Charges were dismissed on Wednesday in federal court in Santa Barbara, Calif., against fifteen people, including four members of Veterans For Peace, who were scheduled to face trial on Wednesday as a result of their nonviolent protest of nuclear warheads at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The 15 had been arrested on February 25th for protesting the launch of a Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile from Vandenberg to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Video: Video
The Veterans For Peace facing trial were Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg of Berkeley, Calif.; Fr. Louie Vitale of Oakland, Calif. and Las Vegas, Nev.; John Amidon of Albany, N.Y.; and Mark Kelso of Las Vegas, Nev.
The district attorney moved to dismiss all charges. Two of the defendants, John Amidon and Toby Blome, wanting to raise their concerns about the Minuteman III missiles in court, offered motion not to dismiss. The judge sided with the district attorney.
Some of the same people will be among those protesting again on November 13th when another missile test is scheduled:
McGregor Eddy, one of the defendants, called the dismissal a victory. "The military," she said, "wants to avoid drawing attention to thermonuclear warheads that serve no purpose and cost a great deal of money. Many young people don't even know about these nuclear weapons. When we say 'nukes' they think of nuclear power."
Fr. Louie Vitale agreed, calling the dismissal "a great victory." Vitale added, "I've been on trial here several times and always lost. This was a victory. And we'll be there in November to protest the next launch."
Vitale said that the public in Santa Barbara had learned a great deal through the work of the coalition formed around this protest and near-trial, including with the help of David Krieger and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
At 7 p.m. PT on Tuesday, October 16th, a free public event called "Putting U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policies on Trial: A Forum with the Vandenberg 15" was held at Faulkner Gallery, 40 E. Anapamu Street, Santa Barbara, Calif. Speakers included Daniel Ellsberg, Fr. Louie Vitale, Cindy Sheehan, and David Krieger. The event was cosponsored by Code Pink, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Nevada Desert Experience, Progressive Democrats of Santa Barbara, Veterans for Peace, Western States Legal Foundation, and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (Santa Barbara).
"We were protesting a rehearsal of a holocaust," said Ellsberg. "Every minuteman missile is a portable Auschwitz." Video of Ellsberg: Youtube
"We have 450 land-based Minuteman III nuclear missiles on high alert," said Amidon. Despite hundreds of near-disasters due to human and mechanical mistakes over the years, these nuclear-armed missiles could be sent by a U.S. president in 13 minutes or less. Thirteen minutes, with the very real possibility that false information, an electronic glitch or bad signal, or an error in human judgment, would bring the world as we know it to an end. Minuteman III missiles would not, and nothing can, prevent retaliation. Even without retaliation, their unilateral use would ruin the earth's atmosphere -- all over the earth. The missiles' only function is to kill others in a process that kills us too."
"An easy immediate step toward sanity," Amidon continued, "would be to de-alert the missiles so that 24 to 72 hours would be needed to launch. This would increase our security by reducing the likelihood of an accidental or unauthorized launch. Those intent on achieving nuclear doomsday could rest assured that U.S. submarines and bombers would remain able to complete that job many times over.
"A second needed and obvious step that would also work wonders for our federal budget would be to decommission these missiles. We are also calling for a cancellation of the November 14, 2012, missile (thermonuclear warhead delivery systems) test at Vandenberg Air Force Base. This will save between $20 to $30 million for this one launch."
RootsAction.org has set up an online action page through which people can email the government on this topic:
Veterans For Peace was founded in 1985 and has approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.
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