Potential arrest no deterrent for dozens in Tacoma

The OlympianMarch 10, 2007 

TACOMA - Some Olympia residents among a group of about 50 war protesters in Tacoma on Friday said they are not afraid to get arrested during this weekend's port protests.

"I'm planning on getting arrested," said Chris Stegman, 55, of Olympia, who identified himself as a founder of the local Green Party in Olympia. "It's a good cause."

Stegman and others were gathered at the federal courthouse on Pacific Avenue in Tacoma. They conceded that this weekend's protests, which are aimed at getting the military to stop using the Port of Tacoma for military shipments, might not stop Army cargo from being sent to Iraq. But the protests are important, he said, so people "know globally that there's resistance going on."

Stegman compared the war protesters in Tacoma to the pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in China in 1989.

"We've got the same thing going on here: a dictatorial regime," he said.

Another Olympia protester in Tacoma on Friday, Ray Kavick, said he, too, is not afraid of getting arrested for the cause.

"I'm certainly not asking for it," said Kavick, 22. "But if I get into a position where I have to, I will."

Kavick and a friend were unfurling a large banner emblazoned with "REVOLT" in large, black lettering over a footbridge above the highway behind the courthouse at rush hour Friday when police ordered them to take it down.

Kavick said he would be ashamed of himself if he didn't do something to protest the war. He, too, said it is important to protest "to show the rest of the world that we're not all for this, and we want to actively resist and we want the government gone."

The protesters who gathered outside the federal courthouse held signs reading "Bring Troops Home Now," held papier-mache puppets and chanted anti-President Bush and anti-Dick Cheney slogans. Protesters included Olympia City Councilman TJ Johnson and New York civil-rights attorney Lynne Stewart, who has been convicted of providing material support to terrorists, making false statements and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, according to stories on CNN's Web site.

Stewart said she is out on bail pending an appeal of her 28-month sentence.

"Public dollars can't be used to finance war crimes," Stewart said in Tacoma on Friday. "That's what we see the war in Iraq as, war crimes."

One man, Gabriel Eckard, protested the protesters Friday, shouting over them. At one point, Eckard got into a scuffle with some of the protesters, and a Tacoma police officer on a bicycle intervened.

About eight Tacoma bicycle police officers watched the protest, and several squad cars also were standing by. Tacoma Police Detective Gretchen Ellis, who was acting as a police spokeswoman Friday night, said that this weekend's protests likely will generate a substantial amount of extra work for the department.

Ellis added that the city is looking into whether the federal government, military or Port of Tacoma can reimburse the costs to the city police department as it provides security during the port protests. The situation is similar to Olympia's, as city officials here are considering charging the Port of Olympia for police services during military-shipment protests last May.

Phan Nguyen, a computer consultant from Olympia, said he opposes President Bush's plan to boost the troop level in Iraq and said local soldiers belonging to the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division have not received the desert training they need because of the rush to send them to Iraq.

"I don't believe we should be sending more troops to Iraq right now," said Nguyen, 32. "It has to end now. We have to do what we can; we can't just sit down and let it happen."

Jeremy Pawloski covers public safety for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5465 or jpawloski@theolympian.com.

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