EDINA: 28 arrested at Alliant protest
By Kermit Pattison
Pioneer Press April 3, 2003
More than two dozen people were arrested Wednesday for trespassing at the Edina headquarters of Alliant Techsystems as they protested the company's role in producing munitions containing depleted uranium widely used in Iraq.
More than 200 people held a vigil outside the company to protest the munitions containing radioactive material, which they called a severe health hazard to U.S. service personnel and Iraqi civilians.
"They choose to make weapons that continue to kill long after battles are over," said Tom Bottolene, a rally organizer. "Alliant Tech knows the effects of depleted uranium. And yet they choose to make money off the suffering of those that it affects. It's total disregard. Who profits and who dies?"
Depleted uranium is a low-level radioactive material leftover from manufacture of nuclear bombs and fuel rods. The dense metal is used as a core in shells and allows the munitions to penetrate armor and demolish enemy tanks.
Depleted uranium munitions were used in combat for the first time during the gulf war, when more than 300 tons of such weapons were fired by tanks and aircraft. Alliant's M829A1 shell worked so well that U.S. tank commanders nicknamed it the "Silver Bullet."
Since 1968, demonstrations have been staged almost every week at Alliant or its former parent company, Honeywell.
Protesters charged that the radioactive dust leftover from the exploded shells might cause cancer, birth defects and other maladies among veterans and Iraqi civilians. Pentagon officials have said no evidence exists to support such a link.
The procession marched to Alliant carrying signs and chanting, "Who profits? Who dies?" A guitar player led singing of songs reminiscent of the Vietnam era such as "Ain't Going to Study War No More."
Marchers stopped outside the Alliant offices where a line of police officers, sheriff's deputies and corporate security officers stood waiting. They held a brief rally where several speakers condemned Alliant for profiting from depleted uranium weapons.
Some wiped away tears as Carol Nauheimer recounted how her son, Patrick, lost a long battle with leukemia after serving in a cleanup detail with the Marines in Kuwait after the gulf war. Her daughter, Wendi, stood nearby and was later arrested.
"My question is, how many more families will have to bury a loved one or watch them suffer on both sides of this war?" Carol Nauheimer said. "If Alliant Tech and our administration had to walk in our shoes, our children's shoes or those of the sick Iraqi children, maybe then depleted uranium and wars would be a thing of the past."
Twenty-eight people were arrested for trespassing and were released later that morning. The misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of a $700 fine and 90 days in jail, said Edina police Sgt. Phil Larsen.
Alliant issued a brief statement contrasting the protesters with the troops now engaged in conflict with Iraq. "Their actions, regrettably, stand in sharp contrast to those of the brave men and women in our armed forces who are deployed to Iraq some of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country."
Alliant said it currently produces one round capable of carrying depleted uranium, which is provided by the federal government. It referred further questions to the Defense Department.
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