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23 Antiwar Protesters Arrested at Port of Tacoma

Tacoma police arrested twenty-three antiwar protesters Sunday afternoon at the Port of Tacoma as the ongoing port militarization resistance movement there entered its eighth day.
Amanda Askea and TJ Johnson being led away by police.  Photo by Carrie Lybecker.
Amanda Askea and TJ Johnson being led away by police. Photo by Carrie Lybecker.
Tacoma, WA, March 11, 2007 - Fifteen protesters, including Olympia City Councilman TJ Johnson, were arrested for crossing a police barricade in an attempt to deliver a "Citizen's Injunction to Halt Shipment of Military Material to Iraq." The injunction declared the Iraq war to be "contrary to the rule of law" and the current escalation to be "counterproductive" and opposed by "a majority of United States Citizens." (Full text below).

On a ship docked nearby, hundreds of Stryker vehicles from nearby Fort Lewis were being loaded for the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which will be deployed next month to Iraq as part of the unpopular escalation announced on Jan. 10 by President George W. Bush.

In addition, eight persons were arrested for challenging on First and Fourth Amendment grounds what protesters believe to be an illegal police ban on backpacks, bags, and purses. Phan Nguyen of Olympia
told police his backpack contained only a copy of the United States Constitution. He was arrested anyway. "Just as we feel that soldiers should disobey unlawful orders, so I refuse to obey illegal orders
from police," he said.

The latest arrests bring to 30 the number of persons arrested as part of a resistance movement whose vigor has taken local authorities by surprise. Friday night's protests were marred by the use of gas and
rubber bullets against peaceful protesters. On Saturday, Tacoma officials deployed riot police to throw a wide perimeter around the ship and refused all discussion with protesters.

But Sunday was very different. Officers in full riot gear were again out in force, but demonstrators proclaimed their commitment to nonviolence and read poems like David Krieger's "Worse Than War."
Sgt. Todd Kitselman of the Tacoma Police Department agreed to negotiate arrest procedures, and protesters waited patiently until police said they were ready to arrest them. Rosie Math was the first
to go over the police barrier at 4:20 p.m. She and those who followed her were treated respectfully and with dignity. Arrests continued for about fifteen minutes as supporters applauded and cheered each act of civil disobedience. Cries of "We love you, Linda!" and "My momma's proud of you, Sandy!" resounded beneath the pearly light of an overcast day marked by gusty winds and occasional rain showers.

Before clambering over the barricade thrown across East 11th St. at Thorne Rd., some of the protesters explained their actions to supporters. Sandy Mayes of Olympia Port Militarization Resistance said, "We have a democratic obligation to resist." Patti Imani said she was the daughter of a disabled veteran who had raised her to embrace democracy and to act. TJ Johnson, who was elected to the Olympia City Council in 2003 and who won the 2006 Dr. Paul Beeson award from Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, said: "I have no other choice. I have done everything else I can think of as a citizen, a city councilman, and as a parent. This is for my son. This is for all the children and grandchildren."

Others arrested for crossing the police barricade and attempting to deliver the citizen's injunction were Somerset Fetter, Andrea Robbins, Chris Stegman, Sandy Mayes, Sam Edwards, Molly Gibbs, Wes Hamilton, Linda Jansen, Dylan Snyder, Brooke Stepp, Patti Imani, Amanda Askea, and Sasha Crow. They ranged in age from 19 to 60, and included veterans, students, teachers, and caregivers.

Among those arrested for carrying a backpack to the protest was Charlie Bevis of Tacoma. He said he was asserting his rights under the First and Fourth Amendments. As police handcuffed him, he told
them: "When you became a police officer, you swore to support the Constitution. I wanted to make it clear that what you are doing is unconstitutional, that you are following orders, and not the oath that
you have taken." Others arrested for carrying backpacks were Liz Rivera Goldstein, Jody Tiller, Patrick Edelbacher, Matt Reiss, Leah Coakley, and Dennis Dutton.

Tensions ebbed rather than escalated as the protest went on. After the arrests, some of those who were tear-gassed Friday night took the occasion to tell police how they felt about their ordeal. Among them was Wally Cuddeford, a Navy veteran, who told police he had been hogtied and Tasered by them the previous Sunday, but had come out each night since because "I am not afraid. We are not afraid. It is our obligation to protest." One man, Cameron Coale, told police he had been demonstrating in remembrance of a friend killed serving in Iraq, James D. Riekena, 22, a U.S. Army sergeant who was killed in Iraq by an I.E.D. on Jan. 14. Weeping, Coale told police they had dishonored James Riekana's memory by unleashing violence on protesters that night.

Present were members of Olympia Port Militarization Resistance, who in May 2006 protested a Stryker shipment through the Port of Olympia and whose 2007 campaign succeeded in dissuading the Army from attempting to use that port for further shipment of war matériel from nearby Fort Lewis.

The presence of about 20 police from the Thurston County Sheriff's Office was noted by Olympians. They intend to investigate whether the Thurston County Sheriff's Office negotiated a cooperation agreement with the Port of Tacoma, since Sheriff Dan Kimball has said that Thurston County would not provide security for port movements unless port officials guaranteed reimbursement of all costs.

Journalists from local television stations and newspapers were present, covering the event.

The port militarization resistance movement has vowed continued protests until the Stryker-laden ship leaves Commencement Bay. "We believe that nonviolent social change is a means for people to
discover their own power," said TJ Johnson, evoking America's proud tradition of civil disobedience and the examples of Henry David Thoreau, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr.



Whereas, the invasion and occupation of Iraq is contrary to the rule of law inasmuch as it defies agreements that expressly prohibit the belligerent and aggressive invasion of a sovereign nation, and

Whereas, the invasion and occupation of Iraq defies both the letter, and the spirit, of internationally and domestically recognized legal statutes such as the United Nations Charter, the Nuremberg Tribunal Charter, the Geneva Conventions and the United States War Crimes Act, nand

Whereas, the invasion and occupation of Iraq has resulted in a humanitarian crisis of significant proportions, and

Whereas, the escalation of conflict in Iraq is counterproductive to the goal of establishing a stable sovereign nation, and

Whereas, a majority of United States Citizens oppose both the occupation of Iraq and the escalation of the conflict through the deployment of additional United States military forces, and

Whereas, the cost of the invasion and occupation of Iraq now exceeds $500 billion, money which could have been spent to meet domestic and international needs such as health care, education, and the provision of essential public infrastructure, and

Whereas, the best way to support United States soldiers is to prevent them from being placed into the middle of a conflict in which they have a high risk of killing and being killed, and

Whereas I have exhausted every legal means available to me to petition my elected leaders for the cessation of the conflict, and

Whereas, under legal precedent and historical practice, control over the American military rests firmly within the civilian population,

Now, therefore be it resolved that I, the undersigned, as a citizen of the United States of America, do hereby prohibit the shipment of military vehicles to the 4th Brigade through the publicly funded Port
of Tacoma.

Signed on this Eleventh day of March in the year 2007.


For more information contact:

Wes Hamilton

Molly Gibbs

Caitlin Esworthy

TJ Johnson

Sandy Mayes

Phan Nguyen

Patrick Edelbacher