For August 27, 1997
[oh boy! here we go! those &%$#! protesters!]
County gears up for Cassini Launch

By John Tuohy

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - A force of 121 state and county police officers will stand guard outside Cape Canaveral on Oct. 4, when 5,000 peace activists are expected to protest the Oct. 6 launch of NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

The officers will help the U.S. Air Force keep protesters from entering the launch pad area, while marine and air units from the state and Brevard County will help the U.S. Coast Guard watch the restricted area at sea.

The cost to the Sheriff's Office for training 56 officers in crowd control techniques, overtime, processing and detention of any arrested protesters, as well as use of equipment, is expected to exceed $164,000, Mike Abels, the sheriff's director of administrative services, told the Brevard County Commission on Tuesday.

The specific costs were not made public because it could jeopardize security, said Bob Sarver, director of planning and research for the sheriff.

Abels said he will ask the Air Force to reimburse the county for the full $164,000.

The County Commission unanimously approved a $40,000 allocation from the sheriff's contingency fund to pay for the training exercises.

The Florida Highway Patrol will send 65 officers to the site, Sarver said. Capt. Joe Schmidt of the Highway Patrol already said the sheriff's officers will take the same training course his officers are required to take.

Four county marine unit boats and four helicopters will provide assistance during the protests, Sarver said.

Peace activists have vowed to use any means to stop the launch of the $3.2 billion rocket - including walking through alligator-infested swampland and parachuting onto the site - because it will be carrying 72 pounds of radioactive plutonium.

The Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, a Gainesville-based group, is concerned that the plutonium could be released during an accident, sending radioactive dust harmful to humans into the air.

Both police and protesters anticipate arrests during the nonviolent demonstration.

The cancellation of a Delta rocket launch Sunday because a shrimp boat accidentally entered a danger zone illustrated how vulnerable to disruption space launches are.

The Cassini launch is not the first time NASA launches have been targeted by protesters.

In 1987, 4,000 people demonstrated an unarmed test flight of a Trident 2 nuclear missile. There were 138 arrests of people trying to climb the Air Station's gate.

The launches of Galileo and Ulysses probes aboard space shuttles, which each held 50 pounds of plutonium, also drew protests in the late 1980s.

The Cassini probe will take seven years to get to Saturn, where it will study the planet's rings, atmosphere and moons.

Compliments of Proposition One Committee