Peaceful protest held against military firing range

Prutehi Litekyan rally against firing range. (PNC photo)

A little rain didn’t stop the Prutehi Litekyan-Save Ritidian peaceful protest from happening at the ITC building and Adelup last Saturday.

Maria Hernandez May, a Prutehi Litekyan member and whose great grandfather is one of the original land owners of Ritidian, says she didn’t expect this many people to show up because of the pandemic. However, she is glad that the island community is willing to show their support physically and admires their passion.

In a live video stream posted on their FB page, May says the reason Prutehi Litekyan as well as other organizations are protesting is because residents have been denied a public hearing for the surface danger zone over Ritidian which is going to extend about 2.8 miles into the ocean.

“The fishermen of the Fishermen’s Co-op have come out and they’ve spoken out against the loss of one of the best waters to fish. We have our yoamte, our healers, who have come out and they’ve said Ritidian is one of the places where we can find our rare among,” May said.

She added: “We are being told that the range will only be in operation for 273 days of the year but that’s actually the minimum of days because we were told at one point, it might be used for local groups but it could be closed for the entire year indefinitely. We’re upset, we’re concerned. They told us that they have enough information that they don’t need a public hearing and we’re saying that this is a significant part of our history, a significant part of our culture and we’re not going to stand for being silenced and not being provided an opportunity to speak out.”

Senator Sabina Perez believes that there is a chance to stop the further destruction of these sacred sites and says her reasoning for protesting is because having the gun range is going to be harmful to island residents.

“As you know, they’re going to shoot 6.7 million bullets every year which contains lead. Lead has been banned since the 1980s in the US. In 1999, in Guam, for the very reason that it’s harmful to our health, I think this is the single most important thing we could do to stop the operation of this firing range to protect the future generations and our generations. If lead were to appear in our waters, we would have to end up cleaning it ourselves and that would increase water rates and we don’t want our community to be stuck with that problem. We want to protect the health of our community,” Perez said.

The senator says she will continue to bring awareness to this issue. She also would like to reach out to Guam’s local leaders, Governor Lou Leon Guerrero as well as President Biden to assist and possibly redirect the firing range and prevent it from being operated.