Protest at Cape Canaveral

October 8 2000

By Mary Beth Sullivan

Sixty-five people gathered at the front entrance to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Saturday, October 7 to join the international protest against the militarization of space. The theme of our gathering was influenced by Pax Christi USA's Bread Not Stones campaign opposing a $300 billion U.S. military budget at the expense of continued unmet basic human needs in this country and around the world. On display at the rally was a mock rocket built by the children attending the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice's Peace Camp last summer. It featured some statistics that tell the story of human suffering here in Florida. Inside the rocket were bags full of items symbolizing OUR funding priorities: food for the hungry, health care, child care, adult literacy programs, and homes for the homeless. The food will be brought to the homeless shelter in which one of our members works.

Early on in the demonstration, Maria Telesca-Whipple read the statement from the religious women who last month participated in the Sacred Earth and Sky Plowshares Action. She then read her own short statement, and with blessings from all, and with her own graceful determination, she carried a loaf of bread onto the Air Force base as a sign of life, stating: "Who among us would not give our starving children bread instead of stone?" She was arrested and released on bail the same day. Her statement is attached to the end of this report.

At the end of the rally, the group brought a letter addressed the Commander at the Air Force Station to the gate. It was received by security staff, with the promise it would be delivered to the base commander. The letter follows this report.

The demonstration was co-sponsored by the Global Network, the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, and Pax Christi Florida. We were grateful to see representatives from local Amnesty International affiliates at the demonstration (remarks by one member presented at the demonstration are also attached here), various local Green party representatives, and members of local chapters of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Veterans for Peace, and many other political, peace and justice, and religious organizations. Many commented that when they heard there would be 65 demonstrations around the world, they were inspired to make the long trip to Cape Canaveral in solidarity. Thanks to all for their great efforts.

Statement by Maria Telesca-Whipple before entering the base:

I, like the women of the recent Plowshares Action, am also tired and disillusioned with the actions of this country. My spiritual base comes from the Mother Earth, giver of all life. She is being destroyed at a terrible rate, and now we want to proceed to do the same in space? This is untenable! I am the mother of two small children who sees the damage being done every day in Brevard County: trees plowed under where once there were woods; 1 in 5 children going hungry -- that's 1 in 5! And especially with my 7 year old daughter, I've watched the hope fading in her eyes as she realizes that this country just doesn't care anymore. We are the strongest, most powerful nation on the planet, yet our government feels this is not enough -- we must, in their words, "control space" as well. Rogue nations, from which BMD is to protect us, are not likely to launch a nuclear attack on the U.S. This is ludicrous. They will more likely send someone with a bomb in a truck or other terrorist action that the BMD could not possibly protect us from. Well, I proclaim myself a rogue. I wear black today in mourning for the people, creatures, and earth who are being cast aside so money can be spent on star wars programs. I carry bread with me as I do my action because I'm offering a choice of life, not death. Who among us would not give our starving children bread instead of stone?

Letter to Base Commander

An open letter to Brigadier General Donald Pettit , Commander, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station:

We are here at the front gate of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on October 7 to join the International Day of Protest to Stop the Militarization of Space.

Cape Canaveral is a site which launches the satellites used to spy around the world, the satellites used to direct current war fighting, and the satellites planned to be used in National and Theater Missile Defense Systems. We are also aware that Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center are under consideration as sites to test Space-Based Laser Systems.

When the Clinton administration took office, it was ceremoniously announced that Star Wars was dead. However, many citizens were unaware that the $3 billion dollars each year then spent on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was transferred by President Clinton and the Pentagon into the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO). Instead of the death of Star Wars, we find new generations of space-based weapons are under development. Laser weapons, anti-satellite weapons, new generations of war-fighting satellites, and now the National and Theater Missile Defense Systems are all being funded, developed and tested.

Russia and China have been asking the U.N. Commission on the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space to begin negotiations on a total ban on weapons in space. The U.S. refuses to enter any discussions on the subject.

It is evident to us that the Pentagon and aerospace corporations are pushing for a new arms race in space. This effort is a massive waste of American citizens' hard-earned tax dollars and it will surely create increased global instability as our nation moves to take "control" of space.

We have seen the U.S. Space Command's document called Vision for 2020 which calls for U.S. global domination by seizing the "high ground" of space.

  • We demand that the Pentagon stop all efforts to move the arms race into space.
  • We demand an end to continued testing of National and Theater Missile Defense Systems.
  • We demand a true end to Star Wars!

As part of the global movement to stop the nuclearization and weaponization of space, we will not stand by idly and witness the bad seeds of war, greed, and environmental degradation be moved into the heavens. Know that those of us at Cape Canaveral are not alone in this protest. On this very weekend, there are 65 protests, nationally and internationally, in locations ranging from Adelaide, Australia to White Sands, New Mexico. The protests are taking place in 16 nations, and in over 38 U.S. cities.

We urge the personnel at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to refuse to participate in continued efforts to move the arms race into space. We invite you to peruse our website at:

In peace, [Signed by action attendees]

Statement by Rodrick Colbert, a graduate student at the University of South Florida, and a member of Amnesty International

A New Vision of International Relations

As a child, one of my favorite television programs was The Big Blue Marble. The title of the program came from the photo of the planet earth taken from the moon. Our planet seemed so peaceful, so tranquil.

In that program, each segment spotlighted a different culture from around the globe. The program made our planet in all its difference and all its variety seem so enriching and fascinating.

It should be no surprise that The Big Blue Marble was a child's program. For only a child would have such an all-embracing vision.

As I grew older, I began to realize that the difference between humans was not a cause of wonderment, but rather of distrust, suspicion, discord, and all too often, hate.

Being old enough to remember the cold war, I soon learned that I had a pre-selected enemy.

There were others on the big blue marble called communists who hated me so much that we needed nuclear weapons pointed at them.

Well, fellow activists, I thought those days were over. Yet, unfortunately the possibility of rekindling this poisonous air of "trust but verify" might start again.

That is why I am here today.

I want a new vision of international relations. It comes from my childhood.

One in which all the people of the earth sincerely embrace one another with the most purity of motive to begin to build an united human civilization that benefits all.

Let's keep Space for Peace! Let's keep Space for Peace! Let's keep Space for peace!

On July 16, 1969, just over my shoulder, the Apollo 11 left the planet and shortly landed on the moon. The astronauts were the first humans to gaze back at their home; an awesome vision of a peaceful Big Blue Marble.

Woman arrested protesting militarization of space

October 8 2000

By Kelly Young, FLORIDA TODAY News Story

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - A woman was arrested on trespassing charges during a peaceful protest against the militarization of space Saturday afternoon outside Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Maria Telesca-Whipple of Rockledge flashed a peace sign as she walked past the main gate onto the base. Dressed in black, she presented a security official with a loaf of bread before being arrested for trespassing on government property.

A resounding theme of the protest was bread, not weapons. That was based on the notion that the government should spent money on human needs instead of weapons.

"I proclaim myself a rogue today," Telesca-Whipple, a mother of two, told the crowd before being arrested and taken away in a Brevard County Sheriff's Office cruiser. "I'm offering a choice of life, not death, as a rogue."

The U.S. government is concerned with the build-up of weapons of mass destruction in "rogue" states such as North Korea and Iraq.

Mary Beth Sullivan, with the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, spoke against the National Missile Defense program. The system is designed to locate, track and destroy incoming missiles from those countries. President Clinton decided to leave the decision on whether to pursue the program to his successor.

"We want some real discussion of real issues, and that's why we're here today," John Stewart of the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice told the crowd of more than 60 people, some of whom needed canes to walk and some of whom barely reached their mothers' waists.

The protest was organized by the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, Pax Christi Florida and the Global Network. Representatives of the Green Party also attended the event, which was one of 65 being held around the world to protest weapons in space.

Air Force 1st Lt. Alana Austin said extra Air Force personnel were at the entrance Saturday.

"Our job here is to protect the Constitution of the United States" and the group's freedom of speech, Austin said, adding that it was also important to keep the military installation safe.

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