Authorities prepare for Rocky Flats protests

April 16, 1999

WESTMINSTER, Colo. (AP) - No date has been set for the shipment of waste from the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant to a dump in New Mexico, but law enforcement agencies are already gearing up for possible protests along the way.

A task force made up of Westminster and Broomfield police, the Jefferson and Adams County sheriff's departments and the Colorado State Patrol will meet next week to discuss ways to handle potential disturbances.

"We are discussing how to collaborate with each other to make sure the movement of the trucks from Rocky Flats are not impeded," said Lt. Bill Mason of the Westminster police department.

"We will have advance notice of when shipments will move and will have personnel in place," said Mason.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, N.M., the nation's first nuclear dump, received its first truckload of nuclear waste late last month from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the New Mexico city.

Protesters lined the route around Santa Fe during the first shipment and at one point attempted to block the highway.

Mason said demonstrations are fine as long as they don't interfere with the movement of the trucks.

"We recognize that people have a constitutional right to protest," Mason said. "They can scream and holler and carry a placard. But they do not have the right to interfere with traffic. We will keep the highways open."

A flier issued this month by the Boulder-based Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center has sparked concerns about possible protests when nuclear waste from Rocky Flats finally makes its way to New Mexico.

The group has exhausted administrative remedies to keep WIPP from opening and "now must be ready for nonviolent action, both in New Mexico and Rocky Flats," the fliers said.

Betty Ball of the Peace and Justice Center said actions can be defined as anything from writing letters and speaking out at meetings, to nonviolent civil disobedience.

"We have not determined what form that 'action' will take," she said. "We are opposed to WIPP. It is not going to clean up anything."