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Port protests shift to Grays Harbor

ABERDEEN — Carrying a large banner that read “Not in Our Harbor,” more than 60 anti-Iraq War activists marched through the Port of Grays Harbor on Sunday to protest a planned military shipment there.

The activists came from as far away as Olympia and Port Townsend to protest the Iraq War. They walked more than a half hour before stopping to wave signs along Port Industrial Road, from which the military cargo ship can be seen.

“It’s about calling attention to how our own communities are being militarized,” said Rachel Graham, 23, of Olympia.

During the march, a handful of anti-Iraq War activists yelled insults such as “Police stink” at nearby law enforcement officers who were taking photographs.

Once the march ended, some participants yelled insults such as “I smell bacon” and initially disobeyed orders from the dozens of law enforcement officers gathered from jurisdictions across Western Washington. At one point, officers asked the protesters to move to a designated public assembly area nearby or face possible arrest.

However, as the protest began winding down Sunday evening, there hadn’t been any arrests, said Capt. Dave Johnson, with the Aberdeen Police Department. That’s partly because the activists moved out of the street and didn’t block traffic, he said.

“It’s been calm and peaceful,” Johnson said, adding that police plan to have a heightened presence at the port as long as the military ship is there, possibly through Thursday.

Aberdeen Mayor Dorothy Voege said the city spent two or three weeks planning its response to Sunday’s protest, drawing on advice from other Washington communities.

“We were concerned about the possibility of problems, and I think we prepared well for it,” she said.

The march also drew about a dozen residents who came to support the U.S. effort in Iraq.

‘Negative’

“As long as the ship is here, we’ll be out here,” said Dion Dobney, 50, of Aberdeen.

“To me what they’re doing is negative,” he said of the marchers. “We almost take offense to people coming in and telling us what we should be doing here at the port. If you want to protest the war, do it in your own town.”

The Port of Grays Harbor is the third Western Washington port that the Army has used in the past year to ship equipment belonging to a major Fort Lewis unit to Iraq. People protested the Iraq War using the public ports in May 2006 at the Port of Olympia and in March at the Port of Tacoma. About 80 people were arrested during protests at both ports.

Among those arrested at the Tacoma protest was Olympia City Council member TJ Johnson, who was at Sunday’s protest in Grays Harbor.

“Wherever they bring these weapons of death, we’re going to be here,” Johnson said. “We’re going to try to make it as inconvenient and as expensive for them as we can.”

Several anti-Iraq War activists said Sunday that they believe the military has decided to ship cargo from the Port of Grays Harbor to avoid the greater potential for protests in Olympia and Tacoma. However, Joe Hitt, a Fort Lewis spokesman, has said that the earlier protests had no bearing on the decision to move the equipment out of Grays Harbor.

Heather Woodward writes for The Olympian. She can be reached at 360-754-4225 or hwoodward@theolympian.com.

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