As Resistance to Stryker Shipment Grows, Police Turn Violent on Peaceful Protesters
Following an afternoon rally at the Federal Courthouse in Tacoma on Friday, members of Port Militarization Resistance staged a peaceful demonstration at the Port of Tacoma, where they were met by Tacoma Police. Later, police turned violent and launched tear gas and rubber bullets at activists as they sat chanting peace slogans.
Tacoma, WA, March 10, 2007 ― Activists opposed to a military shipment bound for Iraq continued their week long campaign with a rally in downtown Tacoma and a demonstration at the Port of Tacoma. They are protesting the deployment of a Ft. Lewis-based Stryker brigade deploying to Iraq as part of the US escalation of the conflict.
At an afternoon rally at the Federal Courthouse, anti-war activists from throughout Western Washington and Oregon held signs and listened to speakers denounce the US mission in Iraq and call for active resistance to the escalation.
Among those at the Port of Tacoma Friday night was TJ Johnson, an Olympia City councilman who is a part of Olympia Port Militarization Resistance. Johnson, the winner of the 2006 Dr. Paul Beeson award from Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility and a well-known anti-nuclear activist, told the crowd "We have a moral obligation and a growing sense of urgency to make it clear that we want to keep soldiers safe at home, and spend our tax dollars to meet humanitarian needs, here and in the Middle East."
Also speaking at the rally was Lynn Stewart, a nationally renowned New York civil rights attorney.
After the rally hundreds of activists from Bellingham, Port Townsend, South Sound and Portland converged on the Port of Tacoma to continue to demonstrate their opposition to the military shipments. The large crowd vowed to continue the protest, and has issued a broad appeal to opponents of the war to come to Tacoma to join in this public demonstration of dissent from the Bush administration's Iraq policy.
Later in the evening one of the activists was arrested for trying to enter the protest zone with a backpack full of food and medical supplies. Police said Tom McCarthy of Tacoma had violated a police ban on backpacks in the area, and they confiscated his backpack. A large crowd gathered, challenging the arrest just before 11:37 pm. Police continue to refuse backpacks inside the designated "protest zone" even after repeated admonitions from at least two attorneys citing Ninth Circuit legal precedent determining that such bans violate Fourth Amendment privacy rights.
According to Mark Jensen of Pierce United for Peace and Justice, "Around midnight, the crowd was still growing. As police donned gas masks and distributed ammunition for crowd control, an additional unit of about 70 riot police made up of personnel from various nearby police departments arrived by bus. Massing near a fence on 11th Ave around 1:00 am, a few young people tested its strength, causing it to swing wildly. Police fired what one person believed to be pepper spray, briefly scattering the crowd while police moved quickly to reinforce the fence."
Demonstrators then began walking away from the fence and south on Thorne Ave. Mike Pinson of Tacoma reports that "We went on a long march back around to another access point. There were at least 250 people chanting the entire time while a police car in reverse and one moving forward paced the head of the pack as we advanced."
When demonstrators reached the other access point following a one mile walk, they were met with a large police presence. The police were in full riot gear, including gas masks.
Some of the demonstrators crossed a yellow tape-line police set up, sat down and began chanting and singing songs. According to Phan Nguyen, a member of Olympia Port Militarization Resistance, "At this point riot police responded by launching multiple volleys of tear gas and rapid firing rubber bullets into the crowd."
Independent media videographers were present, and films of the event have already been posted on www.youtube.com. Local television stations that have been covering the Port of Tacoma demonstrations were not present Friday night.
Despite the police violence on Friday, demonstrators have no plans to discontinue their campaign. "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 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.
One YouTube link where video of Port of Tacoma actions are being posted is here:
Two specific clips so far are:
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