Australian peace pilgrims arrested after entering Pine Gap U.S. military base

peace-pilgrimsPeace Pilgrims Lament at Pine Gap

from #ClosePineGap

Posted by Cairns Peace by Peace

Early on Thursday morning, September 29, five “peace pilgrims” walked on to the Pine Gap U.S. military base at Alice Springs, in Arrernte country, to lament the death caused by the base and to resist the violence that is perpetrated there.

Jim Dowling, Margaret Pestorius, Andy Paine, Tim Webb and Franz Dowling were the pilgrims. Christians committed to non-violence, most of us had undertaken “peace pilgrimages” before on this and other military facilities.

We had already had several thwarted attempts at actions at Pine Gap this week, and this one involved a long late night walk through pretty tough country. When we eventually arrived at the perimeter fence we discovered police patrolling with spotlights. If we were going to get to the base it was going to be a race.

The actual Pine Gap facility is tucked away behind hills. With police at the top, our only hope of lamenting in eyesight of the base was to do it on the run. Musical instruments and a photo of an Iraqi father holding his dead child had been packed to aid the lament. They were unpacked halfway up the hill. Miraculously, the instruments were in tune. Playing guitar and viola while running up a mountain is not easy. Neither is filming the whole thing in the dark. Nevertheless, the feeling was there.

The musicians made it to the top of the hill performing their elegy. The cameraman was tackled by two cops and handcuffed. There in front of us sat Pine Gap – the place that spies on the world, identifying targets for bombs and drone strikes. The place that has been responsible for so much death. The place that is central to the myth of nuclear weapons being a “defence”. All around us, invisible satellite signals were being sent and received; part of the never-ending and all-encompassing War On Terror, aiding the reign of the world’s military superpower. Prayers were uttered. Tears were shed. The defiance in our hearts was strengthened. And then we were frisked, locked in police vans and transported out of there.

We were charged with trespass under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act. The law exists specifically to protect Pine Gap and carries a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment. Only one group of people have ever been charged with it before – the “Pine Gap Four”, who in 2005 entered the base to conduct a “citizen’s inspection”. One of the Four, Jim Dowling, was with us again this time.

In 2007, the Pine Gap Four had their charges overturned on appeal. The High Court ruled that to use the act, the government had to prove that Pine Gap was used for the defence of Australia. A subsequent law change means that is no longer the case – it is now written into the law that Pine Gap is a “defence facility”.

Another complication to the law arose though. For a charge of this magnitude, the expressed consent of the federal Attorney-General is required to charge someone. The prosecution admitted that Attorney-General George Brandis had not got back to them yet. They expected this meant the case would be adjourned. Judge Daynor Trigg disagreed. The charges, he said, should be dismissed.

After much discussion in the cell of what we should do regarding bail conditions, to our surprise we were called into court to be told we could go free.

A big crowd of supporters at the court cheered, and we walked out to hugs and smiles. Another lament, this one stationary and free of police interruption, was performed. Our expectation though is that the charges will be re-laid shortly, and facing the serious penalties of this act in court will be very interesting and challenging.

A big thank you to everybody who helped us in the action, and all who have supported and encouraged us. Let’s continue together to resist the war machine and create a more peaceful world. Close Pine Gap!

News coverage here.

Paul Christie

Paul Christie

Cairns Peace Pilgrim crosses the line to pray at Pine Gap Defence Facility early Monday as Peace Convergence ends

UPDATE: Paul Christie has been arrested and is being held at the Alice Watchhouse.

Peace Pilgrim Paul Christie has been arrested on Monday, October 3 after praying on the mountain at Pine Gap Defence Facility and is being held by police in the Alice Springs watchhouse.

It is not clear what charges he is facing given the challenge to the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 by Supreme Court Judge Trigg last Thursday.

The police prosecution last Thursday were directed to drop charges against five Peace Pilgrims after Judge Trigg announced that the legislation was “a nonsense”.

Judge Daynor Trigg said the legislation requires an “authority to prosecute” from the Attorney General BEFORE prosecution proceeds. He added that the law states that “prosecution” starts with charging.

All pilgrims who were lamenting the preparation of illegal war at Pine Gap were immediately released last Thursday.

It is understood the police prosecutor intends to appeal later this month in the Darwin High Court.
Paul Christie is expected to appear in court at the 2 p.m. sitting Monday afternoon in Alice Springs.

More information at

PINE GAP PEACE CONVERGENCE – Leading up to Paul Christie’s line crossing

The Peace Pilgrims continued last night building a culture of peace with lamentations, ceremony and prayer on the hills overlooking the secret U.S. Spy base that is Pine Gap.

Paul Christie of Cairns, and a member of the Australian Peace Pilgrims, has come all this way to answer the call from the Arrernte elders, past and present, to begin the process of closing down Pine Gap.

“Before we can begin to imagine the end of our war culture and the closing of terror bases like Pine Gap we must sit and mourn, we must sit and accept, we must sit and recognize the horrors that our collective denial has allowed” says Paul Christie.

“I have been called to carry out a healing ceremony for the land and for its people, the Arrernte people, for the water that runs under the base and through us all, for the families destroyed by the US war machine and to pay respect to the ancestors who walked this land for thousands of years”

“All honest people are converging, all cultures are converging, all faiths are converging in the dream of an end to this war culture, of a rebirth of sovereignty, of a resurrection of truth and justice for all. It is time to end the rule of the Psychopaths.”

“I am one humble man that will walk the land with the permissions of the elders past and present. I do not do this as a protest but as the right thing to do, I do not disobey the state for the sake of disobedience but because what I do I feel we all must do. Face the horror, face the denial and expose it.”

As the convergence of Peace Makers from across the country and the world come to a close there is a stronger sense of empowerment, inspiration and encouragement to continue together to raise awareness, build community and strengthen the network of peace makers across the world.

“The war culture will end, it is up to each of us, in our own way, to help that happen sooner,” says Paul Christie.


“End This Madness”

pastedgraphic-1by Jim Dowling

I have just returned from my 6th pilgrimage to Pine Gap. It is 3000kms from where I live. I have known a number of friends to go on pilgrimage to holy places in India, Israel/Palestine, Europe, Tibet, the Camino trail and elsewhere.

For some reason I seemed called to go, not to a holy place, but to the gates of hell. It is no exaggeration to say that hell will be unleashed if the Pine Gap base gets to serve its final purpose – the waging of a Nuclear War. Richard Tanter from the Nautilus Institute informs us that the so called “Star Wars’ program started by Ronnie Reagan seemingly a lifetime ago, (and dismissed by many, including myself, as a mad dream akin to the tower of Babel), is nearly finished. Pine Gap plays an essential part in this multi-billion dollar project. The idea is to make a first strike nuclear war possible by shooting down the enemy’s Nuclear weapons from space before they can reach US targets, at the same time destroying the enemy with our own nuclear weapons.

But for many victims of US and Australian wars of aggression, the end has come long before WW3. From Vietnam to Syria, Pine Gap has played and continues to play an integral role in all those wars. Essentially Pine Gap is a huge intelligence gathering center. It collects radio transmissions, thermal images, and cell phone messages via Satellites. This information is used for targeting purposes, essential to conventional as well as drone warfare. It would also be essential for fighting a nuclear war.

Over 800 people work at Pine Gap. Most of these are employees work for the world’s biggest arms dealers or their subsidiaries – Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics. Only 10% of the these 800 people are employed by the Australian government, and 20% by the US government. The other 70% work directly for private corporations -the above named “Masters of War” who happily rake in the billions from human misery. Pine Gap is just one part of their income.

Let’s look at one of those corporations. Raytheon has been central to all aspects of running Pine Gap for a long time. After the fall of the Twin Towers in 2001, the price of Raytheon shares rose a staggering 37% within a week. Among other things, Raytheon manufactures cruise missiles and 3 types of cluster bombs. Hundreds of cruise missiles (starting at $600,000 each) were used to destroy Iraq in the first hours of the 2003 attack. The number of cluster bombs which shredded children and others in the conflict is unknown. Obviously, as the stock exchange predicted, there was a great return on the paltry millions Raytheon spends “lobbying “ US politicians (between $3 and $7 million per year). Raytheon is a prime example of the feared “Military Industrial Complex”, which US president Dwight Eisenhower famously warned about in 1961. Raytheon are involved in every aspect of war making. They buy the politicians, they provide the bombs, and they provide the targeting information from Pine Gap. They only drop out when it comes to cleaning up the human and environmental misery. That they leave for those who have not yet sold their souls to the devil. (At least twice Raytheon in Alice Springs were blockaded with ‘lock-ons” during the recent resistance to Pine Gap –see for details)

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Pine Gap treaty. A number of groups organized around this anniversary. IPAN (Independent and Peaceful Australia Network) organized a weekend conference in Alice Springs Graeme Dunstan and Bec Horridge, and Local Arrernte man Chris Tomlins organized a week long “Close Pine Gap” healing camp. Melbourne group “Disarm” organized a resistance camp on the road into Pine Gap. “Quaker Grannies” came to dialogue and also place themselves in front of the gates of Pine Gap with a “Tea Party”. To learn more about these groups and their activities see

While taking part in much of the above, a group of us, Catholic Workers and friends, focused on a theme of “Lament” -with music and prayer, inside and outside the gates of pine Gap. We would lament firstly the frontier wars which dispossessed the aboriginal people of this nation. Local Arrernte, Vince Forrester told of the “Killing Times” from the late 1800’s till the 1930’s when so many of his people were killed to make way for white settlers and their cattle. In 1966 one more piece of land was taken over by foreigners –Pine Gap. This time it would largely be used to kill people from other countries. No permission was ever sought or given by Arrernte traditional owners for this land to be used by the US war machine. Before our action in Pine Gap, however, we asked local Arrernte, Peter “Koko” Wallace, recognized as caretaker for the area if it was OK to enter the land. He gave us permission.

Franz Dowling and Margaret Pestorius composed a lament for guitar and Viola, while Paulie played harmonica and sang. The Lament was first played at a gathering in the Alice Mall. Later it was played at a ceremony to change the name of a street in Alice Springs. The street in question, Willshire St. had been named after a certain constable who had been famous for murdering Arrernte people. Vince Forrester recounted his terrible deeds below the sign bearing his name while the sad lament played.

Later we travelled to the front gates of Pine Gap and played the Lament against the backdrop of a beautiful sunrise. When the busloads of workers arrived we briefly blocked their path, before being dragged away by police.

Finally in the early hours of the 29th September we took the Lament into the base itself. We climbed over an outside fence at the rear of the base, and then climbed the small hill closest to the Raydomes . As we climbed I held out a large picture of a child victim of a US bomb in Iraq. All the while Franz and Margaret played the Lament as in a funeral procession. It was a very moving moment when we reached the top of the hill and the brightly illuminated domes of Pine Gap stretched out before us.

Soon after, the police also arrived. We were arrested and charged under the Defence Special Undertakings Act” which carries a maximum penalty of 7 years jail for trespass.

This is only the second time this act has been used, the first time was in 2005 when myself and 3 others cut through two security fences and two of us climbed onto one of the buildings. We were convicted by a reluctant jury. But when we were only fined by the judge, the prosecution appealed in a further attempt to send us to jail for as long as possible. The move backfired when a counter appeal, argued by lawyer Ron Merkle, overturned our convictions.

This time in court the prosecution was once again thoroughly embarrassed. The local magistrate told them they could not charge us and could not hold us under the Defence Special Undertakings Act until they had written permission from the attorney General. We were immediately released.

It is believed an appeal against the Magistrates decision is pending. In any case, the officer in charge of arrests has told Margaret we would be recharged eventually, irrespective of the appeal.

Four days after our action Peace Pilgrim Paulie from Cairns also entered the base, sang songs of lament and prayed for a number of hours before being arrested and released without charge. He too was warned he would most likely be charged in the future. A further pilgirmage to the red center looks most likely!

For more information on all actions of resistance and more go to:

For information on the Healing Camp:

For an excellent article on 30 years of resistance to Pine Gap and the Pine Gap 4 court cases see Russell Goldflam article from Alice Springs News: