Las Vegas Sun

May 28, 2017

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Trump’s Las Vegas hotel draws attention, protesters, arson case

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John Locher / AP

Chris Knudson holds up a flag during a protest against drone warfare outside of the Trump International hotel Thursday, April 27, 2017, in Las Vegas. The protest was held a day after a man was accused of trying to set fire to the property. The incidents are just the latest targeting the president’s gold glass tower just off the Las Vegas Strip.

Anti-war demonstrators wanted attention Thursday when they moved their protest after several days from a remote U.S. Air Force base to the foot of the Trump International Hotel just off the Las Vegas Strip.

They nearly got more than they bargained for, after a man was accused of trying to set fire to the 64-story property less than a day earlier.

But no one — the U.S. Secret Service, police or protest organizers — said they knew of any link between the demonstrations against drone warfare and a 28-year man now facing arson charges after telling police in colorfully profane language that he just wanted to create mischief.

Police said the man used towels and toasters to ignite fires that were quickly doused in two places: a pool deck restroom and a 17th floor hallway.

"He didn't say anything about the president," said Metro Police Capt. John Pelletier, patrol commander of an area including the Trump hotel and the Strip corridor.

The fire and the peaceful rally marked the latest incidents to unfold around a gold glass tower that is becoming a lightning rod for rallies due to the name on the top.

"We're here because we want to say to the president, 'No bombs. No drones,'" said Gwen "gg" Winter, a grandmother from Oakland and member of the organization CodePink Women for Peace. She held a handmade poster reading, "No more mass murder. End the wars now."

The same sidewalk in front of the 1,282-room non-casino hotel drew union rallies during the presidential campaign, and "not my president" protests after Trump was elected in November.

A crowd of 250 gathered there on April 15 for a weekend "Tax Day" rally marked by the arrest of a local television photojournalist on misdemeanor trespassing and obstruction charges.

Trump hasn't been to Las Vegas since the campaign, and it wasn't clear whether he knew about Thursday's rally. It drew about as many police officers as the 20 demonstrators holding signs and flags.

Still, it attracted more immediate attention than the arrest of three protesters hours earlier after police said they blocked the busy U.S. 95 highway between Las Vegas and Creech Air Force base, where seven protesters were arrested Wednesday.

The three were booked into jail after they were accused of going vehicle-to-vehicle to try to identify drone operators on their way to work, police Officer Laura Meltzer said.

"The reason we take dramatic steps is to bring attention to the issues," said Eleanor Levine, a rally organizer, psychologist and former California State University East Bay professor.

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