[Last update: 6 June 2001]

Protests at U.S. Space Command

  May 24, 2001 
  For Immediate Release & Distribution 

  from Rising Wind Press (2001) 
  by  Peter Lumsdaine

Vandenberg Air Force Base, California -- The largest U.S. Space Command facility in the world was forced to suspend business as usual and move onto "Threat Con Bravo" alert, two security levels above usual, for at least six days in a row this month, as more than 300 global justice activists from the Vandenberg Action Coalition confronted Space Command troops, and nearly two dozen nonviolent resisters peacefully infiltrated the base's inner security zones.

"This campaign is just getting under way," said a statement from Vandenberg Action Coalition organizers, dated May 24. "We are putting the U.S. Space Command on notice that their satellite guidance of rainforest defoliation planes and military terror in Colombia, their enforcement of corporate globalization at gunpoint, their machinery of global surveillance and global war, will run into increasing direct resistance if they persist in this criminal pattern of serial high-tech violence."

Vocally challenging the U.S. Space Command's key role in military enforcement of corporate interests through wars such as the current offensive in Colombia, concerned people from throughout California - joined by others from Oregon, Arizona, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ireland - gathered at the front gate of Vandenberg Air Force Base, hours away from any major urban area, on Armed Forces Day, May 19.

Speakers included Nisha Anand of War Resisters League; builder and poet Guari Delgado; Zapatista solidarity organizer Ukahri Rivas; and Sophia Santiago of the Vandenberg Action Coalition. Groups of students, seniors, workers, anarchists and Catholics, among others, joined the demonstration - while street theater, a "die-in", music, banners and puppets swirled through the crowd. Nine counter-protestors waved signs.

The 300 demonstrators faced off against scores of helmeted U.S. Space Command troops in camoflage combat fatigues and heavy boots, with three-foot clubs and growling guard dogs, backed by an Air Force water cannon on stand-by, Special Forces officers in black berets, and a circling helicopter gunship. Police warned demonstrators that pepper spray devices were at the ready.

Twenty-three people were arrested at the main gate on the 19th as onlookers sang "We Shall Overcome" and "This Land is Your Land"; four organizers were charged with trespass while on a public road in the weeks before the action; and ten other activists were charged with double trespass and conspiracy for hiking deep into South Vandenberg's satellite launch zones.

The Space Command security alert centered on backcountry resistance actions by members of the Vandenberg Action Coalition, where small groups of hikers infiltrated the base's security zones, often at night, similar to recent incursions into the U.S. Navy's bombing range at Vieques, Puerto Rico.

Such incursions at Vandenberg force suspension of business as usual at the base, to varying degrees, by breaching security areas and violating security regulations at the vast, highly sensitive facility - which launches military satellites into orbit and fires nuclear missile tests at Micronesia's Kwajalein Atoll.

Nonviolent resistance teams, known as "affinity groups", hiked deep into Vandenberg's southern security areas, hanging banners at Air Force satellite tracking dishes and high on a mountaintop military communications tower inside the 98,000 acre base. Despite Space Command patrols with trucks, motorcycles, helicopters and infrared detection equipment, half of the 20 backcountry infiltrators avoided apprehension by security troops.

A five-day base camp in the nearby Santa Ynez Mountains provided camping, briefings and participatory "spokecouncil" discussions for close to 100 of the action participants. The 37 recent arrests, following 12 in July and 23 in October, bring the total to 72 demonstrators taken into custody at Vandenberg since the nonviolent resistance campaign was restarted one year ago. Trespass cases from all three actions are still pending, as federal prosecutors and Space Command officials ponder their strategy in dealing with the resistance.

Coaliton organizers are calling for a strategic California statewide nonviolent resistance action at Vandenberg on October 13, the international day of action sponsored by the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.

                           (end of article) 
[See also articles in Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, Santa Barbara News Press, Santa Maria Times, Lompoc Record, Santa Cruz Sentinel, Indymedia and elsewhere]

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By Scott Galindez

On May 20th I joined 5 other activists on a journey into secured areas at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Vandenberg is part of the Air Force's space command. National Missile Defense Tests are conducted there along with the launching of satellites used to give intelligence to corporations and death squads throughout the world.

"The globalization of the world economy will also continue, with a widening between the 'haves' and the 'have nots'...military forces have evolved to protect national interests, both military and economic. During the rise of sea commerce nations built navies to protect and enhance their commercial interests. During the westward expansion of the United States, military outposts and cavalries emerged....The emergence of space power follows both of these models"
-"vision for 2020" U.S. Space Command planning document assembled under General Howell M. Estes III.

As the January 31st, 2001 New York Times confirmed, US Military Satellites are now guiding the defoliation, planes, helicopter gun ships, and elite military strike teams as the accelerate their offensive in Southern Colombia leaving the Jungle in the Times's words-"a pale brown wiped free of vegetation for miles around"- while the rightist death squads move in behind the official army.

I entered the base to bear witness on the evil being conducted on that base. I want to make it clear that I oppose the activities that are being carried out by the United States Government and will resist these actions until they are stopped. I want it to be perfectly clear that I am doing everything I can to prevent this greater evil from happening even if I have to violate laws to do so because I believe my actions are necessary to prevent a greater evil.

I spent many hours on the base traveling through the beautiful wildlife refuge, at times coming upon various installations with warning signs about the use of deadly force, and toxic dangers. We were in an area that is often contaminated by a process that they use for the fuels. The arresting offers were relieved to hear that the Fuel complex was closed because it is an area that on many days they are not allowed in because of toxins in the air.

The 6 of us and another affinity group of 4 people are charged with Conspiracy to Commit a Misdemeanor (a "Class A" misdemeanor, with 1 year in jail and a $100,000 fine as maximum penalties) and two different charges of crossing onto a military base without the commander's permission, basically Trespassing charges (one of which is another Class A misdemeanor and the other is a "Class B" misdemeanor, with a 6 month jail term and a $5,000 max penalty).

Brian Buckley and Jeff Deitrich of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker are currently being held without bond and have a hearing scheduled for June 5th for a preliminary hearing. They are scheduled to be arraigned on June 11th, while the rest of us are returning to court on June 18th.

In all there were 33 arrests, 10 were for back country actions and the Government is using the conspiracy statute to increase the pressure on the Back Country activists & my message to them is that I will continue to resist and do everything I can to put Vandenberg Air Force Base on Trial.

Important Dates
  • Tuesday, June 5, 4:30 pm, in courtroom 1439 -- preliminary hearings to determine probable cause for binding over to trial for three activists, including two of the self-represented activists
  • Monday, June 11, 8:30 am, in courtroom 1439 -- post-indictment hearings for the four activists who were not released today (May 21st???)
  • Monday, June 18, 8:30 am, in courtroom 1439 -- post-indictment hearings for the remaining seven activists

  • for More information call Scott 213-389-2991

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