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Tacoma protest leads to arrests

The campaign by local anti-war activists to stop military use of the Port of Olympia has expanded to the north with the weekend arrival at the Port of Tacoma of Army cargo bound for Iraq.

Three people arrested during a protest involving 30 people at the Port of Tacoma early Monday are from Olympia. The group Olympia Port Militarization Resistance is collaborating with a similar resistance group just formed in Tacoma.

Tacoma police arrested Jeffery Berryhill, 22; Walter Cuddeford, 28; and Caitlin Esworthy, 24, after 12:30 a.m. They were booked on suspicion of third-degree assault, a Class C felony, and will make their first court appearance today. Bail for each person was set at $10,000. They remained in jail Monday evening.

Military convoys will continue to travel at night to the port through Friday, and activists said they would continue their protests until the ship leaves port. The brigade has approximately 1,000 vehicles, including 300 or so eight-wheeled armored Stryker vehicles, and other cargo.

The Olympia group declared victory in its campaign to keep the cargo from Olympia, although the Army was silent about why it bypassed Olympia.

TJ Johnson, an Olympia city councilman and a group leader, said in a statement that “our success in Olympia can serve as (a) powerful model and beacon of hope for other communities seeking to take direct action to end their community’s participation” in the illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq.

The cargo belonging to the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division began moving from Fort Lewis to the Port of Tacoma late Friday night, according to activists.

Nearly 40 people were arrested in May during a series of protests prompted by the loading of military cargo at the Port of Olympia before the deployment of another Fort Lewis Stryker brigade. Activists expected a repeat episode here when it was announced the 4th Brigade would leave in April as part of President Bush’s strategy to deploy an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq.

“We were all under the impression that this was all headed to Olympia,” said Patrick Edelbacher, a member of Tacoma Port Militarization Resistance.

The Tacoma port resistance group was formalized midday Saturday and included representatives and support from several area peace organizations, Edelbacher said. Activists from other parts of Western Washington also have participated in the initial protests at the Port of Tacoma.

“They have the experience,” he said of the Olympia group. “We sort of looked to them.”

Added Drew Hendricks, a member of the Olympia port resistance group: “We’ve got the prior expertise in the same kind of situation. They’ve asked us for our help, and we’re lending our assistance. This is a national issue. This isn’t just Olympia; this isn’t just Tacoma.”

As for the arrests, police securing the port established a line of control that neither the officers nor protesters were to cross, said Officer Mark Fulghum, spokesman for Tacoma Police Department.

“When the convoy started moving through, the crowd moved up against the line of officers and at different points these three forced their way through the line and forced their way through the officers,” Fulghum said.

Some witnesses disputed that story, saying there was no physical contact between the officers and three protesters.

One of the suspects was shot with a rubber projectile after he charged at the officer after breaking through the line, Fulghum said.

Another suspect was wrestled to the ground by officers after breaking through the line, Fulghum said. Fulghum said the suspect told officers he received a cut knee.

No one was seriously hurt.

Both Berryhill and Cuddeford await trial in Thurston County District Court on a second-degree trespass charge from a May 30 protest at the Port of Olympia.

Fort Lewis sent out its public advisory about the military convoys early Monday morning, two days after convoys began arriving at the Port of Tacoma.

The executive officer of the 833rd Transportation Battalion, the Army unit responsible for loading the equipment on a ship, declined to comment on why the equipment moved through Tacoma instead of Olympia, saying it was classified. He also refused to comment on whether the May protests led to the Army decision to forgo the Port of Olympia.

Tom McCarthy, another member of Tacoma Port Militarization Resistance, expected the protests to grow.

“What’s happening here is people are realizing that despite the election, the politicians are escalating the war, and that it’s going to take more than voting to end this war,” he said.

Christian Hill covers the city of Lacey and military for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5427 or at chill@theolympian.com.

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