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Fr. Louis Vitale, OFM, (born June 1, 1932) is a Franciscan priest, activist, and a co-founder of Nevada Desert Experience. He has engaged in civil disobedience for nearly four decades in pursuit of peace and justice, and has been arrested more than 400 times. Vitale says that St. Francis, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., provide him with inspiration.
Father Vitale served as the provincial superior of the Franciscan Friars of the Province of St. Barbara, from 1979 to 1988. Then he served as the pastor at St. Boniface Catholic Church in the tenderloin of San Francisco, California. He has a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Recently, Father Vitale has been involved in trying to raise awareness about issues of torture and the US involvement. To that end, he was arrested alongside Fr. Stephen Kelly, SJ, at Fort Huachuca in Arizona in Nov 2006. His legal defense team included William P. Quigley.
In 2003 Fr. Vitale received the Domestic Human Rights Award from Global Exchange at the third annual ceremony.
Fr. Vitale, Kathy Kelly, Stephen Kelly, John Dear, Eve Tetaz, and others were also arrested at Creech Air Force Base on Wednesday April 9, 2009, while engaged in protesting UAV attacks in Pakistan.
In November 2009 Fr Vitale crossed the line at Ft Benning to protest the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. He served 6 months in U.S. federal prison for that action.
In December 2009, Vitale joined fellow pacifist and writer Jesuit Father John Dear on a trip to Cairo, part of a journey through the Sinai Peninsula into Gaza. Their plan was to join over 1300 people from 42 nations who were in Cairo for a Gaza Freedom March on December 31, but after being stopped by the Egyptian government from making the trek, Vitale and Dear joined 22 others in a fast and protest, vowing to walk to Gaza. They were surrounded and detained by police. Father Vitale plans a presentation about his Gaza experience on January 22 at St. Boniface Church in San Francisco.
In November 2010 Fr Vitale again crossed the line at Ft Benning to protest the U.S. Army's Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. He is currently serving 6 months at FCI Lompoc for that action.