The largest U.S. Space Command facility, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, was placed on heightened security status for six straight days in May, as more than 300 global justice activists, comprising the Vandenberg Action Coalition, confronted Space Command troops.
After 37 arrests at the main gate and in the backcountry surrounding this coastal outpost of the Air Force, and the continuing imprisonment of two Los Angeles Catholic Workers, Coalition organizers issued this statement on May 24: "This campaign is just getting under way. We are putting the U.S. Space Command on notice that their satellite guidance of rainforest defoliation planes and military terror in Colombia, their enforcement of corporate globalization at gunpoint, their machinery of global surveillance and global war, will run into increasing direct resistance if they persist in this criminal pattern of serial high-tech violence."
The first arrests came April 21 when four organizers were driving along a public road, taking video footage of the South Gate area. When they paused at the gate, they were told by base security to stop photographing, and complied with the order. As they drove away they were followed and soon pulled over. All four were cited for misdemeanor trespass and given ban and bar letters. Legal status of the roadway through the base was disputed during Vandenberg protests in the 1980s, also. Tracie DeAngelis entered a guilty plea to the charge June 22, to clear it up before moving away from California. She was sentenced to three years probation and $85 fine. The other three will be in federal court on the base July 13 to contest the charge in a bench trial.
Then on May 19, demonstrators kicked-off five days of peace camp-based education and actions with a rally and line-crossing at the base gate. Twenty-three people were arrested and cited for trespass. All were released pending arraignment in June, except one Irish national, who was held for arraignment the following Monday, May 21 .
He was joined the next day at the Kern County Jail by ten more resisters from two affinity groups, all apprehended after infiltrating the rolling hills of scrub and grasses surrounding the missile command and launch sites. A group of four men was arrested seven hours before the six-member group of Los Angeles Catholic Workers and friends were rounded up.
On Monday, in federal court in Los Angeles, all eleven were charged with misdemeanor conspiracy and two counts each of trespass. Eight accepted release on their own recognizance, promising to return and enter a plea on June 18. The Irish protester was released and returned to Ireland according to his visa. Robert [Jeff] Dietrich and Brian Buckley remained in jail after refusing the restrictions of release.
Over the next few days, at least ten more people from the peace camp evaded capture but kept security forces on heightened alert as they moved through the restricted landscape, gathering logistics information for future nonviolent direct actions.
Dietrich and Buckley entered pleas on June 11. Dietrich pled guilty and refused an offer of five years probation and time served. He will be sentenced on August 6. Buckley pled not guilty and will face trial July 31. On June 18, the other eight back-country activists also pled not guilty and were given the July 31 trial date.
Of those arrested at the gate on May 19, 12 pled to an $85 fine and three years probation, and others await a trial date for the trespass charge.
In the wake of the May action, federal prosecutors ordered 23 people arrested last October at Vandenberg to report for arraignment June 27 in Los Angeles.
Coalition organizers are calling for a California-wide resistance action at Vandenberg October 13 (see future actions).
For more information, contact the Los Angeles Catholic Worker, 632 N. Brittania St., Los Angeles, CA 90033, (323)267-8789; and the Vandenberg Action Coalition, (831)421-9794 or (831)423-1626.
Letters of support should be sent individually to Robert Dietrich #1484699, and Brian Buckley #1484695, Kern County Jail, 17645 Industrial Farm Rd., Bakersfield, CA 93308.