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Military shipment battle brews

OLYMPIA — Port commissioners listened without comment Tuesday as about a dozen people asked them to stop accepting further military shipments to or from Iraq.

Commissioners Bob Van Schoorl, Paul Telford and Bill McGregor have said they do not believe in trying to end military shipments, which resumed in 2004 at the Port of Olympia after 17 years.

Protesters who call themselves the Olympia Port Militarization Resistance hope to stop an expected April shipment of Fort Lewis soldiers to Iraq.

Members say that at a minimum, they want such a shipment to use another port. Spokesman Muhammad Ayub also said the movement is aimed at fielding candidates to challenge Van Schoorl and McGregor, whose seats are up for election this year, if commissioners do not try to stop the shipments.

Ayub decried the loss of innocent lives in Iraq.

“Smart bullets do not distinguish between terrorists and non-terrorists,” he said.

Van Schoorl said he saw no point in debating the protesters, though he acknowledged growing discontent in the country about the fighting in Iraq.

“To engage in debate doesn’t really solve much,” Van Schoorl said.

Carolyn Lake, a port attorney, said commissioners have not requested a legal opinion about whether they have authority to block military shipments.

Nonviolent resistance

About a dozen protesters who testified said they planned to use nonviolent resistance to block military vehicles if they return to Olympia. They called on the commissioners to pay more attention to the war’s moral consequences and less on the revenue the port derives from military shipments.

“Simply trying to make money does nothing to further your moral responsibility,” said Wes Hamilton, a member of Veterans for Peace.

Jeff Brigham of Tumwater urged the commissioners to continue taking the shipments. He suggested that the protesters decide the issue at the ballot box and noted that Telford and former commissioner Steve Pottle, who also supported the shipments, won re-election handily last year.

Green Party member Chris Stegman said he planned to get arrested blocking military vehicles if they return to Olympia.

“All we can really do is act locally,” he said.

Jim Szymanski is business editor for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-357-0748 or jszymanski@theolympian.com.

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