Secret Service agents yesterday sought to interview the Baltimore president of Irish Northern Aid, an organization which plans to protest at Memorial Stadium when the Queen of England attends an Oriole game May 15.
But they changed their mind when they found a reporter and a photographer from The Evening Sun sitting with John F. Oliveira, the local Noraid leader, and Brendan Walsh, a Noraid supporter and longtime human rights activist, on Oliveira's front porch.
Nonplused when the photographer snapped two pictures, the two agents protested mildly, then abruptly rose from their seats and left.
"Let it go at that," said the man who introduced himself to Oliveira as "Agent LaSorsa."
Agent Joseph LaSorsa had left a note in Oliveira's door Friday saying he been there "regarding an investigation."
Oliveira called La Sorsa's number, told him what Noraid planned to do, and set up the meeting for 2 p.m. yesterday. The agents arrived in two cars, about 40 minutes late.
Oliveira's Noraid chapter bought a block of 100 tickets for the May 15 Orioles-Oakland A's game. They plan to unfurl banners protesting Britain's presence in Northern Ireland. They'll bear such slogans as "England out of Ireland" and "One World/One Struggle/Free Ireland."
They'll sit in what used to be called the bleachers, $4.75 general admission seats in Section 29, just past the foul pole in fair territory, at least 309 feet down the right field line from home plate.
And they'll be considerably farther from Eli Jacobs' owner's box, where Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, and perhaps President Bush are scheduled to sit. The Secret Service is charged with protecting the president and distinguished foreign visitors.
The British Embassy said the queen and prince will be seeing their first baseball game. They are not expected to stay nine innings.
"We'll protest three innings," Oliveira said. "I think that's all she'll stay. And we want to enjoy the game.
"There will be people there just for a good time," he said. "People are bringing their families. So it's not a rigidly political protest."
It's not rigidly Irish either, he said.
"We have African-Americans," he said. "We have a Chinese student from Tiananmen."
Oliveira, 26, who works for an ambulance service, lives in the house that he grew up in on Greenwich Avenue south of Baltimore National Pike. He called his family hard-core Irish but more lace curtain than political.
He described Noraid as an organization that "raises money for IRA prisoners and political prisoners in the North [Northern Ireland], and for political education, too."
The IRA is the Irish Republican Army, the underground military wing of the resistance against the British in Northern Ireland. The IRA is outlawed in both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, and is called a terrorist organization by the British.
Critics have charged Noraid uses money raised in the United States to buy guns, bullets and bombs for the IRA.
"They don't," Oliveira said.
But he conceded he supports the IRA's struggle.
"I don't support violence at all," said Walsh, who has often been arrested in anti-war and anti-nuclear protests. "I support the struggle for justice and human rights in Ireland."
Oliveira has protested frequently for the Irish cause, most recently at the White House in February when Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of Britain, was awarded the Medal of Freedom. He's never been arrested.
Two complementary tickets came with the block of 100 the INA bought. Oliveira sent one to Joe Doherty, an IRA member who has been in a New York jail since 1983 fighting extradition to Northern Ireland on murder charges, and the other to Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA. Adams has been barred from visiting the United States.