PROTEST Army "Attack" On Public Housing In Chester, PA FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 20 May 1999 18:01:13 -0700 (PDT)


For ON-LIST REPLIES, *CHANGE* TO-LINE To: <HPN@ASPIN.ASU.EDU>

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Why do you think the USA military is conducting training exercises
in housing projects and poor urban neighborhoods?

These Urban Warrior "attacks" are training soldiers - for what?

FWD via CRCQL [CONTACT Re: upcoming PROTEST of event reported below]
Zulene Mayfield
Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living
610-485-6683
CRCQL1@aol.com
http://www.penweb.org/chester/
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Philadelphia Inquirer, May 18, 1999
ARMY USES CHESTER PUBLIC HOUSING FOR TRAINING EXCERCISES

Troops came in with explosives and ammunition.  The units are vacant.
Still, neighbors and some officials are shocked.

By Dan Hardy, Inquirer Suburban Staff

Chester - Acting under the cloak of darkness, 100 Army Special Operations
troops descended on two vacant public housing complexes in three training
exercise and terrified nearby residents and surprised even the housing
director.  "It was just a special-operations training in a urban
environment, practicing how they would look at a target buidling and how
they would attack it, " Army Special Operations spokesman Walkter Sokalski
said.  He said the troops, based in Fort Bragg, NC used special-training
ammunition that disintergrated on contact and small explosives designed to
blow in doors.  He said Chester residents "were at no time at risk" during
the operations, which were carried out on Wednesday night at McCafferty
Village in the West End on Saturday and Sunday nights in Lamokin Village
near the Commodore Barry Bridge.  Both complexes are slated to be
demolished and rebuilt.  Residents of the areas around the two projects,
some of whom were notified hours beforehand of a "law-enforcement training
exercise," said they found the experience startling and intimidating.

"There was a whole lot of noise, like bombs exploding and people shooting
off automatic weapons," said Manuel Cooper, who lives across Highland
Avenue from the McCafferty training site.  "I saw people runnig in and out
of buildings with pistols in their hands like they were really after
somebody."  Michael Lundy, executive director of the Chester Housing
Authority, said he was told a month ago that the military was considering a
training operation.  He said he could not agree with it "right on the spot"
because he was concerned about the negative image of Army troops with
weapons in a public-housing area.  He said the Army never called back, and
"the first time I heard about it after that was after it had already
happened."  Sokalski said there was little advance notification because "we
have to protect what we call out tactics, techiniques and procedures.  If
any future foreigh enemy knows what we do . . ., the things we have learned
and trained upon are of no value.  The more than 20 other urban
counterterrorism exercises by the Army across the country since 1994 have
provoked similar reactions  In March 1997, the City of Charlotte, NC.,
evicted the Army after the first night of a would-be three night stand
after public outcry.  Likewise, the army cut short its stay in Houston and
Pittsburgh when its activities, which typically involved fatique-clad
soldiers bearing arms and setting off minor charges, prompted fears.

Most Special Operations trianing is conducted at military facilities,
Sokalski said.  Exercises like the one in Chester are "a means for a
commander to test his [troops'] training in other environments. . . If you
want the best soldiers on your side, then they have to be well-trained by
repetition and by doing it in different environments."  Residents a few
blocks away from the McCafferty Village training site were not told about
the exercise.  "I heard a loud noise like an explosion," said Elmire Green,
who lives about two blocks from the stagging area.  "About three minutes
later, there was another one and the sound of shooting.  I was terrified.
I was frozen in a state of confusion; I was so scared I couldn't sleep all
night."

Chester was picked for the operation, Sokalski said, partly becasue there
was a high degree of cooperation from local officials.  "We contacted the
mayor, the police, the fire department and the [Chester Housing Authority]
director of techinical services, " he said.  "they said, We have the
authority to sign the paper' [authorizing the training].  We don't
contradict these folks by going and checking with other people.  We had
what we thought were all the correct blocks checked."

But Lundy, who oversees the Housing Authority, said he did not know about
it.  His public-safety director, Joseph Anthony, had been called at the
last minute and told to help out.  "He was given the impression that I knew
about the operation and had sanctioned it," Lundy said.  "That was not the
case."

Mayor Dominic F. Pileggi did not return repeated calls for comment
yesterday.

Police Commissioner Wendell N. Butler Jr. said: "[Army Speical Operations
Command officials] gave me their credentials and said they wanted to use a
federal housing site.  I didn't get they impression that if I said no, they
couldn't do it."  Butler said he urged the Army representatives to get in
touch with Lundy.  "I certainly gave them his name, " he said.  "I thought
they were on the same page."

Yesterday, State Rep. Thaddeus Kikland (D, Delaware), who represents
Chester, decried the operation:  "I think it's totally wrong.  You don't
hold Army covert operations in a residential setting....I don't see them
doing this in any other neighborhoods or communities.  It seems like if
it's Chester, they just do what they want to do...  What did we get out of
this, except for a bunch of frightened people and a lot of confusion?"

Sokalski took a different view.  "this training is important," he said.
"It has proven itself in numerous operations that the US Army saves lives.
This Army saves lives. We want to thank the communities for being a part of
saving people's lives in the future."

***

From: "Zulene Mayfield, Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living"
<CRCQL1@aol.com>

Dear friends,

I am not sure how to put this.  This community has been through so many
injustices, but recently we've had the final straw placed upon us.  We are
experiencing a living hell.  We have had trash trucks run over us, have
tons of sewage pumped into the community, have thousands of tons of trash
burned here, have millions of pounds of pollutants dropped on us but the
latest attack has taken this fight to a total low.  Beginning on May 13th
at around 6:00 pm, a troop of the Army special forces division of Fort
Bragg, NC disguised as police officers "took" over a public housing project
and conducted what they are calling "urban warfare maneuvers."  Without any
notice, they began playing wargames using plastic bullets (something they
are calling breach bombs), helicopters, etc.  On May 14th, I went to our
council meeting and questioned the mayor on who authorized this to occur.
He said he needed to confer with our police chief (who incidently was
sitting in the audience).  When pressed on the matter, he refused to
comment and they promptly ended the meeting.  They have since then been
taking messages from people who are calling the mayor's office, having the
police commissioner call them back and tell them that if they have
complaints to call our Congressman Brady's office.  We have contacted
Brady's office and are awaiting a response.  But the ultimate responsiblity
lies with the oppressive corrupt
republican government here that has allowed the 4th largest incinerator,
sewage, soil burners, tire burning, bioremediation of contaminated soil,
etc.  In fact, it is believed that industry has a special line to call into
the mayors office (who by the way is up for re-election and is being
opposed by a financially struggling
democratic party).  The Mayor's office is denying involvement.  The Chester
Residents Concerned for Quality Living (CRCQL) is calling for massive
marches!!!  We have called for a massive planning meeting.  We will post
when the march will be.  Please send the butthole in the Mayor's office
your letters, phone calls, etc.  We want them to feel the heat.  His number
is 610-447-7723; fax 610-447-7706.  When we determine what military
butthole is at fault we will also post the information.  Please call me to
help publicize these activities 610-485-6683 or 610-485-7730.

END FORWARD

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