Greenpeace Missile Defense Protesters Receive Harsh Charges
15 Activists and 2 Press Men Could Face Jail for Star Wars Action
Los Angeles, California, July 17, 2001 < Fifteen Greenpeace activists and two journalists have been hit with extremely serious charges after the Star Wars missile test was delayed on Saturday evening. The group faces jail terms of more than ten years if found guilty of conspiring to violate a safety zone and violating an order.1 The activists from all over the world appeared at the federal Court in Los Angeles late into the evening last night. The independent photographer and videographer were charged along side them.
"Our activists acted with honor and integrity in a courageous, selfless and non-violent protest against a dangerous program," said Gerd Leipold, Executive Director of Greenpeace International. "They¹re from across the world and reflect a growing global opposition to Star Wars. The photographer and videographer were present simply to do their jobs as independent witnesses. These incredibly harsh charges against a totally peaceful act of opposition are a clear indication of President Bush's single-minded and arrogant insistence on deploying a Star Wars missile system, and his need to silence all dissent to do it," Leipold added.
Those charged come from the U.S, UK, Germany, India, Sweden, Australia, Spain and Canada. The fifteen members of the boat crews and two members of the press were below the flight path of the missile. Swimmers on boogie boards went ashore at the base, while three boats and a press boat, chased by the Coast Guard and a helicopter entered the exclusion zone. Greenpeace divers went down underwater in the zone also. The test was delayed for forty minutes. Despite repeated warnings that activists where in the danger zone, along with at least one Coast Guard vessel, the base commander of Vandenberg ordered that the missile be fired.
involved in this action has done an incredibly brave thing. They put themselves
in the firing line of the launch to try to stop not just this test, but
the whole Star Wars program," said Greenpeace U.S. Executive Director John
Passacantando. "This is not about the future of nuclear weapons technology,
it is about the future of our planet and the people on it. We want to see
a nuclear free future. This legal process should not be about prosecuting
a peaceful protest, it should be about putting George Bush and his Star
Wars program on trial," he added.
1 Conspiracy to violate a safety zone is a Class D felony charge and carries a minimum five years jail term, and a maximum ten years jail. It could also carry a fine of up to $250,000. Either could be imposed singly or jointly. Failure to adhere to commander¹s instructions is a Class A misdemeanor and carries a maximum one-year jail term and a maximum $5,000 fine. Both sentences can run consecutively.
Carol Gregory (805) 291-1747 in California;
Kymberly Escobar in Washington, D.C. office (202) 319-2494.