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OLY City Councilmember Johnson Defended for Protest at Port of Tacoma

Below are the comments Larry Mosqueda delivered at the Olympia City Council meeting, 3/13/07, in support of Councilmember TJ Johnson. He is under attack for his participation and civil disobedience arrest on Sunday, 3/11/07 at the Port of Tacoma for trying to stop the illegal shipment of arms (Strykers) to the Illegal war and occupation in Iraq.
From Larry Mosqueda: I gave each council member 31 pages of notes that shows that many elected officials, including congresspeople have a proud history of engaging in civil disobedience, especially around the issues of war and aparthied. I wanted to provide documentation that what TJ Johnson did had this proud history and not just a personal statement of moral support (which were also valuable, of course.) I read excerpts of various publications, listed below in the order that I presented the information (in three minutes.) The full articles are available from the links provided. Extra comments I added between the articles are indicated by the initials LJM-. ******************************

LJM- My name is Larry Mosqueda and I am here to support TJ Johnson in his actions on Sunday in Tacoma. The first article is Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" where he answers his critics from the clergy who criticize him for getting arrested for civil rights:

Martin Luther King's
Letter from Birmingham Jail
April 16, 1963

... ."One may won ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there fire two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the Brat to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all"... .

... .We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers."... .

LJM- There is a long history of elected officials, including Congresspersons, getting arrested for peace and justice reasons, especially apartheid:

Presentation: The Free South African Movement
By Sylvia Hill

... ."On November 21, 1984, four Americans of African descent, Randall Robinson, Executive Director of TransAfrica, U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Mary Frances Berry, Eleanor Holmes Norton a law professor of a prestigious law school (Georgetown), and Congressman ( D-DC) Walter Fauntroy visited the South African Embassy to discuss the growing crises in South Africa."... .
... . "Over the holiday weekend, the protest action was designated the name Free South African Movement and William Lucy of labor, Roger Wilkens, author and social critic and myself, a founding member of the grass roots organization, Southern African Support Project, joined Randall, Mary Francis and Fauntroy as the Steering Committee. We would meet daily, early in the morning, to chart a strategic course of political action and protests. Within that first week after the holidays the following arrest took place:
Nov. 26th
Representative Charles Hayes, D-Ill; The Rev. Joseph Lowery, Chairman of the Southern Christian leadership Conference
Nov. 27th:
Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan; William Simons, President of the Washington
Teachers Union.
Nov. 28th
Rep. Ronald Dellums, D- California; Marc Stepp, United Auto Workers Vice President; Hilda Mason, DC Council .
Nov. 29th
Yolanda King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Gerald McEntee, head of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Richard Hatcher, Mayor of Gary, Indiana.
Nov. 30th
Rep. George Crockett, D-Mich; Rep. Don Edwards, D-California
Lenoard Ball, Coalition of Black Trade Unions."... .

LJM- To that Honor Roll, we should add the name of TJ Johnson.

... . "FASM was a catalysts for the visibility of the anti-apartheid struggle. The visual, radio and print media crossed borders to tell this struggle. The bravery and momentum of the struggle inside South Africa became the visible example of all that was wrong with apartheid. As Mary Francis Berry answered when asked to get arrested at the embassy, it is the right time and the right thing to do! This very complex struggle that functioned on so many levels of spheres of influence gave us many lessons which I will highlight only four in this presentation."... .


LJM- In 2006 several Congresspersons were arrested to protest the genocide in Darfur in Sudan:

U.S. Lawmakers Arrested While Protesting Darfur Violence
Congressional Black Caucus members demonstrate outside Sudanese embassy
By Jim Fisher-Thompson
Washington File Staff Writer

... ."Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chairman Mel Watt told journalists, "When violent repression was going on in South Africa [under apartheid] the members of the Congressional Black Caucus stepped forward and said: 'Enough is enough'."... .

... . "Congresswomen Eleanor Holmes Norton added, "John Lewis and I have seen arrests like this work in our own country when we were kids in the civil rights movement." Later in the 1980s, Holmes said similar protests against apartheid at the South African Embassy led to success when Congress passed sanctions against the apartheid regime "which were so instrumental in bringing a new [multiracial] government to South Africa."... .

... . "Representative Barbara Lee wore a T-shirt that said: "End the Darfur Genocide" while Representative Al Green described the Darfur violence "a tragedy of the highest magnitude."... .

... . "After being warned three times by a Secret Service officer to vacate the embassy's entrance, lawmen arrested Watts, Lewis, Norton, Lee and Green as well as fellow lawmakers Gwen Moore and Eddie Bernice Johnson."... .

LJM- To that Honor Roll we should add the name of TJ Johnson.

LJM- Other congresspersons who were arrested over Darfur include:

 link to www.boston.com
5 lawmakers arrested at Darfur protest
By Andrew Miga, Associated Press Writer | April 28, 2006

... ."The slaughter of the people of Darfur must end," Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., a Holocaust survivor who founded the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, said from the embassy steps before his arrest... ..

... . "Four other Democratic House members -- Reps. James McGovern and John Olver of Massachusetts, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Jim Moran of Virginia -- were among 11 protesters arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly, a misdemeanor subject to a fine."... .

LJM- During the Mexican American War, Thoreau refused to pay his taxes to protest the war:

Dissent Is American
By Ralph Young
Mr. Young is a history professor at Temple. He is the author of the recently published, Dissent in America (A.B.Longman).

... . "Henry David Thoreau, also protesting the war with Mexico, refused to pay a poll tax because he could not in good conscience support an imperialistic government that sought to expand the institution of slavery into new territory. He was arrested and later, after his release, he wrote his influential essay "On Resistance to Civil Government." When there is an unjust law, Thoreau wrote, like laws legalizing the institution of slavery, then it is the duty of every just man to break that law. A true patriot would not allow injustice to stand. Thoreau's friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, visited him the night he spent in jail. "Henry," he asked, somewhat scandalized by Thoreau's outrageous behavior, "what are you doing in there?" To which Thoreau purportedly replied, "Ralph, what are you doing out there?"... .

LJM- The question the council should be asking is not what TJ was doing in jail, but why wasn't the rest of the council with him.
*******************************************LJM- Other information on Thoreau:

Essays & Sermons
 link to www.interfaithalliance.org

"When the Fugitive Slave Law was passed requiring that runaways across state lines be returned to their owners, Emerson wrote, "This filthy enactment was made in the 19th century by people who could read and write. I will not obey it by God." And then there was that famous exchange between Emerson and his friend, Henry David Thoreau. In 1846 when the United States was at war with Mexico Thoreau chose to go to jail rather than pay taxes that would be used to support a war he thought was unjust. When Emerson went to visit his friend in jail, he said, "Henry, what are you doing in there?" Thoreau replied, "Waldo, what are you doing out there?"

LJM- When my time ran out I was unable to state that while we all respect what TJ and the others did, the main issue is still the illegality of the war and occupation. For information on that illegal war see my article on "A Duty to Disobey All Unlawful Orders" at  http://www.counterpunch.org/mosqueda02272003.html.

A relevant passage from this article is, "As Hamilton Action for Social Change has noted "Under the Nuremberg Principles, you have an obligation NOT to follow the orders of leaders who are preparing crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. We are all bound by what U.S. Chief Prosecutor Robert K. Jackson declared in 1948: [T]he very essence of the [Nuremberg] Charter is that individuals have intentional duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual state." At the Tokyo War Crimes trial, it was further declared "[A]nyone with knowledge of illegal activity and an opportunity to do something about it is a potential criminal under international law unless the person takes affirmative measures to prevent commission of the crimes."

Also see  http://www.thankyoult.org/ for the case of Lt. Ehren Watada who is courageously refusing to participate in the illegal war. Part of his legal rationale is at  http://www.thankyoult.org/ for the case of Lt. Ehren Watada who is courageously refusing to participate in the illegal war. Part of his legal rationale is at  link to www.thankyoult.org.

LJM- Thank you.

support 14.Mar.2007 12:16


Nice work!
Didn't know (but should have) that this person was under assault for his support.
If you have an email or way for us to send our support to him, would be appreciated.
We need to thank and encourage at every opportunity.

Contact for TJ 14.Mar.2007 15:19


I only posted what Larry Mosquada pulled together for the cityc council. It is inspiring and a great reminder of what people can do.
Here is TJ's email:
E-Mail:  tjohnson@ci.olympia.wa.us
I wish there were more politicians as couragous as TJ.

I read where council member 15.Mar.2007 09:15


Doug Mah, who is running for Mayor is trying to stir up trouble for TJ on this. He is also part of the group attempting to over-develop downtown and other parcels, including moving City Hall to a flood plain near port property. His campaign should be vigorously opposed.