Demonstration at Vandenberg Air Force Base for Armed Forces Day
19 May 2002
VANDENBERG AFB -- Two women were cited for trespassing after refusing orders to leave Vandenberg Air Force Base during a low-key Armed Forces Day demonstration that also drew pro-military supporters for a counter-protest.
The Saturday afternoon event occurred at Vandenberg Air Force Base's Main Gate, where eight pro-military supporters and 70 anti-military protesters took up positions on opposite corners.
Supporters were out early -- by 10 a.m. -- armed with signs touting "Support our troops." Multiple drivers on Highway 1 responded to another sign urging them to honk.
"We have a lot of people that are beeping for us," said Santa Ynez Valley resident Bruce Melton, adding he was mistreated by anti-war protesters about 30 years ago while serving in the Navy and decided to show support for today's military members.
He held a sign saying in part, "I hate war protesters. They are lost and confused."
Lompoc residents Landon Dirgo, Omar Elalamie and Kristin Key also joined Melton, drawn by a desire to protest the protesters.
"We just want to show our support for the armed forces and that we care what they're doing," said Dirgo, 19.
Across the street, protesters from Santa Cruz and Los Angeles along with the Santa Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties gathered in a circle for speeches, poetry and songs.
In anticipation of the event, the Air Force draped Vandenberg signs in black cloth. By 3 p.m. military security forces moved orange barricades into to place to block the main road into the base.
After crossing the barricade, Salinas registered nurse MacGregor Eddy, 53, told airmen she wanted to deliver a statement from the Vandenberg Action Coalition.
Before her action, she said carried the message that the world has enough weapons.
"It would not increase the safety of the nation to have more weapons," she said.
Liz Rondelle of Santa Cruz also crossed the barricade, carrying a sign as she rallied the crowd to chant "No more war." She recited "The Lord's Prayer" as she was escorted to a bus.
As the two women refused orders to leave, the protesters stood on the other side of the barricade singing as a baby cried. They continued singing 'We Shall Overcome" and "This Land is My Land," while a toddler climbed on the orange plastic barricade until a Vandenberg airmen spoke to the mother.
Eddy and Rondelle were cited for trespassing on a closed military installation and presented with a letter barring them from the base before later being escorted off the installation by U.S. marshals.
Vandenberg Action Coalition spokesman Peter Lumsdaine said the protest wasn't aimed at those serving in the military, but to call for an end to "war crimes and military terror."
The group claimed some members entered Vandenberg Air Force Base's remote back-country earlier in the week and observed facilities there.
While some airmen worked the protest, dozens of others assigned to Vandenberg participated in the 43rd annual Armed Forces Day Parade in Torrance.
Staff writer Janene Scully can be reached at (805) 739-2214 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(See also report of planned action)
Also: 7 people participated in the 60 mile bike ride from SLO to Vandenberg AFB-a group of five that led by Bill Denneen and who toured the area around Casmalia (ECOhooligan Bill almost got arrested!) and 2 wonderful solo riders. We attracted 5 police cars and a helicopter on our little bike ride.
The two beautiful and fantastic women who offered themselves for arrest tried repeatedly to get the base to look at their statement of peace and concern. Sadly, each time the base personnel refused.