Protesters cut fence, walk unchallenged through Stuttgart's Patch Barracks
STUTTGART, Germany — Three anti-war protesters, including a 70-year-old woman, turned themselves in to police on Tuesday after they cut a large hole in the fence at Patch Barracks, walked onto the base, hung a banner, and weren’t challenged by anyone.
The three Germans, the woman and two men ages 51 and 22, were apparently surprised they weren’t arrested after breaking onto the base at about 11:30 a.m. So they walked through the base and out the main gate, where they turned themselves in to German police, according to Hermann Karpf, a spokesman for the Stutt- gart police department.
Patch Barracks, located in the Stuttgart suburb of Vaihingen, is home to the headquarters of the U.S. European Command, European Plans and Operations Center and Defense Information Systems Agency. The base also has houses and apartments where U.S. personnel live, along with schools, stores, a medical clinic and other facilities.
The three protesters, who Karpf said are well-known to German police from past anti-war protests, have not yet been charged with a crime but will be prosecuted after German prosecutors determine which charges should be filed. He did not release the names of the suspects.
“They went in and made a little demonstration,” Karpf said Thursday. “They waited and nothing happened; nobody paid attention. They walked through the [base] and went out of Patch Barracks and told German policemen that they were in the area.
“We took the names and all the things we have to know from them for the police report. We have to write up all the [details] and give them to prosecutors, and they will decide the charges,” Karpf said Thursday, adding that the three are currently not being detained.
“They are not violent,” he said.
Kim Walz, a spokeswoman for Installation Management Agency-Europe, which oversees Army bases in Europe, said she did not suspect the security breach in Stuttgart would cause other bases to immediately review their security set-ups.
“We do a review of security procedures already on a regular basis,” Walz said. “I don’t think this one incident would prompt [additional reviews].
“We’re confident … that the [6th Area Support Group] and local police are doing what they can to prevent future incidents.”
After cutting through the fence and not being challenged, Karpf said, the suspects walked onto the base and hung a 13-foot-long banner between two trees. The banner noted the 60-year anniversary of the U.S. dropping an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, as well as other anti-war sentiments.
Karpf speculated that the suspects could be charged with trespassing as well as destruction of property for cutting the 2-by-5 foot hole in the fence.
German police, who are responsible for security outside the base, Karpf said, patrol outside the base around the clock, both on foot and on horseback, including the wooded area where the suspects allegedly cut the hole in the fence. He declined to say how many police officers patrol the area.
Karpf said he believed the wooded area where the suspects gained access was near Patch American High School, located on the opposite side of the base from the main gate.
“We have to look: Where was the mistake?” Karpf said. “We will speak with the American colleagues, and we will see what we can make better for the future.
“I’m sure we will have a very fast look at whether our concepts are good or in which cases we have to make things better. I think both sides have to speak and see what we can do.”
Jennifer Sanders, spokeswoman for the 6th ASG, which oversees the Stuttgart military properties, said that U.S. and German authorities are working to address the security breach.
“We have complete confidence in the ability of our host nation to respond to this incident, and we are confident that this matter will be prosecuted in full accordance with the law,” Sanders said in a statement.