POSTED: 18 NOVEMBER 2007 - 7:30pm HST

Ten Days That Shook Olympia

image above:Stryker vehicles roll into the Port of Olympia 5/23/06. Photo by Tony Overman
Sheriff's deputies pull a trio of linked protesters to the side of the road to clear entry into the port.

"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

by Peter Bohmer on 15 November 2007

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 ship.

image above: A protester is pulled to the ground by a Thurston County Sheriff's deputy.
Photo by Tony Overman 5/23/06

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 alliance.

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 whole.

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.

Thurston County Sheriff's deputies holds protesters to the ground after clearing the entry to the Port of Olympia. Photo by Tony Overman 5/23/06

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.




POSTED: 18 NOVEMBER 2007 - 7:30pm HST

Military Shipments Halted in Olympia

by OlyPMR on 11 March 2007 in The Washuington Free Press

Olympia Port Militarization Resistance (OlyPMR) has successfully blocked Iraq-bound military shipments through the Port of Olympia. Now it's offering support for Tacoma activists trying to replicate Olympia's success.

The decision by the US army to not use the Port of Olympia to ship the 4th Brigade, 2nd Division Stryker unit's equipment to Iraq is a clear recognition that choosing to do so would have been a logistical and public relations disaster for the Port of Olympia and the Ft. Lewis based Stryker group.

"This is a tremendous victory in the campaign to end our community's participation in the illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq," said TJ Johnson, an Olympia City Councilman who has helped spearhead the campaign. He added that "our success in Olympia can serve as powerful model and beacon of hope for other communities seeking to take direct action to end their community's participation."

The Army's decision to not risk the consequences of shipping the Stryker unit through Olympia forced it to move equipment through the Port of Tacoma. Military equipment began arriving at the Port of Tacoma around 10:30 pm on March 2, and additional equipment arrived late in the evening on March 3 and 4.

"The fact that they had to choose a different, less accessible port and then sneak the equipment in under cover of darkness shows just how little public support there is for the ongoing quagmire in Iraq" said Wes Hamilton, a Vietnam veteran and member of the Olympia chapter of Veterans for Peace.

Since early March, members of OlyPMR have joined activists from throughout Western Washington in a vigil at the Port of Tacoma. OlyPMR has also been strategizing with members of Tacoma Port Militarization Resistance (Tacoma PMR) on ways to prevent the equipment from being loaded onto a transport ship bound for Iraq, including the use of non-violent civil disobedience.

Leah Coakley, a recent UPS graduate and a member of Tacoma PMR said that "Fearing OlyPMR, hundreds of Strykers were pushed back to the Port of Tacoma, assuming our complicity but soon realizing the need for huddles of riot police in an attempt to control the crowd of objectors. Our oppressors must realize that Tacoma does not consent. We will not serve as a pitstop for the war machine."

According to Tom McCarthy, a member of Tacoma PMR, "We believe actions like these are vital ways to support our troops. An article in last week's Tacoma paper stated that the Pentagon moved up this Stryker brigade's departure by one month, shortchanging these troops on the desert training that had long been planned for them. Sending soldiers into an escalation without proper training is just one more way in which the military isn't giving our troops what they need--in Iraq, or at home."

In addition to the activities in Tacoma, OlyPMR will be conducting non-violent civil disobedience trainings.

OlyPMR is endorsed by the Veterans for Peace #109 (Rachel Corrie Chapter), Olympia Chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Green Party of South Puget Sound, Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace, Students for a Democratic Society, Olympia Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Committee.

Tacoma PMR includes members from United for Peace Pierce County, and Students for a Democratic Society.

For more information contact:

Sandy Mayes

Wes Hamilton

No New Court Martial!  Dismiss All Charges!

on 8 November 2007 on

Release Lt. Watada with an Honorable Discharge! On November 8th, we rejoiced to learn of the preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle. The court holds that Lt. Watada is likely to succeed at demonstrating that the military judge acted 'irrationally, irresponsibly, precipitately' and abused his 'discretion.'

“. . . This case concerns an alleged violation of the Fifth Amendment Double Jeopardy Clause, which cannot be said to fall within a set of affairs that are peculiar to the jurisdiction of the military authorities. . . . The same Fifth Amendment protections are in place for military service members as are afforded to civilians. . . . To hold otherwise would ignore the many sacrifices that American soldiers have made throughout history to protect those sacred rights."
-- Judge Benjamin Settle

At approximately 3:39 PM (PST), Nov 8, 2007, Judge Benjamin H. Settle of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington (sitting in Tacoma, WA) issued a Preliminary Injunction in favor of 1Lt Ehren Watada.
In his decision, Judge Settle made the following significant points:

1. The remedy sought by Lt Watada -- a writ of habeas corpus in a pretrial setting -- is rare but appropriate;
2. Lt Watada will suffer irreparable injury if relief is denied;
3. Lt Watada is likely to succeed on the merits;
4. Military Judge Head abused his discretion in rejecting the Stipulation of Fact;
5. Even if Judge Head did not abuse his discretion in rejecting the Stipulation of Fact, there was still a lack of "manifest necessity" for declaring the mistrial;
6. Judge Head failed to adequately consider possible alternatives;
7. The balance of potential harms weighs in Lt Watada's favor; and
8. The public interest favors granting relief.

According to Lt. Watada'sattorneys, this is an enormous victory, but it is not yet over. This has not yet ripened into a permanent injunction, though the judge did indicate that the attorneys have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits.
The judge's order did not indicate what the next steps will be; nor did it give the parties a briefing schedule. However, he did state that no trial proceedings could occur until his further order or until this injunction is modified or dissolved by himself or by a higher court.

Watada attorneys, Jim Lobsenz and Ken Kagan infer that the burden is now on the government to come forward and ask the court to modify or dissolve the injunction. Beyond that, the attorneys do not speculate on what will occur next.
Lobsenz and Kagan are enormously gratified at the care with which Judge Settle approached the matter. It is not over, but they believe they have come a long way toward achieving their goals for Lt Watada in this litigation.

Incredibly, the Army has announced its intent to file briefs in U.S. District Court to try to prevent the injunction from becoming permanent.

The National Steering Committee of Friends & Family of Lt. Watada calls on supporters nationwide to vigil on the 1st & 3rd Saturdays of each month.

see also:
Island Breath: Hawaii Anti-Militarism
Island Breath: HSF, Navy & Govling
Island Breath: Legislature Contact List
Island Breath: HSF Slice & Swath Technology 9/5/07
Island Breath: Maritime Administration & EIS 9/3/07
Island Breath: Support from Oahu's DMZ 8/30/2007
Island Breath: DMZ - Stop the Strykers 7/2/07
Island Breath: Superferry & Military
Island Breath: Superferry History
Island Breath: Stop the Superferry
Island Breath: Superferry Meetings