MERCURY, Nev. — Nearly 500 anti-nuclear protesters were arrested on misdemeanor trespassing charges Sunday in an annual Easter demonstration against weapons testing at this remote desert site 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, authorities said.
Many of the 493 protesters arrested and some security officers suffered minor cuts and scrapes when an estimated 100 activists rushed across a cattle barrier on a road leading to Mercury and temporarily overwhelmed guards, officials said. The others were arrested without resistance.
"It got a little out of hand," said U.S. Department of Energy spokesman Derek Scammell. "Usually they cooperate peacefully. But this year there was more of a hard-core element that became involved in a confrontation with our security personnel."
Scammell estimated there were as many as 1,500 protesters, but he said demonstration organizers estimated the crowd at closer to 2,000. Groups have been coming to the test site for the last decade in an effort to halt nuclear testing.
On Friday night, 134 activists were arrested for allegedly blocking nearby U.S. 95 close to where the demonstrators were encamped for the weekend, and another 138 arrests were reported Saturday, Scammell said.
One protest group was the 100th Monkey organization, headed by Rick Springer, 41. Springer was arrested last Monday after he ran on stage during a speech by former President Ronald Reagan in Las Vegas.
Those arrested over the weekend were cited and released.