100 Cubans Rampage at St. Elizabeths

By Mike Sager
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 20, 1980; 12:00 AM

About 100 Cuban refugees, transferred to St. Elizabeths Hospital here last week for treatment of mental and emotional problems, briefly took over one of the buildings on the tree-lined grounds yesterday, smashing several windows, destroying furniture and setting a small fire before security guards brought them under control.

D.C. Police reported no injuries in the half-hour long distrubance, which broke out at about 2 p.m. According to a police spokesman, the outbreak began when the Cubans became upset after they noticed St. Elizabeths workmen installing iron gates on the first floor windows of the two-story building where they were housed. The fire, set in a trash can in the rear of the first floor, quickly was doused by hospital firefighters. All of the incidents, the spokesman said, were confined to the first floor.

The refugees are being housed in Building B, in the northwest section of the brick-walled institution on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE in Congress Heights.

Building B, the police spokesman said, is under the control of the U.S. Public Health Service. Privately employed Brinks security guards were, as usual, patroling the inside of the building yesterday, while members of the D.C. Police Special Operations Division were brought in wearing riot gear to patrol the perimeter of the building.

Local and federal officials said the Cubans, most of whose emotional problems developed during the mass exodus of about 126,000 refugees by boat from Cuba to the U.S. earlier this year, were transferred to St. Elizabeths when the two camps they had been housed in, Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania, were closed down because neither was winterized.

Officials said last week that virtually all of the refugees are considered treatable and eventually are expected to be settled in the United States without further problems.

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