Continuing protests cost city

Police working overtime at Port of Olympia

The OlympianNovember 8, 2007 

— The Olympia Police Department's response to protests Tuesday and Wednesday in opposition to the unloading of military cargo used in Iraq has cost the city about $10,000, police said.

Olympia Police Commander Tor Bjornstad cautioned that the figure is an estimate. It covers what it cost the department, in manpower and equipment, to respond to protests by Olympia Port Militarization Resistance at the Port of Olympia, he said.

OlyPMR's protests were meant to draw attention to and halt the military convoys from the Port of Olympia to Fort Lewis, members said.

"The lion's share" of the cost was incurred Wednesday night, Bjornstad said. As the rest of the military equipment that was unloaded by the USNS Brittin, which was docked at the port Monday through Thursday, is returned to Fort Lewis in the days to come, "that figure is certainly going to grow," Bjornstad said.

Wednesday night, the protests took a confrontational turn when about 100 demonstrators sat and stood in front of the convoys as they returned equipment used by the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team) to Fort Lewis.

Protesters complained of excessive police force used to remove them from the road as they tried to block a convoy, pointing to bruises and, in one case, a split lip, some of them suffered when police struck them with batons.

On Thursday, Bjornstad said that blocking vehicles on a public roadway is illegal, and anyone doing so is subject to arrest.

"Civil disobedience is not a right; it's a decision," Bjornstad said. "The consequence is, you should understand that you're breaking the law and you're subject to arrest. All we're trying to do is keep people out of the streets so the convoys can move by safely."

Thursday night, protesters gathered again at the entrance of the Port of Olympia, but as of 11:15 p.m., no convoys were leaving the port.

"There's nothing coming or going," Olympia Police Sgt. Ken Carlson said earlier in the evening.

Protesters gathered in the cold Thursday night said they'd succeeded in raising awareness about the use of the port for a war they say is immoral and illegal.

Sandy Mayes said she was thanked by a man in uniform while she was at a vigil Thursday in opposition to the use of the port for the war, citing that as evidence that the message is getting across.

Of the convoys, Mayes said, "When it starts rolling through the streets of my town, I can't stand by; I have to get in the way."

Peter Cooper said another concern of protesters is depleted uranium used in the armor and the munitions of the Stryker vehicles. He said the depleted uranium from damaged Strykers could cause health problems for dock workers who are helping to move them to the convoy.

Olympia police arrested two people during the protests Wednesday night and early Thursday. Police arrested Jonathan Steiner, 20, on suspicion of pedestrian interference and obstruction after protesters took to the middle of the streets after 11:15 p.m. Wednesday in an attempt to stop a convoy.

Shyam Khanna, 19, was arrested when he allegedly stood in the path of a moving Stryker near Eighth Avenue and Plum Street, after protesters had gathered at the Olympia Police headquarters about 2 a.m. Thursday. Khanna was arrested on suspicion of pedestrian interference and resisting arrest.

"The Stryker locked up its brakes and swerved," Bjornstad said of the incident Thursday morning. "The kid was lucky he wasn't killed."

Officers used pepper spray when a crowd gathered around Khanna to prevent him from being arrested, Bjornstad said. It was sprayed in a mist above the protesters, he said.

"No one was squirted directly in the face," he said.

On Thursday, the Brittin left the Port of Olympia. It is expected to take days to remove all of the equipment that was unloaded and return it to Fort Lewis.

Later Thursday night, protesters gathered at the port entrance, waiting in case convoys began moving.

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

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