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

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Busted for Peace at Beale AFB

Outside the Wheatland gate at Beale AFB this morning

Seven of the 11 activists who gathered at the Wheatland gate of Beale AFB, California around 6:00 am this morning were arrested for protesting the Global Hawk drone mission of the base.  At 7:15 the group was handcuffed and taken inside the base for processing where we were each cited for trespassing on a federal installation and released about 90 minutes later.  Just prior to being arrested the seven of us blocked a long line of morning incoming traffic for about 20 minutes before crossing over the white line onto base property.

The Global Hawk surveillance drone is flown out of Beale
Just before stepping over the white line our group spread out and held hands directly facing the large squad of military police who stiffly stood at the ready holding plastic handcuffs.  One of the women in our group spoke to the MP’s telling them that we were working for peace so that they too would have a safe and peaceful future.  After she finished I told the solemn looking MP’s to keep open hearts during their time in the military.  I then went on to share with them my own story of having lived on Beale AFB from 1969-71 where my dad was stationed.  I told them how I joined the Air Force myself in 1971 after having graduated from nearby Wheatland High School in 1970.  I shared my experience being stationed at Travis AFB (about 80 miles south of Beale) that was an airlift base for the war in Vietnam.  It was there, I said, that the anti-war protests outside and inside the base transformed me from a hard-line right-winger into the peace activist that I am today.  

The protest actually began yesterday at Beale when at 3:00 pm about a dozen activists from several northern California communities held vigil at two base gates for two-hours as military personnel were released from work.  Three of us were at the Doolittle gate where we stood with banners as several U-2 spy planes practiced ‘touch and go’ landings just over our heads.  From where we stood we could clearly see the PAVE PAWS early-warning radar facility (recently upgraded for participation in the Pentagon’s ‘missile defense’ program).  Regular monthly protests have been happening at Beale for the past five years.  Over 130 people have been arrested for non-violent civil resistance at the base during that time. 

The U-2 spy plane was overhead while we vigiled yesterday at the base
The PAVE PAWS early warning radar at Beale was in plain site as we protested.  The radar has been upgraded for participation in the 'missile defense' program which plays a key role in the Pentagon's first-strike attack planning. Just below note Beale's prominent role in this military graphic illustrating a 'missile defense' test.

Following Monday’s afternoon protest the dozen of us gathered in a clearing near the Beale main gate where we held a potluck supper by firelight.  I was asked to speak about the work of the Global Network and Beale’s role in connection to space warfare technology. 

I was also asked to share what I know about the US’s Ramstein AFB in Germany that is the global operation center for the Pentagon’s drone warfare program that has killed thousands of innocent people.  All drone surveillance and targeting is run through Ramstein using military satellites and fiber optic cables to relay data from drones flying over the Middle East and Africa to the drone pilots sitting at consoles back in the US.  Fearing that growing resistance to German complicity with the US drone killing program will force the closure of the Ramstein operation, the US has recently created a back-up drone operations center in Sigonella, Sicily.

As my hosts Toby and Fred from the San Francisco Bay Area were driving us back to their home in El Cerrito they kindly stopped in Wheatland so that I could take a brief walk through the grounds of my old high school. Surprisingly the school had not changed much at all during these many years since I had graduated.  It was quite an emotional moment for me to walk by my old classrooms, the gym where I left much sweat on the floor playing basketball, the baseball field, the cafeteria, and the football field where I remember running 100-yard wind sprints with full gear on. 

I have been following the determined protests at Beale during the past five years and had hoped to be able to participate with them at some point.  It was a great thrill and honor to join hands this morning with these dedicated peace workers.  I will always cherish these last two days at Beale. Keep going dear friends.


Anonymous Sharon said...

Thank you for the wonderful encouragement. I didn't know about the PAVEPAWS early warning radar system at Beale. It helps those of us who go there regularly to know how crucial a role Beale plays in US space warfare.

3/8/16, 11:53 PM  
Blogger David Hartsough said...

Thanks Bruce for your very helpful account of the protest at Beale and fitting it into the global US military domination of the rest of the world. Toby suggested that all of us who have been part of the Beale protests commit to coming back at least once a year. My wife Jan and I will hope to come at least once a year and again cross the line.
Thanks to all who so faithfully continue this important protest of these drones heaping death and destruction on people all over the middle east.
David Hartsough

3/10/16, 2:17 PM  
Blogger justin T NT said...

thankyou bruce, good job well done.

3/10/16, 11:57 PM  
Blogger Steven Marshall said...

Good read,interesting and informative. I pass these protests on my way to work at the Ostrom Landfill. I saw the Google maps street view car parked with the protesters one day and last time i checked they were visible from one angle.

3/27/16, 11:54 PM  

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