Anti-military protesters planning VAFB infiltration

Monday’s event being called a ‘backcountry non-violent resistance action’
2012-10-20T00:45:00Z Anti-military protesters planning VAFB infiltrationBy Janene Scully / Associate Editor / Santa Maria Times

Military opponents are planning to infiltrate Vandenberg Air Force Base on Monday for what they’re calling a “backcountry nonviolent resistance action” and in the past has involved hanging anti-war signs within the installation’s borders.

The infiltration’s purpose is “to occupy/disrupt the Pentagon’s global drone and missile targeting nerve-center — Vandenberg Air Force Base,” organizers are saying in announcements on several websites.

The protest is being held in conjunction with “Hope for the 21st Century,” a statewide education, organizing, strategy and resistance conference in Santa Barbara this weekend.

Vandenberg officials say they are aware of the planned protest calling for backcountry incursions.

“Our security forces personnel frequently train for a myriad of contingencies and are prepared to keep the installation, its people and the mission safe,” Col. Nina Armagno, 30th Space Wing commander, said in a written statement.

Vandenberg boasts some 99,000 acres, making it the third largest Air Force base in the United States.

The protest arose from “a call to action” made in April by the 2012 International Drone Summit’s Direct Action Working Group and is sponsored by Alliance to Resist Robotic Warfare & Society or ARROWS.

“This call is for nationally coordinated regional actions of protest and nonviolent civil resistance against the use of drones for military and extrajudicial killing,” organizers said.

Involved in planning the action is Peter Lumsdaine, who has organized and participated in several protests at Vandenberg through the years.

The Vandenberg action is endorsed by several groups that typically participate in actions at the base’s main entrance including Los Angeles Catholic Worker; Vandenberg Witness; Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

The action also is timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

While protests are a regular occurrence at the base’s main entrance, it’s more rare for activities to involve backcountry actions.

In 2003, Vandenberg’s commander issued a warning that security forces could use lethal force against intruders after word spread that such actions were planned.

But several teams claimed to have successfully entered the sprawling installation.

The actions then included placing banners made on bed sheets and small colorful windmills inside the base’s boundaries, although Air Force officials denied intruders reached any facilities.

Other signs were placed at easily accessed locations. For instance, activists reportedly placed a banner that said “Not in Our Name” on the base water tower near the old mobile home park off Lompoc-Casmalia Road (Highway 1) where thousands of vehicles drive by daily. A small banner was placed on a fence on South Base and reportedly said “We do not consent.”

In 2003, a Santa Maria Valley resident poured a bottle of his own blood on the rock-wall sign at the base’s main entrance.

Those actions all were linked to the start of the U.S. war with Iraq.

A few years before the 2003 actions, Greenpeace protesters aboard rubber rafts tried to reach Vandenberg from the sea to interfere with a missile defense system test. Two protesters wound up needing treatment for exposure after dealing with the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean, and 16 people were arrested.

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