Fifteen people protesting nuclear weapons were arrested for trespassing early Saturday at Vandenberg Air Force Base, where a Minuteman 3 missile that blasted out its silo became the West Coast’s first launch of 2012.

The unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile launched at 2:46 a.m. from an underground silo on North Base.

About 70 activists gathered just before midnight in front of Vandenberg’s main gate to protest nuclear weapons and testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Just before 1 a.m., more than a dozen protesters left the grassy area in front of the large Vandenberg sign and began walking in the street toward the main gate, where they were met by security personnel.

Those arrested included Daniel Ellsberg, former nuclear strategist for the government and the man responsible for leaking the Pentagon Papers to the press in 1971; Cindy Sheehan, who became an anti-war activist after her son was killed serving with the Army in Iraq; and Father Louis Vitale, who has been arrested multiple times in earlier protests at Vandenberg.

All of those arrested were issued citations for trespassing and later released in Vandenberg Village, base officials said.

Another Minuteman 3 weapons test that was scheduled to launch today from Vandenberg has been delayed, with a new launch date uncertain, Air Force officials said.

In all, five Minuteman 3 tests are planned in 2012 from the base.

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