Protesters, Supporters Greet U.S. Warships
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) _ More than 200 demonstrators shouted anti-nuclar slogans Thursday to protest the arrival of two U.S. warships, but another group welcomed the Americans with verses of ″The Star Spangled Banner.″
Police arrested 15 people when the demonstrators, in a futile bid to prevent the crews of the two destroyers from coming ashore, tried to block the wharf where the USS Buchanan and the USS John Young docked. Authorities said the four women and 11 men would appear Friday in Brisbane Magistrate’s Court.
The demonstrators greeted the warships, which had concluded exercises with Australian naval vessels off the east coast, with placards bearing slogans such as, ″Take the toys from the boys.″
But as the destroyers tied up at the wharf, about 100 people sang the U.S national anthem and carried placards supporting the ANZUS defense treaty that links Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
The 34-year-old alliance has been the center of controversy since last fall when New Zealand banned nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed ships from its ports.
The United States asked last month to send the Buchanan on a visit to New Zealand. Under a longstanding policy, Washington refused to say whether the ship carried nuclear weapons, and New Zealand denied it permission to visit.
Last week, the Buchanan was greeted by anti-nuclear demonstrations in Sydney, Australia’s largest city.
Protesters in Brisbane had planned to meet the ships as they sailed into Moreton Bay, spokesman Lee Bermingham said.But rain and winds topping 30 mph forced a change of plans.
″We wanted to register a protest, but not put lives at risk,″ Bermingham said.
Australian fleet commander Rear Adm. Geoffrey Woolrych later declined to discuss what he termed the ″politics″ of the protest. ″The government has established its policy, and the navy complies with it,″ he said at a news conference.
The Australian government supports the ANZUS alliance and allows visits by U.S. warships capable of carrying nuclear arms.