Around 10,000 people demonstrated on March 30 in Niscemi near Caltanissetta in Sicily against the proposed creation of the M.U.O.S. (Mobile User Objective System), a ultra-high-frequency satellite network to serve the US Navy.
The rally was opened by children from the local elementary school and their mothers, who formed a protest committee earlier this year. The Mothers Against MUOS, as they call themselves, have fiercely opposed the projects with pickets (including one at the City Hall of Niscemi), occupations and road blockades over the past three months. Their tenacity has earned them criminal charges (including resisting arrest and damage to property). Attempts at criminalizing the movement have resulted in alarm about “possible infiltration by vandals” and in the discovery of “vandalizing tools” on March 14, 2013. “We are not black blocs (anarchist protesters), we are concerned moms and we want our children to be safe,” responded the Mothers against MUOS committee.
Based on ultra-high frequency (UHF), MUOS was meant to replace the current system of communications (known as UFO) and to provide an enhanced communications service to mobile users, including drone pilots. Niscemi, 60 km south-east of the US base of Sigonella, is one of the system’s four strategic stations. The other three stations are located in Western Australia, Southeast Virgina and Hawaii. Lockheed Martin is the project’s developer and main contractor.
High power broadcast transmitters at mobile frequencies are the source of concern among the local residents, who fear cancer-inducing effects and other health hazards. The environmental impact of the station is also a source of concern. Niscemi is home to “la Sughereta”, a nature reserve containing one of the few wild cork oak woods still left in the country. Ironically, Sughereta is exactly the area where the MUOS station would be placed. With its satellite transmitters, MUOS would therefore violate the landscape protection act, which forbids the erection of high-voltage pylons, cables and other high-impact structures in the area. (As it happens, conveniently the boundaries of the reserve were moved in 2012 in order to make room for the project.)