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Felony assault charges dropped against Tacoma Port demonstrators

Three activists arrested on Sunday stated that they will not be deterred by the brutal, unjustified arrests and excessive charges and will persist in actively resisting shipments to the US occupation of Iraq through the Port of Tacoma.
In a victory for the Tacoma resistance to the US troop surge in Iraq, a Pierce County Superior Court judge dismissed felony assault charges today against all three activists who were arrested at the Port of Tacoma after midnight on Sunday morning.

Wally Cuddeford, Caitlin Esworthy and Jeff Berryhill were amongst a crowd of demonstrators when police in riot gear entered the designated protest zone. One by one the three were pulled from the crowd.

Several witnesses have described how Cuddeford was thrown to the ground and dragged across the pavement. Cuddeford later added that he was Tasered three times while police held him down before dragging him away. Berryhill was holding a protest sign when, according to witnesses, police fired a projectile into his thigh from close range, knocking him to the ground.

Following their arrest, Cuddeford, Esworthy and Berryhill were booked for felony assault at the Pierce County jail where they remained in custody for nearly 24 hours. Each was forced to pay $1000 bail before they could be released. At today's arraignment, immediately following the judge's decision to drop all charges, the three were greeted by a lively round of applause from dozens of supporters as they entered the Courthouse lobby.

Cuddeford stated, "The reason they charged me with third degree assault is because their behavior was so outrageous that they had to find an excuse to justify it."

In a late-breaking development, reports are coming in regarding testimony provided by Wally Cuddeford to the Tacoma City Council during the public testimony segment of tonight's Council meeting. Providing a polite but gripping account of the trauma he experienced at the hands of an over-zealous Tacoma Police Department, Cuddeford was advised after two minutes that his time was up, under threat of being removed. Repeatedly, he replied, "I would like to finish" or "I'm going to finish" and continued. Deputy Mayor Rick Talbert called for security to remove him and Cuddeford was physically dragged away and once again taken into custody.

Each of the three activists arrested on Sunday stated that they will not be deterred by the brutal, unjustified arrests and excessive charges and will persist in actively resisting shipments to the US occupation of Iraq through the Port of Tacoma. "This won't stop me; I did nothing wrong," said Berryhill. Attorney Larry Hildes intends to file a civil suit before Friday against the Tacoma Police Department on behalf of Cuddeford, Esworthy and Berryhill.

Since Friday night, as Stryker convoys to the Port of Tacoma commenced, members of the Olympia Port Militarization Resistance joined with the Tacoma Port Militarization Resistance in demonstrating against movement of military equipment through the Port of Tacoma for eventual shipment to Iraq. The equipment is being shipped in advance of deployment of the Fourth Brigade, Second Division, which has been expedited as part of George Bush's troop "surge." Due to the surge, the Fourth Brigade will be forced to forgo essential dessert training in California before leaving for Iraq.

Demonstrators say that they oppose the surge, which puts more troops at risk. PMR members argue that "if the Stykers aren't shipped, the Fourth Brigade won't be deployed, keeping them out of harms way."

For more information contact:

Larry Hildes, Attorney
360-715-9788

Tom McCarthy
253-250-9290
wandertom [at] yahoo.com

TJ Johnson
360-943-4596
tjjohnson [at] scattercreek.com

Sandy Mayes
360-956-1136
sandy [at] zhonka.net

Wes Hamilton
360-791-7484
stopwar [at] riseup.net

Molly Gibbs
360-412-1519
kayck [at] olywa.net

Caitlin Esworthy
413-522-6558

Phan Nguyen
360-352-4172

Patrick Edelbacker
925-518-9060
sharkeye [at] riseup.net