Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Civil Disobedience for Peace

On November 5, the USNS Brittin arrived at Washington State’s Port of Olympia, one of the access points for surface transport of equipment belonging to the 2nd Infantry Division whose home station is Fort Lewis, Washington. The ship was carrying the 3rd Brigade Combat Teams Stryker wheeled vehicles -- or at least those that were worth shipping to Fort Lewis after 15 months in Iraq.

Over the ensuing week, groups of anti-war protestors affiliated with the Olympia Port Militarization Resistance (OPMR) descended on the port to block the transfer of the vehicles from the port to Fort Lewis. From Wednesday night, November 7, through Saturday November 10, the protestors succeeded in blocking transfers of vehicles out of the port by forming human chains across the road just outside the port gates. On November 10, police used pepper spray and batons to try to clear a path for trucks carrying the equipment while at the same time other truck carriers used an alternate gate that was not blocked. Protesters and police and counter-protesters continued to intermingle through the weekend but tapered off on Monday and Tuesday. Nonetheless, members of OPMR were still blocking vehicles carrying military equipment from exiting the port’s main thoroughfare on Wednesday noon, November 14.

Similar blockades were attempted in March and May at two other Washington State ports, Tacoma and Grays Harbor. The March protest was directed against the movement of 1,000 Strykers from Fort Lewis to Iraq.

The events described, which cover a week-plus of anti-war actions, was noteworthy for its duration. Yet I cannot help but think, since the vehicles were coming back from Iraq to Fort Lewis, that the pressure on the local authorities and the Army to move the equipment to Fort Lewis was not as great as in March when the equipment flow was into Iraq. The port authority would be anxious to get the military equipment moved, but their interest is primarily commercial. Clogged wharves cannot handle newly arrived shipments of commercial imports.

It seems, finally, that some people who oppose the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are ready to take direct, non-violent acts of civil disobedience on a growing scale because elected politicians are not -- perhaps can not -- curbing the insanity that the White House and the Congress created and sustained.

By sheer coincidence, the address by Representative John Lewis (GA) to the General Committee (Board of Governors) of the Friends Committee for National Legislation on November 10 had as its theme, “Stand in the way for peace.”

For more details on the Washington State events, follow the links below or call up the Olympia newspaper’s online web site at

Here are some videos from the actions last week: Speech and rally on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Speech by Phan Nguyen of Olympia Port Militarization Resistance:

SDSers and others form human blockades Wednesday night to block Stryker vehicles:

Dozens form human blockade Friday afternoon, successfully forcing two trucks back inside the port:

Police unleash pepper spray, batons on peaceful protesters and bystanders Saturday morning:

m%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Ddgi5ESpueX8&Horde=704e175a31d56ffd224b94626fceea9c KIRO TV has a pretty good clip about police brutality following a community meeting Sunday night about it:


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