As part of this week's Solid Curtain/Citadel Shield exercise, a group of Pax River volunteers staged protest demonstrations at Gate 2 on Monday morning, and at Gate 1 on Tuesday morning. While waving signs and shouting antiwar and antigovernment sentiments, the imitation protesters fielded a few impassioned counter-protests from drivers traveling northbound on Route 235.
"We're here to help with Solid Curtain/Citadel Shield so that Security will, in the event of a real protest, will be able to act swiftly and know whose jurisdiction is where," said Stephanie Lance. "STOP THE WAR! STOP THE KILLING!"
Beverly Jeffas of the NAS Patuxent River Safety Department was on hand to observe the protesters, "to make sure where they are is safe, so they don't get too close to the road or step into a chuckhole in the grass, and hopefully not to administer CPR or anything," Jeffas explained. "Have you looked at the faces of the people driving by? They are not happy."
Pax River has seen genuine protesters outside Gate 1 in the past, Jeffas said, generally in response to contracting disputes.
"It's a high-visibility area, so one company didn't get a contract and thought it was not fair and protested at Gate 1, but never a political protest," Jeffas said. "That was a long time ago."
Within 18 minutes of the protest launch, Naval District Washington Police and St. Mary's County Sheriff's deputies were on the scene to ensure that the protesters did not disrupt traffic. Law enforcement jurisdiction at the gates requires cooperation between Navy and County offices, because the grassy areas adjacent to the gates are federal property while the roads are not. The protesters asserted their right to free speech, and continued their demonstration while officers observed.
"As long as you're not disrupting traffic and it's peaceful, like you are now, sure," said NDW Police Officer Andrew Demory, when confronted by a protester. "Go ahead; protest."