Protest. Arrest. Dismiss. Repeat -
It’s as much ritual as protest, and both sides know the drill cold. Before the test launch of an ICBM, anti-nuclear demonstrators clutching homemade signs gather outside Central California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base where the Pacific Coast Highway knifes through the sprawling installation. They stand on one side of the prominent green line painted across the asphalt near the guard shack, while military police stand on the other. Eventually, a small knot of the protesters emerges from the larger group and strides across the line, and into the arms of the waiting, and likely a little bored, MPs. Arrests for trespassing follow, and soon enough everyone who isn’t now wearing bracelets goes back to their workaday activities.
Usually the sacrificial lambs are few and not overly prominent, but a launch earlier this year drew an all-star cast of peaceniks—Daniel Ellsberg, Cindy Sheehan, Father Louis Vitale, MacGregor Eddy, and (sometime miller-mccune.com contributor) David Krieger, among others—to deliver to the base commander a letter explaining that the launch breached the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and was therefore illegal. But with the Air Force having a different view of the proceedings, the only detentions for illegal activities made this day were of activists.