Early Saturday, Mark Jensen of UFPPC offered a report about the largest event yet in the ongoing Stryker protest at the Port of Tacoma, where on Friday evening U.S. Army vehicles began to load a military ship. -- As of 1:00 a.m. Saturday morning there had been no repetition of the use of excessive force by the Tacoma police, but Tacoma Port Militarization Resistance organizer Tom McCarthy was arrested around 11:30 p.m. for the dubious "crime" of carrying a backpack containing food and medicine. -- Hundreds expect to remain at the port through the weekend....
STRYKER LOADING BEGINS AS HUNDREDS OF WAR OPPONENTS GATHER IN TACOMA
By Mark Jensen
** Tacoma protester's arrest riles crowd **
United for Peace of Pierce County (WA)
March 10, 2007 -- 1:15 a.m. PST
PORT OF TACOMA, Washington -- Longshoremen began loading a military ship docked at the Port of Tacoma Friday evening as hundreds from throughout the Puget Sound region gathered to protest the shipment to Iraq of Stryker vehicles for the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The matériel is part of President George W. Bush's unpopular Iraq war escalation, announced Jan. 10.
Shortly before midnight police took a protester into custody, prompting cries of "Illegal arrest!" from observers. Police said Tom McCarthy of Tacoma had violated a police ban on backpacks in the area, and they confiscated his backpack. It was filled with food and first aid supplies. A large crowd gathered, challenging the arrest and haranguing police. At 11:37 p.m., a Tacoma police car carrying McCarthy abruptly sped away.
Tacoma Police have cordoned off and prevented access to a stretch of Milwaukee Way and 11th Avenue, providing them a secure route to the Sitcum Waterway from the holding lot where the Stryker vehicles sit. A formidable and expensive police force has been deployed to protect it, including members of Tacoma's Disorder Response Team, which was involved in the use of excessive force against protesters on Mar. 5.
The loading of the Stryker equipment got off to a slow start, for reasons observers were unable to divine. One person with experience of port operations predicted the loading would take at least three days, and that the military ship would not be able to leave Commencement Bay until Tues., Mar. 13.
Tacoma Port Militarization Resistance has vowed to continue the protest until the ship leaves port, and has issued a broad appeal to opponents of the war to come to Tacoma to join in this public demonstration of dissent from the Bush administration's Iraq policy.
Several hundred riot police stood deployed beneath klieg lights, but they failed to intimidate or dismay the large crowd of protesters. These came mostly from Tacoma, Olympia, and Seattle. Protesters with bullhorns spoke to police about the Iraq war, and one, Prof. Larry Mosqueda of The Evergreen State College, lectured them about its illegality under U.S. law.
Rumors that the military ship would arrive in the early morning hours proved false when protesters realized that loading of the ship had already begun. Massing near a fence on 11th Ave, some young people around 1:00 a.m. tested its strength, causing it to swing wildly. Police fired what one person believed to be pepper spray, briefly scattering the crowd while police moved quickly to reinforce the fence.
Among those at the Port of Tacoma Friday night was T.J. Johnson, the Olympia city councilman who is a part of Olympia Port Militarization Resistance. Johnson, the winner of the 2006 Dr. Paul Beeson award from Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility and a well-known anti-nuclear activist, has been a frequent presence in Tacoma this week.
Around midnight, the crowd was still growing. As police donned gas masks and distributed ammunition for crowd control, an additional unit of about 70 riot police made up of personnel from various nearby police departments arrived by bus. But spirits of protesters were high, undampened by occasional light rain showers.
Independent media videographers were present, but the local TV stations that have been covering the Port of Tacoma protest were nowhere to be seen Friday night.