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5 more protesters arrested as final trucks exit port

Five protesters were arrested Thursday at the Port of Olympia as the final truck shipments of military equipment passed through the port's gates, police said.



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Railcars loaded with equipment remained at the port. Dick Machlan, a spokesman for Olympia Police Department, said he didn't know when they would be shipped out.

"At this point, we're hoping that our part of this whole thing is over with," he said. "We're going to be watching it closely, but we're kind of assuming at this point that we're pretty much done."

Police arrested the protesters about 3:15 p.m. after they blocked the road leading out of the port for a second time Thursday as tractor-trailers carrying military equipment were preparing to leave. Police used pepper-spray pellet guns and batons held crosswise to force protesters off the road. One protester who remained on the road was sprayed with pepper spray and dragged through a rain puddle. He was taken to someone's home to recuperate, and fellow protesters said he appeared to be OK.

Smaller groups

Fewer than two dozen protesters demonstrated outside the port gates for most of the day. Sandy Mayes, a member of Olympia Port Militarization Resistance, said Thursday's turnout was lower because many protesters had to return to work and classes.

Those arrested were taken to the Olympia City Jail and booked on suspicion of violating the city's pedestrian-interference ordinance.

Sixty-three people have been arrested since the protests at the port began Nov. 6, the day after the USNS Brittin docked to unload military vehicles and equipment that the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, used during a 15-month deployment to Iraq. The brigade's soldiers returned home last month.

Legal action

City attorneys will decide whether to prosecute those arrested.

OlyPMR organized the protests to stop the equipment and vehicles from returning to Fort Lewis. The group doesn't want the equipment to be used again in Iraq, where its members say the United States has engaged in an illegal and immoral war.

The protests have been raucous at times. On Tuesday night, for example, a small group of protesters threw rocks at military vehicles and police cars. Some protesters rolled trash bins or threw debris on the road to stop the vehicles.

Police used batons and pepper spray to remove the protesters. In one case, they deployed "string balls," softball-sized devices that explode in a shower of hard rubber pellets, as protesters threw rocks and attempted to block the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Plum Street.

Protesters have said they've been brutalized by officers, but police say the level of force has been appropriate given the protesters' tactics.

Phil Chinn, 20, a student at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, said protesters have done as much as they could considering they're facing police armed with batons and pepper spray.

"If people anywhere are inspired by that, that's a positive step," he said.

Police Chief Gary Michel said Wednesday it would take a week to calculate the costs of his department's presence at the port.

Port Commissioner Bill McGregor said it could take a couple of weeks to calculate how much money the port will receive from the shipments because rates vary depending on whether equipment was shipped by rail or by truck.

McGregor said he couldn't speak for the two other commissioners, but he continues to support the port accepting military shipments.

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

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