Wednesday, May 31, 2006


The Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace on May 25th released the following statement explaining their actions to put themselves into the gears of the war machine.

"On Monday, May 22, the US Army began a massive transport of Stryker vehicles and other war equipment to the Port of Olympia for shipment to Iraq, in advance of the re-deployment to Iraq of the Styker 3rd Brigade.

We have opposed militarization of our port for two years by direct appeal to the Port Commission and City Council; by writing articles, Op-Eds and letters to the editor; and by holding educational forums, vigils and marches. Our elected officials are not listening.

"The weapons shipments, and the use of our public property to prolong and supply the war in Iraq have made us complicit in crimes against humanity. We refuse to be complicit any longer. We will continue to utilize every available instrument of democracy, including direct action and disruption when necessary."

It calls to mind another statement. This one by by the late Berkeley radical Mario Savio made during the Free Speech actions of 1964 that were aimed against the University of California's repressive administrative dictates against student and staff political activity:

"There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies on the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

Now, there are many folks around the world that have felt that the operation of the machine has been odious for a long time, and there's more of us joining every day, but there are very few examples of anyone putting their bodies on any gear. I suggest that is why we find ourselves in the state we are in today. Too many of us have given up on stopping the machine from working at all. If there was ever a better time to awake from our slumber, that time is now. The litany of death, repression, and exploitation of every form imaginable has grown too long. As others have started to hint at, the time for mere protest is over."

The following is from the Olympian.

Port protests escalate
22 arrests made in demonstrations against military cargo ship

OLYMPIA - Twenty-two people were arrested Tuesday in one of the most volatile confrontations yet between anti-war activists and police officers guarding a military cargo ship docked at the Port of Olympia.

The confrontations resulted in the most arrests in a single day since the demonstrations began a week ago against the Iraq-bound military shipments leaving from the port. Police used pepper spray several times on the 100 or so activists and advanced into the crowd later in the evening, trying to disperse it.

Olympia City Councilman TJ Johnson was among those shoved by state troopers trying to clear the area. In response, he stood face-to-face in front of the advancing officers until they fired several pepper-spray pellets to clear the area.

All of those arrested were taken to the Thurston County Jail on suspicion of criminal trespassing. No one was seriously injured, Thurston County sheriff's Capt. Brad Watkins said.

Most of the arrests were made shortly after the protest started about 5 p.m. at the main entry gate on Marine Drive. Activists tore down the chain-link gate and closed in, squaring off with a line of sheriff's deputies in riot gear and helmets with face shields.

Activists then began lying on the ground and linking arms on the Port of Olympia side of the entrance.

One by one, deputies dragged them off and handcuffed them as activists yelled: "Let them go, let them go."

Early on, the first bursts of pepper spray were directed at one protester resisting arrest, Watkins said. But several people were affected. They ran back behind the front line and lay on the ground while friends flushed out their eyes with water.

The protests started last week when Army Stryker vehicles and equipment bound for Iraq started funneling through downtown streets to be unloaded at the port. Sixteen protesters were arrested last week for blocking traffic and disobeying police commands.

The demonstratons started anew late Monday when the United States Naval Ship Pomeroy pulled into port to pick up the cargo, and the protests continued Tuesday. Activists argue that the Iraq war is illegal and that by aiding the military, the Port of Olympia is complicit in an immoral war.

"It's my first time being down here, and it's for a good cause. It's an issue that needs to be taken care of," said Tom Hargreaves, a 19-year-old tool salesman from Tumwater who said his father is in the National Guard.

The demonstration cooled down at times, including one 30-minute span when several people gathered around Professor Steve Niva of The Evergreen State College as he led a teach-in about where Strykers were being deployed in Iraq.

Officers from Olympia, Tumwater and the State Patrol were called in to back up deputies, who were flanked by private security guards and U.S. Coast Guard security. About 50 officers were on hand and, at one lull in the protest, almost matched up with activists one-to-one.

About 8 p.m., the sheriff's office started ordering the crowd to disperse and warned that officers would arrest stragglers and use pepper spray. The crowd barely budged when a phalanx of deputies, police officers and state troopers emerged from behind the gate.

Gene Otto and his wife, Judi Mendoza, who own Otto's and the San Francisco Street Bakery, saw the gathering as they drove by and stopped to see what was happening. They had been there for 30 minutes, standing along the sidelines, when state troopers converged and shoved them hard with batons. Neither was demonstrating or standing in the officers' way, although they said they supported the cause.

"I was pretty surprised to be shoved with a baton. That's the first time that's happened to me," Otto said.

"There was no reason that this had to escalate," he said.

The air stank from chemicals and the onions and vinegar that protesters used to counteract the pepper spray's effects. Several protesters hacked incessantly while others vomited in the street. Port officials blocked the hole in the fence with a large cargo container.

Councilman Johnson and Mayor Pro Tem Laura Ware also were in attendance. After seeing Otto and his wife get pushed, Johnson jumped into the fray, standing directly in front of the officers to protest their advance. By then, the demonstration was losing its focus. As many people were taunting officers as were shouting anti-war slogans.

Johnson said things escalated in part because local activists aren't as familiar with deputies as they are with Olympia police officers, and vice versa. He also said he thinks deputies have been needlessly more aggressive, a tactic he disagrees with and one that he complained about to county commissioners, he said.

He also said there was "plenty of blame to go around" for what happened Tuesday, but he understands protesters' frustrations.
"They're thinking of everything they can to stop this war, and it still continues, even through our downtown," he said.

He later negotiated an agreement with police and protesters that allowed them to continue from a certain distance away in exchange for officers' backtracking behind the fence.

Many activists still were stinging from Monday night, where sheriff's deputies, who are under contract to provide riot control at the Port of Olympia, doused them with pepper spray as they shook the perimeter fence. Many protesters and observers, including Johnson, said protesters were not given ample warning that officers planned to spray them with the eye- and throat-irritating chemical.

Sheriff's officials, however, said they warned activists several times through a megaphone.

"They can't say they were never warned," Watkins said.

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