Washblog

Tacoma Stryker Protests -- Important Direct-Action Against the Occupation


Thanks to Tahoma Activist for the initial Washblog story on these protests and the reminder to cover it. Update 3/11/07. See Indymedia Journalist Joe La Sac's two videos: Give Peace a Chance: Tacoma Police Riot and Film is not a Crime. // Indymedia US reports that Olympia Port Militarization Resistance (OlyPMR) and Tacoma Port Militarization Resistance (Tacoma PMR) "say they plan to continue daily vigils and other actions for as long as Iraq-bound military equipment continues to arrive at the Port of Tacoma."

The March, 2007 protests against the militarization of Tacoma's port began, in a sense, about 3 years ago in Olympia.  Here's an outline of that history and current events, with links to blog and newspaper articles and videos.  This is a sigificant anti-war action that appears designed to achieve specific objectives -- and that seems to already be doing so.

Starting some time in 2004, Olympia activists began working to prevent the militarization of their port.  In May, 2006, when hundreds of army combat vehicles called Strykers began rolling through the streets of their city to be loaded onto ships, they took direct action.  On May 24, dozens of protesters, backed by a crowd of supporters and witnesses, stepped into the road to block the Strykers.  They were removed and dozens more stepped in.  When the convoy detoured to avoid the protesters, more confronted the vehicles at the new location, causing a temporary halt to operations.  Six days later, demonstrators lifted a gate at the Port entrance off its hinges and 22 people, now known as the "Olympia 22", crossed into forbidden territory and laid down at the feet of police in riot gear.  Their trial is still pending.  See this A Portland Indymedia article of 2/17/07 for more.

The military has not returned to the Port since May, 06.  TJ Johnson, an Olympia City Councilman and a leader in the resistence against the Port militarization, was quoted in  Wednesday's Olympian: '"Our success in Olympia can serve as (a) powerful model and beacon of hope for other communities seeking to take direct action to end their community's participation" in the illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq.'  Read below the fold for blog and news reports and links to videos.

Films show aggressive police actions against peaceful protesters
A search on YouTube using the words "stryker" and "tacoma" brings up a page of video clips of this month's protests against the militarization of the Port of Tacoma.  They show peaceful if vocal protesters shouting to the soldiers on the vehicles "You don't have to go."  They show large numbers of police in riot gear using their bodies and weapons at close range to keep protesters confined to a narrow space behind a white line.  They show the police confiscating cameras, a smiling officer refusing to provide his badge number even when informed of his legal obligation to do so, police pushing at protesters with bicycle tires, one officer pointing a taser at a protester who is then identified to him as an Iraq veteran, another scene where a protester is tasered, another where a protester is shot with a rubber bullet.  It seems as if there are as many police present as protesters.

Internal Tacoma police investigation over seizure of film and denial of access
A Praxis Imago video shows an arrogant response by a Tacoma police officer to the videographer's reminder that he has a legal right to film the events -- and documents that the camera was seized and the videographer detained.  Entitled Film is not a Crime, it has resulted in a Tacoma Police Department investigation.  King 5 reports:  Port of Tacoma Confrontation Sparks Internal Investigation.  (Also see downloadable flyer on photographer's rights cited in the film.)

Tasered veteran arrested at council meeting for speaking over the 2-minute limit
Four of the Tacoma protesters were arrested.  The films don't reveal, as far as I can see, any cause for arrest and soon after, the charges were dropped and the protesters were released.  One of them, a US Navy veteran named Wally Cuddeford, attended Tacoma's City meeting the following evening to recount the rough treatment from the police, including three taser blasts, and was arrested for speaking over the 2-minute limit and forcibly removed from the forum.

Michelle Malkin: keeping soldiers and peace activists at war with each other
The Youtube videos of these protests are difficult to watch.  Except for the Praxis Imago video, they record confused action in darkness.  The cameras swing wildly around.  The rough actions of the police are caught in dim light through the movement of bodies.  A lot of shouting is going on by protesters (and perhaps by police), so the key dialogue is difficult to parse out.  The protesters are squeezed into what looks like a very small space and it is difficult to understand at times how the information that they choose to shout out together "Nonviolent Protest!", for example, relates to what is going on.  As with any complex event, things look messy close up.  These are events that are hard to pull together into a story and easy to misunderstand.  With the exception of The Olympian article cited above, there is little objective coverage of these events in traditional media.  Michelle Malkin seizes the opportunity to spin the significance of these events, depicting the protesters as dishonerable and claiming that they were taunting the soldiers.  

Having read the history of the resistance against the militarization of these two ports, having watched most of the videos and read several news articles.  And having followed Mark Jensen's coverage on United for Peace in Pierce County I now see these protests as well-chosen and well-organized to achieve a key objectives.

This is the kind of action, in concert with many thousands of other actions and decisions by individuals, that turns public opinion, that makes it more difficult to continue an immoral war than to stop it.  What we have happening here is in the best tradition of nonviolent direct action to call attention to a key moral issue of the time and to put the voices and bodies of citizens in the way of violence.  

These videos document that the protesters are not taunting the soldiers.  We know from the stories of returning soldiers and from soldiers who refuse to go to Iraq, that many soldiers come to regret their enlistment.  These protesters are offering the soldiers a truth to help them think through and understand their position before they go off to put their bodies and souls on the line in a foreign country to fight in an occupation based on lies, in a "war with no cause" (so says Patty Murray in a 3/6/07 speech), .  

Are soldiers carrying too much of the burden of resistance to the occupation?
At the January, 2007 Citizen's Hearing on the Legality of US Actions in Iraq, I heard several soldiers say that they felt the burden of   resisting against this war -- and making personal sacrifices for it -- was falling too heavily on their shoulders.  They were not seeing the intensity of war protests from civilians that they would hope for.   I live-blogged one day of this hearing and heard this expressed several times.

Since early 2003, when Bush's top military advised him to not enter Iraq and were ignored and subsequently suppressed, I had been slowly turning away from my old assummption that war is caused by soldiers (after all, if no one consented to go to war, we wouldn't have any). I had been moving to a new understanding that war is always on the horizon, particularly in an economy like ours that so profoundly depends on it, that soldiers are among its most tragic victims, and that we depend on soldiers to oppose unjust war.  Wesley Clark and his current drive to help avert a US attack on Iran is a quintessential example of this, as is Lieutenant Watada.  The testimony of the soldiers at that Citizen's Hearing represented a clean break for me from that old way of thinking.  

Michelle Malkin, is attempting to bolster this public perception that peace protesters and soldiers are intrinsically at odds with each other.  It is not a coincidence that she is a supporter of this war and of this administration, that she is a supporter of the military industrial complex that General Eisenhower warned us against -- and that feeds on the poverty created by the Republican war-machine policies to lure young men into death and destruction.   The shouts of the protesters: "You don't have to go" are a form of support for those soldiers.  

My next questions: how does the public support these protesters and the soldiers?  Can the Tacoma protests stay nonviolent?  Who is running them?

For ongoing stories on Port militarization resistance

< The Bill Gates Solution | CSPAN and state leg take different views on bloggers >
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Rally Against Iraq Escalation Friday from 4-7 PM
To be followed by acts of war resistance down at the port at 9 PM

In Tacoma, Washington, we are witnessing Bush's "surge" right here, right NOW. The armored Strykers (tanks) are being brought from Ft. Lewis to the Port of Tacoma. We expect the Strykers of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry will be loaded onto military ships bound for the Persian Gulf starting today, Friday, which normally takes three days. By trying to slow or stop the Strykers from being loaded, we are drawing attention to the criminal escalation of the Iraq War against the will of the American people. Join the Port Resistance!! KEEP THE 4TH HOME!!!

FRIDAY, MARCH 9th--Likely when the ship comes in!
4-6 PM Rally and March Against Escalating the Iraq War
Called by the Tacoma and Olympia Port Militarization Resistance (PMR)
Federal Courthouse at 1717 Pacific Avenue in downtown Tacoma. (directions below)
Large Banners visible from nearby freeway welcome.

6-7 PM Strategy and "Affinity Group" Discussion at or near Federal Courthouse

[Driving directions: Take Exit 133 to City Center...Take 21st St. Exit, take LEFT...Continue on 21st past Pacific and look for a spot to park. Then come back down the hill to Pacific and look left.

Public Transport is an excellent way to arrive just a few minutes walk from the courthouse. So are AMTRAK and Greyhound. Simply step off the bus, Sounder or AMTRAK train, walk on Puyallup Avenue TOWARDS downtown, take a LEFT on Pacific and walk four blocks to the Federal Courthouse. Or ask anyone where the LINK streetcar is (one block off Puyallup) and take it (for FREE) from the Dome Station TWO STOPS to the Federal Courthouse/WA State Hist. Museum. Mass transit is a really great option to get to this Tacoma action.]

9 PM Rally--Port Militarization Resistance
On the Tacoma tide-flats at Milwaukee & Lincoln
[Directions: From I-5, take Portland Ave Exit, head in direction of the port, take a RIGHT on Lincoln to Milwaukee. Park on the corner.]

SATURDAY, MARCH 10th
9 PM Rally--Port Militarization Resistance
[Directions: From I-5, take Portland Ave Exit, head in direction of the port, take a RIGHT on Lincoln to Milwaukee. Park on the corner.]

SUNDAY, MARCH 11th
9 PM Rally--Port Militarization Resistance...EVERY night until Strykers leave the port
On the Tacoma tide-flats at Milwaukee & Lincoln
[Directions: From I-5, take Portland Ave Exit, head in direction of the port, take a RIGHT on Lincoln to Milwaukee. Park on the corner.]

Need or offering housing in Tacoma? Contact facilitator@tacomasds.org
 

by noemie maxwell on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 02:49:07 PM PST

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You really laid it out just like a professional journalist.  Nice work.  It's good that some of us can do it better than the pros.  Keep it up!

by Tahoma Activist on Sat Mar 10, 2007 at 07:00:12 AM PST

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