As the port militarization resistance movement at the Port of Tacoma entered its eleventh day, hundreds of riot police continued to surround Sitcum Waterway, where the loading of Stryker equipment for the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division goes on. -- So far 31 people (AP says 32) have been arrested, and the war resistance movement continues to grow. -- If police thought the violence they unleashed last weekend would keep protesters away, Monday evening proved them wrong. -- The turnout was one of the largest yet. -- Some joined the movement for the first time, saying they were outraged at videos showing police violence unleashed on peaceful protesters that are circulating on the internet. -- Mark Jensen of UFPPC describes what he saw at the Port between 11:00 p.m. and 12:40 a.m....
HUNDREDS AT PORT OF TACOMA DESPITE POLICE INTIMIDATION
By Mark Jensen
United for Peace of Pierce County (WA)
March 13, 2007 -- 1:00 a.m.
TACOMA, Washington -- Unintimidated by hundreds of police in riot gear, peaceful antiwar demonstrators turned out in large numbers at the Port of Tacoma Monday night, where a port militarization resistance movement that began Mar. 3 entered its eleventh day. At least 200 demonstrators peaceably assembled near the scene of Friday night's police violence, then marched up Thorne Road chanting slogans and carrying signs.
There they found a double row of more than 80 black-clad, helmeted police in full riot gear, deployed as though they expected to be attacked. Under sodium lights, longshore workers were driving Stryker vehicles onto a Military Sealift Command vessel that was docked at Sitcum Waterway. The vehicles are for the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which today held a deployment ceremony at Fort Lewis. They are part of the Iraq war escalation announced by President George W. Bush on Jan. 10, intended for a 4,000-strong unit to be thrown into the inferno of Iraq's civil war next month.
Like the American public, the demonstrators, mostly young adults, were convinced that's a bad idea. Chanting "U.S. out of the Middle East! No Justice! No Peace!" and "Fight the Rich, Not Their Wars!" they passed a KOMO 4 News truck sent down from Seattle to go live at 11:00 p.m. as marchers headed toward the docks.
The march and subsequent rally were peaceful, but the mood was affected by memories of Friday night's police attack. Many there were apprehensive. About half wore bandannas, both out of fear that police might again unleash tear gas, and also as protection against the incessant and overt police videotaping of the crowd. Most of the demonstrators believe this to be an illegal chilling of their First Amendment rights.
It was a chilly night at the brightly-lit port. Sea gulls circled overhead in the cold wind, screeching. An occasional passing semi sounded its horn in support, cheering the protesters.
Many were back after having been attacked early Saturday morning with tear gas, and shared stories of what happened. Others were newcomers. One young man who lives and works in Tacoma said he came because he felt a sense of outrage after seeing on YouTube videos showing unprovoked police violence.
From the side of the road, some marchers picked up remnants of Friday night's attack. A "drag-stabilized bean bag." A casing of a rubber bullet. A squashed canister read "No. 9 CS -- Irritant Agent," manufactured by "Armor Holdings Inc."
(You haven't heard the name? I hadn't either. Here's what the company's web site says: "Armor Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AH), listed #3 on FORTUNE Magazine's 2006 '100 Fastest-Growing Companies List' and a member of the S&P Smallcap 600 Index, is a diversified manufacturer of branded products for the military, law enforcement, and personnel safety markets." NOTE: For more on "riot control agents," see here. These are meant, as their name implies, for use on rioters and in response to violence. But there has been no rioting at the Port of Tacoma — except by police. A riot is defined as "a violent public disturbance of the peace, by a number of persons [specified in law, usually as three or more] assembled together," which describes rather exactly what the police did last weekend in scenes captured Joe La Sac [a.k.a. Acumensch] of the Univ. of Puget Sound and others, and posted on YouTube -- search for "Port of Tacoma".)
After a half-hour walk, demonstrators arrived at the corner of East 11th Ave. and Thorne Road, the same place where on Sunday afternoon police arrested 23 in an organized act of civil disobedience. Both the sky and the mood were darker late Monday night, however. The port feels more oppressive at night, for one thing. And there were a lot more police. A double line of more than fifty riot police was arrayed against the demonstrators and a standing phalanx of thirty more stood behind them. And there were still more beyond these.
Speakers, including many veterans, including veterans of the Iraq war, expressed their views. One said he had joined up for the usual reasons, but "I soon found out that patriotism and nationalism are the wrong reasons." Another speaker said: "I, for one, support the troops. I know they want to come home. When the troops see us, they give us peace signs, like this," and he help up two fingers in a V as the crowd cheered. "Support the troops -- bring them home!"
But the behavior of the police was raising anxieties in the crowd. A police sniper took a position -- God knows why -- on the roof of a warehouse at the southwest corner of E. 11th and Thorne. He was carrying a rifle. One of the speakers addressed him: "Cops on the roof -- if you were to shoot me, it would be a crime against humanity!"
At midnight, the group decided to head back. The walk took about half an hour, and it warmed us up again.
Back at the corner of Milwaukee Way and Lincoln Ave., most of the older folks headed home. It was 12:30 a.m. But about a hundred young people went to stand in front of more than a hundred riot police massed behind another barricade on Milwaukee Way. (It's highly ironic that police have been charging arrestees with "obstruction.") They joked they had better not sing "Give Peace a Chance," the anthem that police had interrupted around 3:00 a.m. on Mar. 10 with tear gas and rapid-fire rubber bullets.
As I walked back to my car, I saw some disturbing signs. South on Lincoln, a squad of riot police seemed to be getting into formation. A police car whose driver was wearing a gas mask went by, exceeding the speed limit, for no apparent reason. And down on Milwaukee Way, there were a number of vehicles behaving oddly. The drivers of two grey SUVs, their engines running, seemed to be watching intently and waiting for something; one of them was also wearing a gas mask. As I headed south on Milwaukee, I saw more police cars sitting and waiting, and still more. Maybe I should have stayed.
Many of the young people thanked us older folks for coming out at all. I'll say this for them: they're very brave, and they care about their rights.
You know what? They make me proud to be an American. They give me hope.
I just hope I didn't go home too early.
—Mark Jensen is a member of United for Peace of Pierce County, and of the faculty of Pacific Lutheran University.