Every day for the last week has seen nonviolent activists attempting to physically block a shipment of Stryker military vehicles, returning from Iraq, from unloading off the Port of Olympia, Washington to be refitted and sent back to the war. Police in riot gear have responded with violence and chemical weapons. Resistance to the war machine continues to grow.
Read the “Tear it Down” article by a Northwest SDSer below. And here’s video:
TEAR IT DOWN (while building sustainable alternatives)
Northwest SDS Joins Port Militarization Resistance, Others in Halting Military
Dozens of SDSers from Olympia, Tacoma, Bellingham, and Portland have all been present in the newest round of protesting military shipments through Olympia, Washington this week. Anti-war activists from across the region, ranging in age from toddlers to the grey-haired, have come out to protest–and to blockade with their bodies–the movement of Stryker vehicles through the Port of Olympia. The Strykers were from 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Stryker Combat Team which resisters tried to prevent from leaving through the port in May 2006. Since then port actions have occurred in Tacoma and Aberdeen, WA against military shipments. Most likely, the returning materials will be shipped out again, even though the last tour of Iraq resulted in 48 deaths of American soldiers and an unknown number of Iraqi civilian deaths. Also, a high-ranking official in the US military leaked out that all the vehicles and weapons aboard the ship are contaminated with depleted uranium. The presence of the ship and the movement of Strykers act as a hyper-militarization of an already militarized town.
What has been amazing about the actions is the level of resistance displayed. Never before, in the port actions in Olympia, Tacoma and Aberdeen, have people displayed these levels of resistance, adapting quickly to changing situations and fighting back. There is something beautiful happening in Olympia. Liberals, radicals and everyone in between are working together. They are on the same page and because of this they are able to act in the manner they did. It is a true expression – no, a true act of solidarity.
Solidarity actions against the war machine are encouraged. Please forward this message on to as many SDSers and others around the country as you can. Oakland and NYC turned out last year. Let’s have more actions like those. Anything that is part of the military-industrial complex is a good target. Publicizing connections between your actions and those in Olympia will help to present a broader image of solidarity and of cooperation across the country. In the ’60s there was a phrase “two, three, many Vietnams.” Let’s have “two, three, many Olympias.”
These actions were started by the Olympia Port Militarization Resistance group, (Oly PMR), itself founded after resistance to the shipment of this same equipment to Iraq in May 2006. Since then, PMR and affiliated groups and individuals have resisted shipments out of Tacoma and Gray’s Harbor, and now again in Olympia. While PMR supports active opposition to the militarization of the ports, they are also not responsible for the actions of other individuals also opposed to the shipments, and have a code of non-violence for their
Below is a timeline of events with details for the escalating actions seen each day. Below that is a list of contacts for Oly PMR and for Northwest SDS.
This message was written by Guy Dobyns of Lewis & Clark SDS, not by Port Militarization Resistance, and does not seek to represent the views of PMR.
Events began on Tuesday, November 6, and are still continuing. Below is a timeline of events:
On Tuesday November 6 there was a march and rally at the Port of Olympia against the arrival of the USNS Brittin which came to the port carrying a cargo of Stryker vehicles and other military supplies and weapons returning from Iraq. At the rally Iraq War veterans and SDS members Seth Manzel, and Josh Simpson both gave inspiring speeches as well as members of Port Militarization Resistance and Peter Bohmer who is a member of Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace and a former member of the 1960s Rosa Luxemburg SDS chapter.
Wednesday night over 150 people gathered at the Port of Olympia to demonstrate against the militarization of the port. Demonstrators, both members of PMR (Port Militarization Resistance) and others, decided to block the convoys. People sat down in lines to block convoys leaving the port and cops came in to push them back and assault them. The next several hours saw similar displays of civil resistance. More cops came onto the scene. More convoys left the port, running into resistance on many streets. Several people came close to getting run over by Stryker vehicles that were traveling at high speed.
Sinn Steiner of Olympia SDS was arrested earlier in the night and a few people were detained. Olympia SDSer Emiliano Guevara was clubbed in the face by cops, causing his lip to split open.
There was a march from the port to the city jail to release Sinn but the cops didn’t give out any information. Most people started heading back to their homes when a convoy started rolling by and people ran out to block it. Olympia SDSer Shyam Khanna was almost run over by a Stryker and the cops went after him to arrest him. Fifteen people or more all linked up to prevent him from getting arrested but the cops came down on them with pepper spray and clubs, leaving people injured, including some SDSers from Olympia and Bellingham who were pepper sprayed directly and repeatedly in the face and hit with clubs.
On Thursday night, protesters gathered again, arriving this time before a heavy police presence. Maintaining a rotating presence throughout the night, resisters occupied the entrances to the port, and no shipments were attempted.
Throughout the day on Friday, a few shipments managed to leave the port. By Friday afternoon, however, after maintaining a light presence all day to monitor the situation, resisters gathered en masse and, at 4 PM, 40-50 people sat down in front of two trucks attempting to leave the port with military equipment. The Olympia Police department did not have the resources to remove the human blockade, and eventually the trucks retreated into the port and the police left. Throughout Friday night protesters maintained a heavy police presence at the port, and eventually erected two physical barricades at the two entrances to the port. The protesters directed civilian traffic throughout the night, allowing cars to pass the blockades, but remained ready to block any military shipments. Again, no equipment left the port Friday night.
On Saturday morning, after holding the blockades against several empty flat-bed trucks attempting to enter the port to load equipment, dozens of riot police appeared at the scene. They attacked the secondary entrance first, pepper spraying the human blockade to disperse them and then bulldozing the physical barricade. They then directed their attention to the main entrance, where dozens of protesters were seated, arms linked, protecting the fence they had erected across the entrance as a physical barricade. Rather than attempting to arrest those committing civil disobedience, the police attacked them indiscriminately, removing protective equipment from the protesters and pepper spraying them in the face, beating them with batons, and dragging and pushing them across the road. After the human blockade was cleared, the police turned their attention to the crowd of over one hundred who was gathered legally on the sidewalk and in a parking lot, spraying pepper spray indiscriminately into the crowd as medics rushed to assist victims. Reporters and videographers from the media were attacked as well, and treated by street medics while paramedics stood by and did nothing.
After medics treated the dozens of victims of chemical weapons and police brutality, the activists regrouped and developed a new strategy rapidly. Dividing into two groups, they took to downtown Olympia, claiming control of two choke points necessary to transport the equipment to the interstate. One group formed human and physical blockades in front of trucks loaded with equipment downtown and suffered a high level of physical brutality from the police, including three arrests.
In the meantime, twelve people, including several SDSers from across the Northwest, set up a human “hard block” across the entrance to I-5, linking their arms together through PVC pipes. Again, activists controlled and directed traffic, allowing civilian cars and trucks to enter and exit I-5 while remaining ready to block any military equipment. After holding the entrance for awhile, riot cops showed up and attacked the blockade, shooting everyone with pepper balls and shooting medics when they attempt to give medical attention to the blockade. After seeing that their attack failed, the police waited for reinforcements, and brought a van in for mass arrests. They then sawed through the PVC pipe lockboxes, cutting one person’s arm in the process, and dragged off the human blockade one by one. Everyone arrested was released later in the afternoon, and no one was charged.
Saturday night people gathered at the port again, braving cold rain and tired muscles to continue resisting the militarization of their communities. A train with several flat-bed cars was seen entering the port earlier in the day, and intel witnessed military equipment being loaded onto it. Plans were formulated for shutting down the railroad as well as the roads, in the event that it became necessary. Medics erected a tent, provided warm, dry clothes, and maintained everyone’s health throughout the night. No equipment left the port.
As of 10 AM Sunday morning, there have been at least three arrest and several more pepper spray victims as protesters have attempted to block more trucks carrying military equipment. The resistance is continuing even now. The equipment is days behind schedule, the Olympia police force is stretched thin, and we are successfully resisting the war at a level beyond what we have seen in the past.
Tacoma SDS (University of Puget Sound)