Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Saturday, December 07, 2013


Dennis Apel, 2nd from left, appeared at the US Supreme Court this week defending the right to protest at Vandenberg AFB in California

This past Wednesday Dennis Apel was sitting inside the US Supreme Court in Washington DC.  After 14 years of vigiling, and often being arrested, at Vandenberg AFB, California his case challenging the legal line for base property has hit the high court.

The Washington Post covered the story and here is just a bit of it:

The federal government owns the land on both sides of the road, which runs through this sprawling air base north of Santa Barbara. On one side of the line are guarded gates and the main entrance to the military installation; on the other is a spot that base officials have set aside for people to protest the preparation for war that goes on there.

The federal government says John Dennis Apel does not belong on either side of that line, or standing near the highway, or for that matter anywhere else in the 22 square miles that constitute the base’s property.

The justices on Wednesday will hear the government’s plea that national security demands base commanders be able to keep people such as Apel, who have been formally banned from a military installation, from setting foot in any part of their domain — even the spots designated for protesters.

The 63-year-old Apel said he cannot believe his monthly vigils — he has been at it since 1997 — are worth all this trouble. “It’s surreal. It’s bizarre,” he said last month after showing a visitor the official protest spot. He is allowed there now that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has overturned his most recent convictions.

“I can’t even imagine they took this thing to our local court,” he said. “I thought they’d just keep arresting me forever, hoping that someday I’d just finally stop.”

Vandenberg AFB is a key US rocket launch base where many surveillance and warfighting satellites are put into orbit.  In addition the base is used to test launch Minuteman nuclear rockets aimed at the Pacific.  

The court will take a couple months of deliberations before announcing their verdict in this case.

Dennis and his wife, Tensie Hernandez, run a Catholic Worker house in Guadalupe, a town north of Vandenberg with a large population of poor and undocumented farmworkers. Unaffiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, Apel and Hernandez depend on donations — about $35,000 a year, Apel says — to provide donated clothing and food and run a medical clinic.


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