Iraq War Protesters To 'Block' Military Shipment In Olympia, WA
OLYMPIA - About 150 Iraq War protesters took to the streets of downtown Olympia on Tuesday as the Army announced it would begin transporting Stryker vehicles and other military equipment from the Port of Olympia to Fort Lewis on Interstate 5 today.
An announcement from Fort Lewis said the convoys from the USNS Britten to Fort Lewis will take place "during non-peak travel periods" but wasn't clear whether they would begin early this morning or this evening.
Officials at Fort Lewis could not be reached Tuesday night for clarification.
Members of the Olympia Port Militarization Resistance, or OlyPMR, reiterated during a protest Tuesday afternoon that they will try to stop the convoys.
"We plan on doing nonviolent actions that will contain the shipment and stop the use of our port," member Anna-Marie Murano said.
She said the purpose of Tuesday's protest was to make the public aware of the military's presence at the port.
A news release sent to The Olympian on Tuesday said OlyPMR is committed to nonviolence and included a pledge to refrain from "physical assaults, verbal harassment and malicious sabotage."
Beyond that, protest organizers did not have details about specific tactics or actions that would be taken at the port in coming days. The group will have a planning meeting at 7 tonight at the Olympia Free School, 610 Columbia St.
On Tuesday, about 150 protesters carried signs and chanted as they marched east from Percival Landing along Fourth Avenue to Jefferson Street, where they headed north to State Avenue. They proceeded west on State, then north on Capitol Way all the way to a fenced-off area where the USNS Britten is docked.
As they marched along Fourth, they chanted, "Whose streets? Our streets. Whose ports? Our ports."
Traffic backed up on Fourth as protesters marched in the middle of the street. Not all of the drivers stuck behind them supported their cause.
"It's backing me up," said Derrick Polari, a technician driving a van belonging to Olympia Fireplace. "I support my troops, man."
Driver Tammy Fuller, 31, added: "I think it's kind of stupid. The troops need their supplies. This isn't going to stop the war." Fuller said that she has a loved one serving in Iraq.
After the protest, the group stopped at Port Plaza, and some members left signs at the fence barring access to the Britten. Several speakers addressed the group.
Josh Simpson, 25, an Evergreen State College student who served in Iraq with the 25th Infantry Division, denounced the war and the presence of the Britten.
"While I was looking at the ship, I realized this thing exists solely for the reason of imperialism," he said.
The 950-foot Britten docked at the port Monday, and longshoremen began unloading equipment used by the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team) during its 15 months in Iraq.
Tuesday's demonstration was peaceful, and there was little interaction between police and protesters.
A Fort Lewis news release said the convoys will "travel in small groups and will be escorted by Fort Lewis Military Police and state and local law enforcement personnel."
Jeremy Pawloski covers public safety for The Olympian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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