Friday, November 16, 2007

News About Port of Olympia From SDS

"There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so
odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part,
you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put
your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the
levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it
stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to
the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine
will be prevented from working at all!"

--Mario Savio, the steps of Sproul Plaza, UC
Berkeley, December 2, 1964

For 10 days, anti-war activists in Olympia, Washington have
slowed down and for two different periods of 12 hours or
more, stopped the flow of military weapons and military cargo
that were unloaded from a Navy ship that had returned from
Iraq. For 24 hours a day, we have used a variety of tactics
and actions. They have included sitting in front of trucks
carrying Stryker vehicles and other military equipment from
leaving the Port of Olympia, building barricades on the roads
where these military vehicles were traveling, anti-war
demonstrations through the streets of Olympia and vigils,
downtown. A hearing was held at City Hall, last Sunday,
November 11th, 2007 to document the excessive police force
used against people who participated in these actions. We
testified at the Olympia City Council and at a hearing of the
elected Port Commissioners demanding that they take a stand
opposing the U.S. war against Iraq by not letting our Port be
used to transport war supplies. About 500 people have taken
part in some or all of these protests.


For three years, various anti-war, social justice and student
groups such as Students for a Democratic Society, SDS, have
demanded that Olympia officials take a stand against the war
by not permitting our Port to be used for military cargo
going to and coming from Iraq. To make this a reality people
have put their bodies on the line each time the port has been
used with the most recent actions being the longest, largest
and most successful in actually stopping shipments. Lt. Ehren
Watada, who was the first commissioned officer to refuse
deployment to Iraq, was in part, inspired by anti-war Port
protests in 2005, in making his decision to refuse to go to
Iraq. There have also been protests against and resistance to
military shipments to Iraq in spring, 2007 in Aberdeen and
Tacoma, WA, which is the main Port used by the military. We
hope by our actions to inspire direct and militant action
against the U.S. war in Iraq and to end the complicity of
local communities, e.g., our ports in the carrying out of
this war. Growing non-cooperation with this war and the
possible future war with Iran by more and more communities is
one key part of a strategy to get the U.S. to withdraw from
Iraq and not attack Iran.

The major group coordinating the current actions is the
Olympia Port Militarization Resistance (PMR) organization. It
was formed in May, 2006 when Olympians outraged by the war
attempted to block outgoing Stryker vehicles and other
military equipment in advance of the deployment of the 3rd
Brigade Stryker team from Ft. Lewis, Washington, 15 miles
north of Olympia. The troops from this Brigade returned to
Ft. Lewis in October, 2007 minus the 48 soldiers who did not
return; they were killed in Iraq. PMR's goal is to 'end our
community's participation in the illegal occupation of Iraq
by stopping the military's use of the Port of Olympia'. Its
strategy from the beginning has included public education
about the war and how the military's use of the Port supports
the military occupation, and a commitment to non-violent
civil disobedience. PMR has tried to work with the Longshore
Union (ILWU), Local 47, although this has been difficult
because the members of this small local are dependent on
military shipments for a significant proportion of their work
and few feasible alternatives to contracts with the military
have been put forward. In the most recent protests, the
union or at least its leadership was not supportive of our
actions to close the port.

About two weeks ago, PMR found out from a City Council member
and major peace activist, TJ Johnson, that the USNS Brittin
would dock in Olympia and unload its cargo. The original PMR
position was that we would try to block outgoing shipments
but not incoming military equipment. However, on November
4th, 2007, the night before the ship landed in a very long
meeting, PMR voted 29 to 14 to try to stop the Stryker
vehicles and other military equipment to leave the port. The
reasoning was that the military equipment was part of the
ongoing war against the Iraqi people, that is was being
refurbished and repaired at Ft. Lewis to be used again in
Iraq, that it was part of a revolving door of war materials
coming from and going back to Iraq. In addition, participants
at this and the next meeting pointed out that the Depleted
Uranium (DU) on the returning military vehicles was a danger
to the Longshore workers unloading the ship, to the soldiers
and truckers transporting the equipment and to the residents
of Olympia. We shared the information on DU that we gathered
with the ILWU although they proceeded to unload this military

10 Days of Actions

On November 5th and 6th, there was a vigil and a march
through Olympia of 160 people and a rally at the Port, where
two of the main speakers were Iraqi vets. As pointed out by
local activist and geographer, Zoltán Grossman, there are few
if any other locations in the U.S. where a major military
base is near a progressive community. We have been making the
argument that ending the war and working for economic justice
such as health care for all, free college education, and a
living wage is a principled way to support the troops.
Members of Veterans for Peace have played a major role in
PMR. On Wednesday, November 7th , as military equipment and
Stryker vehicles left the Port, almost 100 people sat or
stood in the streets to block the vehicles. The Olympia
police cleared the streets using pepper spray and their
clubs. One participant in this action, with no warning, was
hit directly in the face by a police officer's club causing
his chin to split open.

Over the next few days divisions between those favoring
physical barricades versus those who have favored sitting
down in front of the trucks leaving the port have diminished
as both tactics were seen as having value by most
participants. All of the people who originally opposed
physically blocking the supplies changed their minds and by
the third of actions, November 7th, supported and
participated in slowing down and/or stopping the weapons and
military cargo from leaving the Port. Gender dynamics have
improved. Initially some of the men opposed women meeting
separately and a few were disrespectful. Mutual respect has
grown through these actions that have gone on 24 hours a day
with people leaving and coming back. Positive has been the
growing intergenerational unity. Although most of the
participants in these 10 days of actions are under 25 years
old, the majority of these are students at the Evergreen
State College, there are many older participants. Although
there have been some tensions over definitions of non-
violence and over tactics and goals, anarchists, socialists,
people who define themselves primarily as peace activists,
and black bloc people are working together in a functioning

On Friday, November 9th, about 60 courageous people sat down
in front of a truck inching forward, endangering the people
sitting down. The driver finally stopped as did another truck
carrying military cargo. Barricades were built at the other
exit and for 17 hours no military equipment moved out of the
Port. This is longer than the WTO was closed down in November
1999 in Seattle. The next day, Saturday, riot police shooting
pepper spray into people's eyes, eventually forcing us away
from the port entrance. The military equipment was
temporarily blocked from moving through downtown Olympia and
onto the main entrance to the freeway to Ft. Lewis. 16 people
were arrested and many more were pepper sprayed or butted by
clubs. Olympia resembled an occupied city with police spread
out in riot gear and military convoys on the streets.
Activists including key medical and legal support teams from
surrounding communities including Portland, Tacoma. Grays
Harbor and Port Townsend joined us in acts of solidarity.

Protest continued Sunday and Monday, Veteran's Day, as did
the transport of the Strykers although the majority of
military cargo remained within the Port. Riot police
surrounded protesters limiting direct action.

Tuesday, November 13th will be a day long remembered by many
in Olympia. In the morning about 20 people sat down at the
Port entrance blocking military equipment from moving. For
13 hours no military equipment moved out of the Port. Hence,
for a minimum of 30 hours, we stopped Stryker vehicles from
returning to Ft. Lewis, a major action and statement. In the
evening about 200 people gathered at the Port of Olympia
entrance to resist by various and complementary means the
war and the militarization of Olympia. In the midst of this
action, a GI from Ft. Lewis who was supposed to be involved
in the transport of these military vehicles to Ft. Lewis,
walked out of the Port, saying he was against the war and
refused to transport the war equipment. This was a really
powerful action and reminded me of the increasing resistance
to the Vietnam war by active duty soldiers. Civilian anti-war
and GI cooperation and solidarity is a key to ending this
war. This is a victory for the Olympia Port Militarization
Resistance organization (PMR) and the anti-war movement as a

Also, in the evening of the 13th, 38 courageous women sat
down, linking arms, at the entrance to the port and the women
refused to leave even as riot police told them they would be
pepper sprayed. They were all arrested by the police
beginning at 9 P.M., and held for seven hours although it is
not clear whether they will be charged. Beginning around 10
P.M., a large convoy of Stryker vehicles left through a
different Port exit with the connecting roads being cleared
by police shooting tear gas, projectiles, and pepper spray.
Some of the vehicles were delayed by barricades hastily
constructed by protesters as we moved though Olympia trying
to stop this movement. By 1:30 A.M., Wednesday, November
14th, the resistance slowed. Vigils have continued as most
but not all of the military equipment has left the port. Over
the last 10 days, 63 people have been arrested, many more
have been hit by pepper spray.

On Sunday, November 11th, 100 people attended a forum at the
Olympia City Council where protesters spoke up about the
excessive police violence-pepper spray in their eyes, being
arrested for no cause, being hit with a police club. Olympia,
Washington is divided. Participants and a few non-
participants in these protests have seen first hand, totally
unjustified police force at some of the actions. For example,
last night, November 13th, a non-participant in these actions
who was skateboarding at a local park was hit in the face
with rubber bullets and tear gas. He decided not to go to
work today at a local children's museum because he was afraid
his appearance would scare the kids. On the other hand many
residents believe that the demonstrations are wrong and that
the police are justified in the force they are using.

For the most part, barricades and human blockades have been
aimed only at military vehicles, e.g., non- military cargo
has been let through. Although residents have been
occasionally inconvenienced, it is important that this not be
an aim of an action, that 'No Business as Usual' does not
mean disrupting people's lives unless that cannot be avoided
when directly interfering with the war machine. People
decided not to throw anything at the police even when
attacked and that has been upheld with very few exceptions.
These few exceptions have occurred only in direct response to
excessive police violence.

Strateg y

Although there were and are ongoing tensions in discussing
and acting on effective tactics and actions, the majority of
participants believe or at least accept the idea that a
variety of actions from vigils to forums to rallies to legal
demonstrations to civil disobedience to sit-ins at
politician's offices to direct action have value-- that all
of these tactics combined are stronger than each one
separately, that the whole is greater than the sum of its
parts. A strategy of many of the SDS members has been to
raise the dollar costs of the militarization of the port and
of sending war supplies through Olympia- police costs,
transportation costs, etc. These costs have been quite large
for a small city. I believe instead that our aim should be
to raise the social cost of waging this war in every
community-to make the war less legitimate by building
stronger social movements with more popular support that
challenge not only the war but also make increasingly
illegitimate those in power and the unjust economic system
behind it; and contribute towards building movements for a
fundamentally different society. This will scare those in
power, maybe not Bush but the next President who probably
does not want to withdraw from Iraq but will be 'forced' to
do so.

Has this strong and powerful, '10 Days that Shook Olympia',
helped build a stronger anti-war movement in Olympia? Many,
mainly younger people, took major physical risks in blocking
Stryker vehicles from moving and sitting down in front of
them. Hopefully, this courage and commitment will continue
as we build a stronger movement that integrally connects the
war to economic injustice, repression and racism at home and
to U.S. corporate domination abroad, that the primarily white
student protesters act more in the future in solidarity with
the repression and oppression faced by Muslims, African-
Americans, Native Americans, Latinos/Latinas, poor people and
workers in their daily lives. It is hard to assess the
support for this port resistance in Olympia, probably the
majority does not support it. More outreach needs to be done.
The Olympia Port Militarization Resistance organization (PMR)
needs to talk to and explain our actions to the general
public and make it easier for people to be involved in our
actions who are not already on our listservs. Hopefully, the
militancy, courage, tactics, spirit, of these very strong
actions will inspire others throughout the United States to
stand up and not be complicit with the torture and occupation
being carried out in our name.

It is very likely the military will not use the Port of
Olympia again for military shipments during the duration of
the occupation of Iraq. This is a victory. A bigger victory
and ongoing task is for PMR to educate ourselves and others
about how Olympia is being militarized, e.g., by challenging
military recruiters in the schools and the deployment of the
National Guard to Iraq. It also means working with the
Longshore Union, and other communities in Washington State
and nationally and with military resisters to raise the
social cost of this war and make it impossible to wage. Now
is the time to increase militant and dramatic action against
this war as well as more traditional demonstrations where 70%
of U.S. residents oppose the war while those in power
continue to wage it and most of the Democratic Party
leadership acquiesces to it. NOT IN OUR NAME!!

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