Blockading the War
Antiwar Protesters Get Serious
Police pepper-sprayed, beat, and arrested antiwar protesters on Saturday, November 10, after the demonstrators blockaded the Port of Olympia and halted military trucks carrying equipment from Iraq bound for Fort Lewis. Spearheaded by a group called Olympia Port Militarization Resistance (OPMR), the protesters formed human chains or lay down across roads leading from the port to Interstate 5, stopping the flow of military equipment for over 17 hours. The police made 15 arrests. (They would make three additional arrests the following day when protesters lay down and blocked more military trucks.) Between 50 and 100 people participated in the weekend demonstrations, protesters say.
"What we've chosen to do is look at this as a community and decide we aren't comfortable with the use of our port for an illegal war," said T. J. Johnson, an Olympia City Council member who was part of the demonstrations. "We're not going to end the war from here in Olympia, but if as a community we can shut down a port, maybe other communities in the country can follow our example."
With the focus of much of the national antiwar effort stuck in the "impeach Bush and Cheney" mode, the blockading of the Port of Olympia provided a counterexample of deliberate, pragmatic activism.
OPMR activist Andrew Yankey, 20, says antiwar efforts need to be reconsidered in order to change the status quo. A recent Gallup poll finds 60 percent of the U.S. population thinks going to war in Iraq was a mistake.
"Demonstrations and marches and vigils are fine, but this war has gone on a long time and demonstrations, marches, and vigils have been ineffective."
Using arm-linking devices called "hardlocks"—chunks of PVC pipe wrapped in chicken wire and duct tape with a bolt thorough the middle that a restraint can be attached to—protesters linked together and blocked a major I-5 on-ramp. Police pelted them with pepper-spray bullets to get them to disperse, but after that failed, they resorted to sawing the tubes in half and arresting everyone blocking the on-ramp.
Protests continued November 11, with more arrests, pushing the total to 18. OPMR organizers say they are unrepentant.
"We want our leaders to know that if they insist on using our backyard as a conduit to operate this war, it will be an inconvenience to them," said Phan Nguyen of the OPMR.