Puerto Rico.

"We're Catholics, Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Protestants, all united in an embrace of solidarity, all wanting as Christians to defend life, all demanding peace for Vieques," he says. Vera was among the religious leaders arrested.At the center of the controversy is the Navy's 60-year-old bombing range on Vieques, a small beach-lined island east of Puerto Rico's main island. Navy exercises were suspended over a year ago after stray bombs killed a civilian security guard, releasing pent-up resentment ...

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