|Jo Yakgol from Jeju Island sings during protest at Vandenberg AFB|
|Dave Web from Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the UK talks about "missile defense" deployments at Vandenberg|
|Alice Slater from New York speaks about the nuclear missile tests launched at Vandenberg during vigil|
|Dennis Apel arrested once again by military police at the base|
|On the final day of the GN weekend conference we met outside under the warm California sun|
Our 22nd annual Global
Network (GN) space organizing conference was hosted this year by Catholic Worker
(CW) activist Dennis Apel from the Guadalupe Catholic Worker House near
Vandenberg AFB in California. Dennis and
his wife Tensie Hernandez have run the CW House in the migrant farm worker
community of Guadalupe for the past 18 years.
During that time they have regularly held peace vigils at Vandenberg.
Dennis currently serves on the
GN’s board and was with us in 2012 when the organization held our
20th annual meeting on Jeju Island, South Korea. We were then invited by Gangjeong villagers
where the US is forcing a Navy base to be built that will port warships being
moved into the Asia-Pacific as part of Obama’s military ‘pivot’ into the
region. On that occasion eight of us
from the GN, including Dennis, were arrested for crawling under razor wire to
get onto the sacred Gureombi coastline to express our outrage over the blasting
and cementing of the rocks.
Prior to our March 14-16 GN
conference planned for Santa Barbara, California Dennis invited me to come to
Las Vegas, Nevada to speak at the Pacific Life Retreat held on March 7-9. This gathering of CW activists
from across the west coast drew about 60 people and early each morning vigils
were held at Creech AFB (drone base), Nellis AFB (air operations training base)
and the Nevada National Security Site (formerly called Nevada Nuclear Test
It was great to be with this
group of dedicated activists who are known for feeding and housing the poor and
for their long-time determined resistance to the military industrial
Following the Las Vegas retreat I
rode back to California with Dennis and stayed at his home while waiting for the
GN conference to begin. We had time to
go over last minute conference details – Dennis had secured our meeting site at
a Catholic retreat center in Santa Barbara and he was using his connections to
gather the food for our GN event.
Dennis was also working his local media
contacts to promote the coming GN
conference that was to begin on March 14 with a protest at Vandenberg AFB.
He has been arrested for non-violent protest
at Vandenberg many times and the base has banned him from the grounds for
He took this “ban and bar” order
to court and won at the federal district court level.
The government then took the case to the US
Supreme Court that decided 9-0 that the base has the right to enforce their
‘boundaries’ but the bigger issue of the rights of the public to freely protest
was sent back to the federal district court for further review.
Just over 30 of us 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) who has also previously
been banned from the protest area outside the base.
Our protest at the base received
good coverage twice
by the two largest newspapers in the region as
well as a local radio station.
not bad considering how hard it is these days to get any notice by the
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 Pacific.
Following dinner that first
evening back at the retreat center we watched The Ghosts of Jeju
about the Navy base struggle and the sordid history of US militarism on Jeju and
Activist and musician
Jo Yakgol came representing Gangjeong village on Jeju Island and sang throughout
We continued the GN conference
program on March 15 with a two-hour sharing of the 40 people attending the
retreat. We had people with us from
India, Norway, England, Japan, Canada, Korea, and throughout the US. It was a
moving experience to hear the words from those attending. All of us acknowledged the difficulty
organizing against multiple US military operations throughout the world and
cutbacks on social progress at home. We
agreed that the peace movement currently faces two severe challenges: Many liberals are reluctant to publicly
question Obama’s foreign and domestic policy and our movement is aging.
Journalist Bard Wormdal, author
of the book The Satellite
, gave a fine presentation about how US deployment of a radar in
Vardo, Norway near the Russian border is a key element in US “missile defense”
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.
All of us should be paying attention to the
now underway across the nation.
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
The conference concluded with a
final planning meeting on March 16. We
reviewed GN finances, made a few minor adjustments to our boards, came up with a
theme for Keep Space for Peace Week, and accepted the proposal to hold our 2015
annual space conference in Kyoto, Japan (likely in mid-June).
Keep Space for Peace Week will be
held on October 4-11 this year and the theme will be Full Spectrum Dominance –
Full Spectrum Resistance. The colossally
expensive and intrusive military eye in the sky, that coordinates all warfare on
Earth, works to benefit corporate globalization. Back on Mother Earth international resistance
to corporate militarism is daily growing. We are asking renowned Florida artist
W. B. Park to design our poster and flyers for space week this year.
The GN will also hold an event
during the UN’s NPT events in New York City in 2015. Board member Alice Slater will take on
responsibility for setting this up.
Our 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.
It was suggested that the GN
offer an internship this year so we will pursue that opportunity. We also decided to organize a video contest
for students from around the world by inviting them to submit a 3-5 minute video
on Keep Space for Peace. First prize
will be an all expenses paid trip to Kyoto, Japan for our 2015 annual
conference. A committee was formed to
work on this.
In the meantime our work will be
to support the local peace efforts of our affiliate groups and individual
members in the US and around the world.
We’ll use our web site, blog, newsletter, staff and board travel, and our
on-going media work to shine a positive light on good local organizing. Many times during our meeting we reminded
each other that millions of people around the world are working hard each day on
these important issues and we stand linked to them.
We thank all of you who donate to
the work of the GN each year. Without
your steady support none of our efforts would be possible. We pledge to you our on-going efforts to
build for peace on Earth and in space and to continue working to convert the
military machine to peaceful purposes.