International Day of Protest

Report from: Vandenberg AFB

By Sheila Baker

Yesterday we observed our Day of Protest to End Militarization of Space.

About 15 of us marched 8 miles from Lompoc California to the base of Vandenberg
AFB. Even before the march we encountered angry zealot American pro war, flag waving counter protesters.

Further up along the walk we saw two police cars pull away from a man standing with an American flag (a veteran). It really looked as if the police let him out of their car, i.e., brought him there.

We arrive at Vandenberg only to be greeted by the same group of flag wavers who greeted us with "God Bless America". After their song they circled around their flag and did the pledge of allegiance.

Our rally went great with Carah Ong of Nuclear Age Peace Foundation reading the statement from the Pacific Island Concerns (on behalf of the Kwajalein Islanders). Our wonderful Guadalupe Catholic Worker couple shared some thoughts, and our Cal Poly Progressive Student Alliance Disarm Co-director gave a small speech. Starhawk gave us her words of wisdom and did a wonderful chant. We had great music by two guitarists, and generally enjoyed a warm afternoon together.

We were 65 in number at the rally with our locals from Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo coming out stronger than ever. Santa Cruz DAN came as well as a few Bay Area folks.

The day was just great.

In Solidarity,

Sheila Baker

October 14 2001
Military backers, peace activists face off at Vandenberg
News-press Staff Writer

Peace activists who gathered outside Vandenberg Air Force Base on Saturday to protest the development of a national missile defense system found themselves narrowly outnumbered by flag-waving counter-demonstrators who sang patriotic songs and jeered.

Though the protesters insisted their annual vigil targeted a missile defense system they say is too expensive and unproven, counter-demonstrators seemed to interpret their dissent as a referendum on U.S. military action in Afghanistan.

The 75 peace activists were participating in the International Day of Protest to Stop the Militarization of Space, among similar events at 105 locations worldwide, including U.S. Air Force bases, federal buildings and aerospace industry sites. The protest, organized locally by the Vandenberg Action coalition, called for peaceful, non-military alternatives to the missile system being tested at Vandenberg.

Holding signs that read "Use Brains, Not Bombs," "Peace Prevents Terror," and "Wage Peace," some of the group marched along Highway 1 from downtown Lompoc to Vandenberg, getting pro and con commentary from passing motorists.

"We have been very aware that tensions are high and the situation could be more dangerous for us," said Carah Ong of the Santa Barbara-based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. "It was a tough decision to be out here today. It requires more courage to be a peace activist when what you are saying isn't popular."

Ms. Ong and other activists stood single-file just outside the base's main gate. Directly across Highway 1 was a group of about 100 counter-protesters.

Cursing and shouting "Where's your flag?" "You're un-American," and "Go home," the military supporters also cheered whenever vehicles sporting America flags drove by.

Many of the military supporters -- like Harold Neurnberg, a former Marine Corps colonel who served during World War II at Guadalcanal -- are retired from the service or work in the aerospace industry, and object to the timing of the protest, coming just a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I see the protest as an anti-military action, especially right now with all that's happening in the world," said Ann Ruhge, a retiree from Lompoc.

Others, including Lorin Bronson, offered harsher criticisms.

"These people are pacifists who will allow terrorists to commit genocide against us and other countries," said Mr. Bronson, a Lompoc resident.

Not so, said the peace activists. "We want a redefinition of security -- not based on military superiority, but based on human and environmental security," Ms. Ong said.

Security at Vandenberg remained tight as part of the heightened alert at all U.S. military installations since the terrorist attacks.

"We don't expect any trouble, but Vandenberg always enforces the appropriate level of security," said Capt. Thomas Knowles, base spokesman.

Unlike last year's protest, which resulted in federal trespassing arrests for actor Martin Sheen and 22 other peace demonstrators, Saturday's demonstration remained calm and uneventful.

No arrests were made, said Lt. Ken Reinstadler of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.

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