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Allentown Morning Call

Forks Woman Is Fined For Vieques Action

She Jumped A Fence To Protest Navy Bombing On Puerto Rican Island.

By Garrett Therolf

September 26, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Allentown Morning Call. All rights reserved. 

A Forks Township woman who works in her family's toy factory, producing teddy bears and plush frogs, said she wandered into the dispute over Navy test bombings in Vieques , Puerto Rico , and faces time in a federal halfway house.

Susan Ravitz said a federal magistrate Tuesday sentenced her to spend 20 days in a halfway house, pay a $500 fine and remain on probation for one year for her protest.

Court officials in Puerto Rico did not return telephone messages seeking confirmation of the sentence.

Ravitz said she began traveling to Puerto Rico 35 years ago. She said she was attracted by its beaches and eventually bought a home on the slender island of Vieques , which is home to 9,000 people and has a particularly beautiful beach.

"[My husband and I] were very enchanted with the area," Ravitz said. "I didn't know so much about what [the Navy was] doing there."

The Navy has occupied a portion of the island for 60 years. Training exercises using bombs and live artillery have drawn aggressive protests since the death of a civilian guard during a bombing exercise three years ago.

President Bush promised last year to pull the Navy out of Vieques by the end of 2003.

Ravitz has joined several protests before and after that promise.

When she was arrested two weeks ago, she said, she jumped a fence into restricted Navy land. Accompanied by a friend and carrying a sign calling for the end of the exercises, Ravitz said, she was quickly arrested by military police and charged with trespassing.

"I see myself working for peace and justice," Ravitz said.

"I'm basically a pacifist type person [and] there seems to be a disregard for the well-being of the people [of Vieques ]."

It was the first time she faced charges for her protests, according to her husband, Artie.

Back at home, she has participated in protests against U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afganistan.

And Wednesday -- as she resumed work at Art's Toy Manufacturing Co. in Palmer Township -- Ravitz said her friends and colleagues were taking the news of her Puerto Rico arrest in stride.

"They've come to know, you know, that this is what I do now," she said.

"And you know we employ them so I don't think they'll speak out so much."

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