International Day of Protest

Report from: Kennedy Space Center, Florida

By Mary Beth Sullivan


Eighty or more people first gathered about five miles outside the Kennedy Space Center’s tourist facility for a short rally. Speakers included Maria Telesca, a Brevard County activist, Carol Mosley, Coordinator for the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice (FCPJ), and Dr. Robert Bauman, retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, and president of the Institute for Space and Security Studies.

An article describing the event is attached to the bottom of this report. (Please note that the attendance reported is a gross underestimate.)

After the rally, we proceeded to the KSC tourist facility and spent two hours holding signs, banners, and handing flyers to tourists walking by.

It was a good event with a strong spirit. Some who came had spent time locally on street corners absorbing the anger (and in some cases violence) of those who see proclamations of nonviolence as unpatriotic today. We were prepared for more of the same, but as a friend reported, the worst comment she received was from a tourist who called her a “moron.”

We were restricted to stand in a specific area, so tourists needed to come to us to accept our flyers. Many did. One woman spent 45 minutes talking with Carol Mosley, and we expect will become the FCPJ’s newest member!

We were concerned about NASA security and how we would be treated today. In July, with a small demonstration of a dozen people, our “restricted” area had limited tourist access, included a hog pen we were asked to stand inside (we refused), and included a bogus arrest of one of our members.

There was a decidedly different security atmosphere this time out. There were moments when I actually felt some of the security staff were holding out olive branches to us.

We found that the “designated area” was significant and acceptable, but defined by a rope we had to stand behind. That was difficult to accept; some friends asked me what was the difference between the rope and a hog pen, and I didn’t have an answer. But thanks to the good spirit of our group, people took the restriction in stride, and proceeded to do their job: to give tourists some food for thought – something we accomplished with dignity and respect.

  

As Maria Telesca pointed out, our friends in dreadlocks attracted the attention of some of the younger kids; she and others attracted an older crowd; and all of us together shared an important presence. Maria’s networking with other Brevard County citizens who demonstrated with us will hopefully lead to a more frequent presence at the KSC.

I have to say, I rather enjoyed the negotiations with the security staff this time out. We didn’t get all that we wanted, but I felt we were respected as citizens who have a long history of peaceful protest at NASA facilities. Some security staff were almost apologetic that tourism has diminished so in the state and consequently we didn’t get as much tourist traffic as we might have wanted. They strongly supported a suggestion that next time we arrive earlier in the day to catch more tourists as they arrive at the facility, giving more people greater access to our message.

We don’t know why there was a change in attitude, but we were grateful for it.


 


40 protest space warfare
Space weapons won't help fight terrorism, protesters say
By Susan Jenks
FLORIDA TODAY Oct. 14, 2001

Wearing a "Keep Space for Peace" T-shirt, Miriam Welly Elliott drove from Gainesville to Brevard County on Saturday to join a peaceful protest against the use of weapons in space.

"The space program has been perverted in my view," said Elliott, a former Titusville resident, whose father is a retired NASA employee.

Although the excitement and magic of the space program is still there in the shuttle launches, she said, today's space program is "being polluted by a military agenda" specifically, the missile defense program known as "Star Wars" or the Strategic Defense Initiative, which still is under development.

The goal of this program is to find ways to destroy missiles in space before they reach their targets in the U.S. But Elliott, who lives in Gainesville, and some 40 other protesters at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center said the Star Wars program will lead to a final arms race between nations, while doing nothing to impede terrorism.

The protestors came from several groups: the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, Pax Christi Florida and the Green Party of Brevard, which supported consumer advocate Ralph Nader in the last presidential election.

Many in the group expressed sadness at the Sept. 11 terrorist assaults on New York City and Washington D.C., but they said the attacks illustrate how ineffective a missile defense system would be against future attacks.

"No Star Wars program is ever going to protect us against terrorism with a rental truck," said Dr. Robert Bowman, a retired United States Air Force Lt. Colonial and president of the Institute for Space and Security Studies in Viera.

Bowman suggested future terrorists would shun high technology tactics, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, for less costly low-technology approaches that have worked best in the past.

He said that's because no terrorist is apt to use a visible technology that leaves behind "a return address" or fingerprints of the responsible party. They are far more likely, Bowman said, to use a barge to come up the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., or plant explosives in "a whale swimming into San Francisco Bay."

Bowman and others spoke out against the retaliatory bombings under way against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"I'm heartsick about what happened here, but bombing Afghanistan is not the answer," said Maria Telesca of Rockledge, one of the organizers of the protest at KSC. Quoting Martin Luther King Jr., she said, "you can murder the hater, but not the hate."

One demonstrator, John Stewart of St. Petersburg, who belongs to the Catholic-based group Pax Christi, told the group he had attended a candlelight peace vigil recently - not knowing what else to do.

"Our nation is mourning," Stewart said. "I'm not sure the old things we used to say in the peace movement are the same things we should be saying today. How do you sum up what you see as the world's situation without seeming insensitive to a lot of grieving people?"

Fourteen-year-old Mike Girard didn't have the answer.

But the Jupiter Middle School student said he had come to the protest with his grandfather, and had agreed to wear a Darth Vader costume the cinematic symbol of evil when asked.

"I don't think we need weapons in space . . . And I don't think it's right to punish innocent people," he said, referring to the bombings in Afghanistan. "But we do need to get the ones who are responsible."



Home Page