After a week of protesters opposing Stryker vehicle convoys staging at the Port of Olympia, USNS Pomeroy pulled into the Port Monday evening around 7:10 pm to load Strykers and other military machinery to be transported to the war in Iraq. According to the Olympian, the ship "was greeted by about 70 protestors who had been waiting its arrival."
"The group lined the port plaza and the floating dock, waving signs that read "No Iraq War" and "U.S. Troops are worth more than $3.25 a gallon." At least one person used a blowhorn to shout to the ship "Get out of our waters."
Some protestors at the Port Plaza and the main gate to the port on Marine Drive were shaking the fences as part of their free expression of opposition to the war. There was no damage reported to the fences, but the Thurston County sheriffs and possibly also Olympia police used the opportunity to pepper spray at least 20 protestors, even affecting people who were not shaking the fence.
This first hand report was submitted to OlyBlog.Net by "rainy gray" on Tuesday, 05/30/2006 - 2:15am:
"I was there tonight, I saw people getting sprayed, and I was truly shocked. It was such a violent response to a nonviolent act. I saw a very gentle-spirited woman I know get sprayed. I saw a man in a wheelchair get sprayed. All they were doing was banging on the fence. In fact, I think the woman I know was just standing near the fence when the spraying happened. I didn't hear any warning, although I admit I was keeping my distance and might not have heard it. If there was a warning, it should have been louder. It seemed that a lot of people were hurt, and some seemed to be hurt pretty bad. I ended up giving my hoodie to a guy who needed to be covered up because he seemed to be in shock -- shivering so violently I was afraid he was on the verge of convulsing. It seemed that a lot of people were affected in the eyes, and there didn't seem to be enough water around for everyone who needed to squirt their eyes. All because people were shaking the chain link fence, protesting a war that continues despite efforts through "the proper venues." I am very disturbed by what I saw tonight. I don't think it's cool at all to spray protesters."
After the pepper spray incident, fire department personnel were called to treat pepper spray victims. Many victims were treated by their fellow activists using water and antacid liquid.
Around 11 PM, about 25 protestors left the group at Port Plaza and marched through downtown Olympia occupying all lanes of traffic on 4th Ave. from Capitol Way to Plum St. where they briefly paused and occupied the intersection between I-5 and the Port of Olympia terminal entrance. They were shadowed at a distance by at least six police cruisers, but no one was arrested. The march picked up new participants as it moved down 4th Ave. past bars and nightclubs where people were congregated outside.
The protestors against militarization at the Port of Olympia will reconvene at the Port Plaza Tuesday, May 30 at 9 AM.