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Changing Boundaries:
Free Speech Challenges Outside the Air Force Academy

On May 29, 2002 fifteen local activists assembled at a point about a quarter mile from the south entrance to the Air Force Academy to protest the speech given that day by Donald Rumsfeld to the graduating class and guests. About 40,000 filled Falcon Stadium for the event. In the forty years since the Academy opened, similar protests have occurred in the same location 15 or 20 times. Never had anyone been arrested. This time things were to be different. Air Force Police accompanied by local Sheriff's deputies descended on the group and ordered us off "Academy property". Since we had stationed ourselves in a location outside a sign warning that if you entered Academy property you could be subject to search, etc., and we had been at this location many times before, four of us decided to stand our ground and challenge what we believed to be an illegal arrest.

As the four were being held in handcuffs in police cars the arresting officers received a message over the radio regarding Mr. Sulzman: "There is an FBI hit on him (Sulzman), as being a member of a terrorist organization." I was then asked by Sheriff's deputy Evans what organization I belonged to. I told him "Citizens for Peace in Space" and added that we would be getting to the bottom of this since our local police agencies had claimed that there was no such spy list of peace organizations in our town. It has been almost a year now and we still do not have definitive answers as to why Citizens for Peace in Space was listed as "terrorist." But there are strong hints that we got so labeled through a regional system of spy file collection in which the Denver Police Department played a central role. The ACLU in Denver filed suit demanding and getting the local "spy files" made public and we were all over them. They had been monitoring our peaceful rallies and conferences for years. One totally false entry said I had given a speech at a local college "talking about continuing the sabotage of military institutions."

Bingo! it was a short distance from that widely shared entry to getting the terrorist label applied to the whole organization. Mind you no one has ever said that it was that totally false entry that got me an extra half hour in the police cruiser before they recognized their "mistake". Turns out they had phoned the Denver FBI office and the agent on duty told them to let me go. Repeated attempts to get the full picture have come up short.

Fast forward to the extremely troubling developments of yesterday when the four arrestees, Bill Sulzman, Mary Sprunger-Froese, Peter Sprunger-Froese and Mary Lynn Sheetz appeared in court to hear the decision on a motion to dismiss filed by our attorney citing solid First Amendment grounds based on our personal history of bannering at that site and, a landmark free speech case concerning the Academy handed down in the 1970's (Sheetz and Sulzman had both been parties to that case). Our attorney was so confident the case would be dropped that he had scarcely prepared to go to trial if the motion were denied. But it was denied. He got the trial rescheduled for June 3. The chilling facts are these:

The Air Force Academy opened more than 45 years ago. The original parcel of land included what is now the right of way for Interstate Highway 25. The actual entrance gates on both the north and south end of the Academy are located at least a quarter mile from the busy intersections carrying thousands of cars a day to and from civilian communities adjacent to the base. The largest shopping center in the city is located on a few blocks from the spot of our arrest.

When County Court Judge Barney Iuppa heard last week about the original property history including the easement deal he was totally surprised even though he had been the DA of El Paso County for years. No one has ever considered that the Air Force actually owned the highway or Academy Boulevard which meet at the point where we were arrested. But the judge went along with the Air Force's claim that they owned this busy civilian intersection and that they had a right to deny our peaceful protest on May 29, 2002 and forever into the future. This despite the fact that no such claim had previously been made in the 45 year history of the Academy!! The only way around this roadblock is to submit a written request containing all the names of potential demonstrators to the Air Force and they would then have right to designate a spot for protestors to stand. The location that would have been suggested to us on May 29 is a "Park and Ride" parking lot opposite the North Gate, far distant from the traffic flow going to the graduation. Absolutely outrageous! But this is the post 9-11 world. In many ways this astonishing ruling is even more significant than the "terrorist" designation of myself and Citizens for Peace in Space. If we do not fight for our rights at every turn they will disappear one by one. If we are convicted at trial we will appeal.

Bill Sulzman (65) has spent the last 34 years as a full-time peace activist and is currently the Director of Citizens for Peace (CPIS) in Space in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a position he has held for 16 years. CPIS was one of the original founding members (1992) of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. Bill has traveled to Global Network meetings in England, Germany, Japan and Australia and has spoken on Space issues at dozens of gatherings in the United States.

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"For as adamant as my country has been about civil liberties during peacetime, it has a long history of failing to preserve civil liberties when it perceived its national security threatened. This series of failures is particularly frustrating in that it appears to result not from informed and rational decisions that protecting civil liberties would expose the United States to unacceptable security risks, but rather from the episodic nature of our security crises. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis came along."
--Supreme Court Justice William Brennan
December 22, 1987

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