Olympia, WA, February 29, 2007 - Over the past week, Olympia Port Militarization Resistance (OlyPMR), a local grassroots organization, has stepped up its efforts to close the Port of Olympia to military shipment bound for Iraq as part of President Bush's escalation of the conflict.
Members of OlyPMR met with Thurston County Sheriff Dan Kimball on Friday, February 23. The goal of the meeting was to open a line of communication between OlyPMR and the sheriff's office in anticipation that the sheriff's office would provide security for military shipments targeted for blockage by OlyPMR. During the meeting, Kimball revealed that the County will not provide security unless Port officials guarantee reimbursement of all costs, and assume all liability for potential civil litigation that arise from the protests.
"It was a very positive meeting," said Wes Hamilton a Vietnam Veteran and member of the local chapter of Veterans for Peace. "We support the County's position that the costs for these shipments should not be borne by County taxpayers."
According to the National Priorities project, the occupation of Iraq has already cost Thurston County citizens over $300 million.
Members of OlyPMR also spoke at the Thurston County Commissioners' meeting on February 26, and at the Port Commission and Olympia City Council meetings on February 27. The lobbying is part of a continuum of actions currently focused on public education and communication with key elected officials.
In his comments to the County Commissioners, Olympia City Councilman TJ Johnson thanked them for taking action consistent with the views of a majority of their constituents. Later Johnson added that "A strong majority of Thurston County residents oppose the ongoing occupation, and even more oppose Bush's escalation. The decision by the sheriff and the commissioners to end their support for the occupation is consistent with their obligations as democratically-elected representatives."
While OlyPMR is working aggressively to prevent military shipments bound for Iraq, it is also preparing for the potential that equipment will be shipped through the Port of Olympia. The group plans to use non-violent civil disobedience to physically block such shipments.
OlyPMR has organized several workshops to train community members interested in participating in civil disobedience. The first workshop is Sunday, March 4 from 10am to 6pm at The Evergreen State College Seminar 2, Room E-3105. The second workshop is Thursday March 8 and Friday March 9 from 5:30-8:30pm. On March 8, the workshop will be at the United Methodist Church, 1224 Legion Way SE. The March 9 workshop will be at the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 2200 East End St NW.
Molly Gibbs, a local mother who has organized the workshops, encourages anyone planning to participate in civil disobedience to attend. According to Gibbs, "The workshops will provide skills to help all participants support each other in the spirit of non-violence agreed to by OlyPMR."
Caitlin Esworthy, an Olympia resident and student at The Evergreen State College, plans to attend the workshops. "Non-violent civil disobedience is an important part of the continuum of actions to prevent the military's use of the port," said Esworthy. She added that "the workshops will help people learn techniques and strategies for applying some of the strongest tools of democracy — tools that have been historically used to win and secure our freedoms, such as civil rights, women's rights, and workers' rights."
OlyPMR believes that its campaign will provide a powerful model for other communities seeking to end their participation in the occupation of Iraq. "Our efforts in Olympia can serve as an important beacon of hope and inspiration for other communities frustrated by the ongoing violence in Iraq," said Sandy Mayes a registered nurse and 24 year resident of Olympia.
The OlyPMR campaign is endorsed by the Veterans for Peace #109 (Rachel Corrie Chapter), Olympia Chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Green Party of South Puget Sound, Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace, Students for a Democratic Society, Olympia Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Committee.
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