Thirty-seven antiwar activists were arrested and dozens more were pepper sprayed, tazered and shot at with rubber bullets outside the Port of Olympia, Washington during 10 days of demonstrations at the end of May that sought to disrupt the shipment of Stryker urban combat vehicles (see sidebar) to Iraq. The protests marked the first time that Americans have tried to block the shipment of war materials since April 2003.
“The weapons shipments and the use of our public property to prolong and supply the war in Iraq have made us complicit in crimes against humanity. We refuse to be complicit any longer,” said a press release issued by Port Militarization Resistance (PMR), the group organizing the protests.
“We will continue to utilize every available instrument of democracy, including direct action and disruption when necessary. We are working to stop the war machine by standing in front of the machines of war as they attempt to enter our port.”
“It was really an incredible experience,” said Molly Porter of PMR, who was among the arrestees. “The energy was amazing.” The protests, which began on May 22, culminated on May 31 when a couple hundred demonstrators converged on the port and tore down part of the fence encircling the facility.
About 4,000 soldiers from the 3rd Stryker Brigade based in Fort Lewis, Washington are scheduled to be deployed to the northern Iraqi city of Mosul later this month. PMR organizers expect more confrontations at the port as the war continues. They are currently reaching out to both local dockworkers and the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union, which represents West Coast dockworkers as well as to national and international peace groups to expand their effort.
“We want to hook up with other ports who face a similar situation,” said Brendan Dunn of PMR and Olympia Students for a Democratic Society. “It’s a global struggle.”
The Olympia Independent Media Center (olympiaimc.org) contributed to this report.
Photo by Brandon Dunn
————————THE EMPIRE STRYKES BACK——————————-
Stryker Brigades like the one based in Ft. Lewis, Washington are the centerpiece of the Army’s ongoing campaign to increase the flexibility and speed of deployment “of a lethal modular force” even while reducing troop levels overseas. The eightwheeled
Stryker combat vehicle weighs 19 tons, holds as many as nine soldiers and can travel in
excess of 60 mph making it far more agile than its predecessor the 70-ton M1-Abrams tank and perfect for the sort of urban combat that the U.S. military is facing in Iraq.