Approximately 50 people gathered in front of Vandenburg Air Force Base on Saturday, Oct. 13, to commemorate the second annual International Day of Protest to Stop the Militarization of Space.
On Oct. 2, the United States Senate approved a bill that increased the missile defense budget by $3 billion. Demonstrations have been held at over 110 locations in 19 countries in protest of ballistic missile defense systems’ implementation.
Following a 10-mile “Walk for Peace” from Lompoc, protesters held a peaceful vigil at the front gate of Vandenburg AFB on Saturday. The protesters were met with a similar-sized assembly of defense supporters who were holding “Missile Power” flags and signs.
The aim of the demonstration was to present alternative solutions to nuclear violence, said Carah Ong, the research and publications director for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
“Vandenburg is a place where the central coast can see nuclear proliferation in their own backyard,” she said. “We believe there are alternative solutions to security than military dominance. We need to change our notions of security. Violence begets violence. We believe that a change in structures is needed.”
Ong said the protest also showed support for civil liberties, which may be threatened in times of heightened security.
“It is highly irresponsible for us to support weapons that have not proven useful. It’s an opportunity to raise awareness,” she said. “Since the events of Sept. 11, Congress has given the president unqualified support and debates like missile defense have been dropped. We need to be very careful on how our nation reacts so we don’t lose our civil liberties.”
Ong said the public demonstrations are not in protest of military personnel.
“People see us as being anti-military. We are not against the people, we are against the structure,” she said. “Military service people are under paid for the risk they take to preserve democracy.”
Sophomore global studies major Naomi Beyeler, a member of the UCSB chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, said her participation was largely influenced by other activists.
“I came out here not so much as because I know everything about this but more that I would like to educate myself. I wanted to spend time with people of like minds against military solutions,” she said. “The media is entirely sensational in the direction of war; all the people who are vocal are in support of war. … This is an opportunity to project another voice into the community.”
Sophomore global studies major Whitney Light, a volunteer for Nuclear Age Peace, said there is always a potential for nuclear conflict.
“Just the fact that we are in possession of nuclear weapons threatens our security. It is something that effects all of us and will have direct effects on our lives in the future,” she said. “I don’t agree with techniques of violence and that is what the militarization of space is: a technique of violence.”