Sixty-nine anti-nuclear demonstrators, including many from Southern California, were taken into custody Friday when they blocked Interstate 95 near the Nevada underground nuclear test site.
A Department of Energy spokesman said it was the first time protesters had blocked the interstate that skirts the edge of the 1,350-square-mile test site facility.
“It is unusual and it’s dangerous too,” said department spokesman Derek Scammell, noting that drivers faced with the open stretch of highway often hit speeds of 70 m.p.h. “Out there in the desert, people put their foot on the pedal and go.”
Those taken into custody were booked on charges of being a public nuisance and released on their own recognizance. Authorities said they expect larger anti-nuclear protests today and Sunday.
The springtime protests at the test site have become something of an annual event in Mercury, a small town 68 miles north of Las Vegas. This year the demonstrations are timed to coincide with spring break of college students and the Christian observance of Lent.
This year’s weekend of protests is expected to be smaller than those in earlier years, and authorities are keeping a lower profile in guarding the area. The 1988 protest drew about 8,000 people, organizers said.
But some demonstrators say the blockade signals an increase in their level of intensity. “The ante goes up every year,” said Chuck Rundgren, 41, an accountant from Laguna Niguel who was among those taken into custody.