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Nine anti-drone protesters cited for blocking Beale AFB gates

BEALE AFB, Calif. — Four women and one man, who remained standing in front of a Beale Air Force Base gate after authorities asked them to move their protest off federal property were cited Tuesday and sang "We Shall Overcome."

About 50 people gathered in the morning at the base entrance off North Beale Road as well as at a gate off Doolittle Drive to protest against drones as part of a national action, said Sacramento resident Cres Vellucci.

"This is more or less the Northern California protest," Vellucci said.

Sacramento resident Kevin Carter, 52, who calls himself a social justice activist, yelled, "Forgive these men that they know not what they do," as Beale security officials led the protesters away from the gate.

Four other protesters were also cited for trespassing at the Beale entrance off Doolittle. In all, nine people were cited.

David Hartsough, executive director of San Francisco-based Peaceworkers, displayed the peace symbol when cited at the North Beale Road entrance.

Sharon Delgado, founding director of Earth Justice Ministries in Nevada City, said "I just want to shut down the business as usual at the base. The longer the better."

Col. Phil Stewart, 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander at Beale, said in a statement after the protest, "It is our hope that these individuals, who have invoked their right to peaceable assembly, will do so safely and within the confines of the law in the future.

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"We respect the rights of individuals to exercise free speech and the United States Air Force has always been and continues to be committed to defending lawful freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution," Stewart said.

Most protesters came from the Bay Area, San Francisco, Nevada County or Chico.

Protester Janie Kesselman, 58, who lives in Campontville in Yuba County and works at Sierra Solar, said where protesters live isn't important because the war and use of drones are global issues.

"The issue isn't that there are or aren't people in Marysville or Yuba County," she added.

"They're just not here today," Kesselman said.

Chico resident Michael Pike, 65, described the protest as a grass-roots movement that doesn't always attract those who live closest to a military base.

"A lot of times they don't want to know," Pike said of what takes place at Beale.

The primary mission at Beale, for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, does not include drones that fire weapons, but a protester contended the base is an accomplice in the drone program.

Vellucci said most Beale protesters living outside Yuba and Sutter counties are not new to social activism.

"People in the South were upset that people in the North were coming to protest the treatment of blacks," he added of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Carter said, "People in the Sutter area may not be informed as much as people in the Bay Area and other areas."

Oakland resident and Catholic priest Louis Vitale, 80, said outside Beale that, "We've been hyped into all this patriotism." Vitale said earlier wars haven't solved problems.

"They all thought they were saving the world by going to Vietnam," Vitale said of the military.

Toby Blome, a resident of El Cerrito in the Bay Area, was cited Tuesday for trespassing at the base entrance off Doolittle. She spent two weeks in Pakistan as part of the anti-war Code Pink group and returned Oct. 12. She said drones in the Middle East country are terrorizing people.

If Pakistanis asked her and others where they were from, Blome said she answered "America."

"I apologize for my government's policies against the people of Pakistan," she would tell them.

Sacramento resident Barry Binks, 72, also cited for trespassing, said he is disappointed that the drone program has expanded under President Barack Obama.

"I expected something to happen when Obama was elected," Binks said. "Like a lot of people, I thought he was going to do something."
 

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