Five anti-drone protesters, including three clergy, were detained Wednesday when they peacefully crossed onto Beale Air Force Base.
One of those was the Rev. Sharon Delgado of Nevada City, a retired United Methodist pastor, founding director of Earth Justice Ministries and author of “Shaking the Gates of Hell: Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization.”
The activists, numbering more than 30, were there to memorialize children killed by U.S.-led drone strikes.
Beale operates the RQ-4 Global Hawk, an unmanned, unarmed, high-altitude aircraft that provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
“We feel murdering people like this is putting us all at risk,” said Flora Rogers, a Marysville resident who was one of the five detained. “We want to work toward a more peaceful world.”
The others cited for trespassing were the Rev. Gerald Pedersen, the Rev. Elizabeth Grisworld and Michael Kerr from the Bay Area, a member of Veterans for Peace.
Outside the base shortly after dawn, activists participated in an Ash Wednesday service that included scripture, song, prayer and Holy Communion. Following the service, about 20 protesters blocked the inbound lane of traffic, forcing vehicles to enter from the outbound lane, according to Beale’s public affairs office.
“We respect the right of organizations to protest outside our installation,” said Col. Phil Stewart, 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander.
“While I don’t always agree with what the protesters are saying or approve of the manner in which they protest, such as blocking traffic to get onto base, I would defend their right to be there with my life as would every airman on this base.”
Holding white crosses with signs above their heads, five people, three of whom were reverends, took five or six steps onto base property from North Beale Road, turned and knelt in prayer.
“I absolutely support their constitutional right to protest safely on public property. However, it is illegal for anyone to enter a military installation without proper Department of Defense credentials,” said Maj. Met Berisha, 9th Security Forces Squadron commander.
“When someone decides to illegally trespass on federal property, the Air Force has an inherent responsibility to protect its people, facilities and resources.”
Over a loudspeaker, a member of the Air Force security forces ordered the activists to disperse after first asking if they had proper identification and wished to lawfully come on base.
The activists remained kneeling, and security forces’ personnel moved in and escorted each person away by the arm.
The five individuals were fingerprinted, photographed and released on their own recognizance, said Lt. Siobhan Bennett, a Beale spokesman.
“It says something tremendous about this country that people are free to express their right, but it’s also important that we respect each other and obey the law,” Bennett said.
In a statement, Veterans for Peace said Wednesday’s protest marked the fourth series of arrests at Beale in about a year.
Eight people have been convicted in U.S. District Court in Sacramento and another trial is set for next month.
Dave Bitton is a staff writer for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.