5 anti-missile protesters convicted

8 December 2001

By Christina Almeida


ASSOCIATED PRESS - LOS ANGELES -- A federal judge on Friday convicted five anti-missile protesters of trespassing at Vandenberg Air Force Base during an October 2000 demonstration protesting the militarization of space.

The convictions were the last in a series of nine non-jury trials that began in federal court Thursday with Bruce Gagnon, the demonstration's coordinator. He was convicted and sentenced to two years' probation and a $1,000 fine.

Seven protesters were convicted and two acquitted. Charges against five people were dismissed before the trials began and two entered guilty pleas.

The demonstration was part of an international day of protest organized by Gainesville, Fla.'s Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.

Film and television star Martin Sheen, who was among those taking part, pleaded guilty in June. Four others pleaded guilty earlier this week.

Sheen and the others were arrested as they tried to deliver a letter to Vandenberg's commander explaining their opposition to space-based weapons.

"While they have a constitutional right to voice their opinions, what they don't understand is that the military is there to protect those rights and they continued to defy, in the face of authority, the law," Capt. Michael T. Christy, special assistant U.S. attorney, said outside of court.

Those convicted were upbeat as they left court, saying they planned to appeal.

"The important thing is the struggle against 'Star Wars,'" said Bill Simpich, who represented himself and his fellow defendants. "Vandenberg Air Force Base, like other government institutions, are engaged in trying to squelch legal, nonviolent protest."

Simpich was convicted and sentenced to one year probation and a $200 fine.

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