Just over 30 people arrived at Vandenberg at 4:00 pm on March 14 to hold a protest in support of the dedicated local activists who have been protesting at the base for the past 30 years. We held a brief news conference to begin our solidarity vigil and soon after we began a phalanx of military police marched into our group and handcuffed and removed Dennis. Within minutes they came back and took another of our GN board members MacGregor Eddy (WILPF). Both Dennis and MacGregor have permanent ban and bar letters from the base commander, which prevents them from being at the protest area outside the base.
The protest at the base received good coverage twice by the two largest newspapers in the region as well as a local radio station.
Vandenberg is a key space operations center that launches military satellites, is a deployment site for ground-base missile defense interceptors, and tests Minuteman nuclear missiles by firing them from the sprawling base into Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific.
Following dinner that first evening back at the retreat center we watched The Ghosts of Jeju documentary about the Navy base struggle and the sordid history of US militarism on Jeju and throughout Korea. Activist and musician Jo Yakgol came representing Gangjeong village on Jeju Island and sang throughout the weekend. People from India, Norway, England, Japan, Canada, Korea, and throughout the U.S. attended the conference.
Journalist Bard Wormdal, author of the book The Satellite War, gave a fine presentation about how U.S. deployment of a radar in Vardo, Norway near the Russian border is a key element in U.S. “missile defense” strategy.” He went on to detail the extensive Pentagon use of satellite ground relay stations near the north and south poles which violate existing treaties outlawing these locations being used for military (surveillance and targeting) purposes.
Another presentation was made by Masaki Toda from Kyoto, Japan who briefed us on the pending deployment of another US X-band “missile defense” radar near their community. Local activists in the Kyoto prefecture have been building a campaign to oppose the radar deployment because of its destabilizing nature. While it is said to be aimed at North Korea the true nature of the radar will be for US military “control” of China.
Canadian activist Tamara Lorincz also made an excellent presentation about the need for demilitarization and conversion of the military industrial complex. She thoroughly reviewed the work of former Columbia University professor Seymour Melman, the father of economic conversion.
On the evening of March 15 we moved the conference participants to a local church in Santa Barbara where we had invited the general public to join us for a program that included speakers and more music. About 75 people heard several talks that included a fantastic video presentation about the history and work of the Global Network prepared by our board convener Dave Webb who also chairs the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the UK. (We hope to be able to share this via YouTube soon.) Music that evening was performed by Tom Neilson, JoYakgol and Holly Gwinn-Graham.
The Peace in Space awards were presented this year to west coast activists Dennis Apel, Tensie Hernandez, Lynda Williams, Holly Gwinn-Graham and MacGregor Eddy. Plus a special lifetime award was given to WW II veteran Bud Boothe who has been protesting at Vandenberg AFB for the past 30 years. See photos HERE.