Stop the surge, keep the 4th Brigade home!
Tacoma and Olympia Port Militarization Resistance organizers continue vigils and other actions, including a rally and march on Friday afternoon. Civil disobedience and other direct actions are expected over the weekend. Affinity groups are encouraged to make plans for Friday evening and beyond.
Tacoma, WA, March 8, 2007 ― Four arrests at the Port of Tacoma this week have not deterred anti-war activists from their campaign to prevent Stryker vehicles and other combat equipment from shipment to Iraq as part of President Bush's escalation of the conflict.
Olympia Port Militarization Resistance (OlyPMR) and Tacoma Port Militarization Resistance (Tacoma PMR) plan to continue daily vigils and other actions for as long as the military equipment continues to arrive at the Port of Tacoma, and while the equipment is being loaded on a ship bound for Iraq.
Daily vigils will continue at the Port of Tacoma each evening at 9pm.
On Friday, March 9, from 4:00 to 6:00 pm Tacoma PMR and OlyPMR are planning a rally and march, beginning at the Federal Courthouse at 1717 Pacific Avenue in downtown Tacoma. Following the rally and march, there will be action planning and affinity group meetings at the Federal Courthouse. Direct action and non-violent civil disobedience will take place at the Port of Tacoma Friday night and throughout the weekend.
Additional events may be announced as the situation unfolds.
Tacoma PMR and OlyPMR have been continuously protesting the use of the Port of Tacoma since the equipment began arriving late in the evening of March 2. Additional military convoys have arrived at the Port each evening since March 2.
"The fact that they had to choose a different, less accessible port and then sneak the equipment in under cover of darkness shows just how little public support there is for the ongoing quagmire in Iraq" said Wes Hamilton, a Vietnam veteran and member of the Olympia chapter of Veterans for Peace. He added, "The best way to support the troops is to prevent them from being placed into the midst of a civil war where they have a high risk of killing or being killed. We have a moral and humanitarian obligation to resist the use of our port."
The equipment belongs to the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division which is scheduled to deploy sometime in April. The April deployment is part of the Bush administration's escalation of the conflict, the so-called "surge." The accelerated time-line forced the Stryker unit to forgo essential desert training planned in California.
According to Tom McCarthy, a member of Tacoma PMR, "Sending soldiers into an escalation without proper training is just one more way in which the military isn't giving our soldiers what they need ― in Iraq, or at home."
The port resistance groups believe that preventing troops currently stationed at Ft. Lewis from being thrust into the middle of the chaos in Iraq is the best way to support the troops. According to Phan Nguyen, a member of OlyPMR, "We're putting our opposition to the surge into action. Our actions are directed at keeping the 4th Brigade home and away from unnecessary harm. If the Stykers aren't shipped, the 4th Brigade won't be deployed."
On March 4 three activists, Caitlin Esworthy, Wally Cuddeford and Jeff Berryhill were arrested and charged with 3rd degree assault as they peacefully demonstrated against the shipment. At their arraignment on March 6 all charges against the activists were immediately dropped. All three sustained injuries when police in full riot gear entered the designated protest zone and forcefully took them into custody. Cuddeford reports being Tasered three times while pinned down by officers. Several witnesses saw Berryhill shot with a non-lethal projectile at point blank range. Esworthy sought medical care for a neck injury inflicted by the Tacoma police. Attorney Larry Hildes reports that the three are considering filing a civil claim against Tacoma police for false arrest and use of excessive force.
On March 6 Cuddeford, a Navy veteran, was arrested and charged with trespassing and disrupting a Tacoma City Council meeting for allegedly exceeding the allotted time limit for public comment as he described his arrest on Sunday night.
According to Cuddeford "I was simply trying to tell the Tacoma City Council how the Tacoma police almost killed me the other evening. It seemed as if the least they could do was extend their arbitrary time limit and listen to my story."
Since forcibly ordering Cuddeford removed from the council chambers, numerous people have contacted the Tacoma City Council to express their concern. In an e-mail to Mayor Bill Baarsma and members of the Tacoma City Council TJ Johnson, an Olympia City Councilman and member of OlyPMR wrote that "I believe the presiding officer should have been more flexible in the application of the procedures. Forcibly removing a citizen from a public meeting should come as only an absolute last resort. My analysis of the situation is that the decision to remove the citizen was premature and inappropriate."
Johnson also encouraged the City Council to take seriously the allegations of police misconduct. "I have been on the scene at the Port of Tacoma at several points over the past week. When I was present, I was quite concerned by the actions of officers at the scene, including deployment of full riot gear and refusing to provide names or badge numbers when requested to do so. They were setting the stage for confrontation."
Despite the arrests and concern over the actions of the Tacoma City Council, activists vow to continue to confront the military shipments. "We have a democratic, economic, and moral obligation to resist the use of our publicly funded ports to support an occupation that is opposed by the American people. This quagmire in Iraq is robbing our communities of desperately needed resources and putting our young people in grave danger," said Molly Gibbs a mother and OlyPMR member. "We must accept our responsibility and take actions to stop it," added Gibbs.
The port resistance campaign has been 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, United for Peace Pierce County, Students for a Democratic Society, the Alliance for Democracy, the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace, and the Movement Against War and Occupation in Vancouver BC.
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