Nearly 50 gather to protest Redstone space defense work
- Group holds vigil at arsenal's Gate 9 in objection to U.S. involvement in nuclear arms

17 March 2001

Huntsville Times Business Writer

The protest songs may have been drowned out by the sharp wind and passing cars, but the banners directed at motorists leaving Redstone Arsenal on Friday afternoon bore a similar message: ''No nuclear power in space.''

A group of nearly 50 protesters - including Catholic nuns, chanting Buddhists, guitarists and ''Veterans for Peace'' - gathered outside the arsenal's Gate 9 to support the Florida-based Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. Huntsville's work on National Missile Defense and space research programs drew the interest of the Global Network.

The organization expects about 100 participants from 20 states for its conference today at the Holiday Inn-Space Center and for Sunday's planned demonstration at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

The protesters took up their banners as they gathered along the shoulder near where Redstone employees exit the base. There was an occasional honk, an angry gesture or two from motorists and plenty of traffic passing the signs that urged, ''Stop the bomb'' and ''Keep space nuclear free.''

Chris Gutierrez traveled from Santa Monica, Calif., for Friday's vigil. She said she was not deterred by skeptics who contend that nuclear weapons can never be eliminated.

''You don't hear a lot about the successes of the nonviolence movement,'' said Gutierrez, who has been protesting nuclear weapons proliferation for 20 years. ''We may be outnumbered now, but look at what happened in the South. Only about 2 percent of the population actively worked to engender the changes that happened here. People said it would never happen, but it did.''

While some protesters kept time with a drum and sang ''We ain't gonna study war no more,'' Global Network organizer Bruce Gagnon described some of the group's goals.

Gagnon said he wants to see the U.S. honor the Outer Space Treaty it signed in 1967, which bans nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction from space.

He also wants the government to honor the 1972 ABM Treaty, which prohibits building a system to counter strategic ballistic missiles or their elements, signed with the then-Soviet Union.

Critics of the ABM Treaty argue that there is no longer a Soviet Union, nullifying such an agreement. Supporters of a space-based missile defense system say that nuclear weapons wouldn't be deployed in space and that such a system would actually stop such weapons from being used.

Gagnon said the issue isn't simply about defense.

''Last year, at the United Nations, 157 countries, including China and Russia, passed a resolution calling for a global ban on weapons in space,'' Gagnon said.

''The U.S., Israel and Micronesia abstained from voting for it. No country voted against it. The U.S. has refused to negotiate on it.

Everybody else in the world is ready to sign a ban, but the U.S. won't do it. You've got to ask yourself 'Why?' The reason is because the aerospace industry views space as a new market.''

Several protesters described their concerns about a new arms race being extended into space and expressed hope that people around the world would raise their voices in opposition to a military presence in space.

Carol Gilbert, a nun, was among the demonstrators Friday. Gilbert has been arrested for entering the U.S. Space Command base in Colorado and hammering and pouring blood on a communications satellite to protest the so-called ''Star Wars'' program.

''It isn't too late to stop where we're heading,'' Gilbert said. ''Their vision is to control and dominate space. We want to try and make our government accountable. We want to unmask this and speak the truth to the American people.''

Today's conference will include discussions on ''Nuclearization and Weaponization of Space: Current Plans and Programs'' and ''Military Satellites for Warfighting, Intelligence and Counterinsurgency.''

As the traffic waned Friday, the protesters gathered in a large circle, at one point joining in on a song composed on his flight here by Joel Landy, a New York City-based songwriter. To the tune of ''Oh Susannah,'' Landy led the chorus, ''Yonder Star Wars, them weapons in the sky, when they tell you it's about defense, you know it's just a lie.''

(See also Protesters to target Redstone's arms work
Report on Huntsville Conference
and Conference & Protest details)

Protesters urge peace in space at meeting
Conference explains group's reasons for rejecting nuclear arms

18 March 2001

Huntsville Times Business Writer

Kathy and Andy Anderson drove for 20 hours from their home in Duluth, Minn., to spend the weekend in Huntsville.

They weren't here to escape the cold, but to take part in demonstrations and a conference to support the Gainesville, Fla.-based Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. Huntsville was picked for the event because of its space-based missile defense and space work.

"I like to demonstrate," said 75-year-old Kathy Anderson. "I think it's the best way to let the community know that militarization is not the solution to a civilized world."

Anderson and her husband were among about 100 people representing 16 states who attended the Saturday morning session of the National Space Organizing Conference. She and her husband also gathered with about 50 other protesters outside Group continues its protests against Huntsville's involvement in space defense Space Redstone Arsenal's Gate 9 as civilian and contractor employees left the post Friday night.

Speaking to the conference Saturday, Karl Grossman, journalism professor at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, advocated a strengthening of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which has been signed by 91 nations including the United States, "to make sure there's a ban on all weapons in space.''

"Space should be set aside for peaceful purposes," said Grossman, a member of the Commission on Disarmament Education, Conflict Resolution and Peace of the International Association of University Presidents and the United Nations.

Putting weapons in space, he said, isn't missile defense. "This is about star wars, this is about space warfare."

"Our mission in life is to help create a world where children are not threatened by violence," said Erick Johnson, a Presbyterian minister from Maryville, Tenn. "Nonviolence is a way of life. And we have to say no to violence in space." Johnson and his wife, Libby, are members of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance.

Kathy Anderson, a member of a Duluth peace group called Women Speak for a Sane World, said she believes women in particular need to "speak out for a different kind of world. . . . Women are often excluded from decisions about the direction of the country."

The conference is co-sponsored by the War Resisters League and the North Alabama chapter of Veterans for Peace. Participants plan a demonstration today at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

During the Saturday morning session, Grossman showed the group a report released in January by the Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization. The report states the commissioners believe the U.S. government should pursue capabilities called for in the national space policy to make sure the president will have the option to deploy weapons in space to deter threats and, if necessary, defend against attacks of U.S. interests.

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