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Nine jailed in protest of Scripps' Florida facility

Environmentalists dumped sand and rotten oranges in a county development board's office in a protest of plans to build the Scripps biotech research facility in a rural citrus grove.

Nine protesters were arrested Monday after storming the offices of the Palm Beach County Business Development Board, police said. They ruined an Oriental rug in the lobby foyer by stomping the fruit, officials said.

Two protesters had to be removed by the Fire Department after they used bicycle locks to chain themselves to a stairway railing in the agency's lobby, police said.

The protesters were objecting to plans to build Scripps Florida in a citrus grove west of Palm Beach Gardens. They argue the facility will increase suburban sprawl, pose environmental hazards and hurt the fragile Everglades.

As police arrested the eight men and one woman, more than 20 protesters affiliated with the radical environmental group Earth First stood across the street from the office, with signs opposing Scripps' development.

Scripps announced in 2003 that it would expand to Florida after being recruited by Gov. Jeb Bush, who said it would help diversify the state's economy by luring more high-tech companies and jobs.

The development board persuaded Scripps to choose Palm Beach County for its Florida facility, leading to the selection of Mecca Farms, a 1,919-acre citrus grove. The county and state have pledged roughly $800-million to buy the land, build the facility, pay its operating costs for seven years and develop a biotech cluster around the institute.

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