Two protesters face misdemeanors

The Olympia City Attorney's Office has charged two people with misdemeanors in connection with the recent protests of military-equipment convoys leaving the Port of Olympia.

Shyam Khanna, 19, is charged with pedestrian interference and resisting arrest, according to his citation. Jonathan Steiner, 20, is charged with pedestrian interference and obstructing a peace officer.

Each pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Olympia Municipal Court, said Kalo Wilcox, a prosecutor for the city. Wilcox added that each of the misdemeanor charges they face is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

Khanna and Steiner are charged for allegedly blocking military vehicles in the road in the early morning of Nov. 8, according to their citations.

A phone number listed on Khanna's citation was not in service Friday evening. A call to the number listed on Steiner's citation indicated that his voice mailbox was full.

Olympia police made 62 arrests during the protests, which started a day after the USNS Brittin docked Nov. 5 at the Port of Olympia. Protesters tried to block the return of military equipment from the port to Fort Lewis by standing or sitting in front of vehicles. Olympia police in riot gear moved protesters from the roads, mainly by using pepper spray and batons.

Many of the protesters were arrested on suspicion of violating the city's pedestrian- interference ordinance, which states that a person is guilty of interference if he or she obstructs pedestrian or vehicular traffic in a public place.

Olympia City Attorney Tom Morrill said Friday that it remains to be seen whether all the people who were arrested will be charged in Olympia Municipal Court. The court only has two prosecutors and one judge, he noted.

"It could be a significant caseload and it could be a lot for the judge," Morrill said. "... It could be a big burden on the city."

Olympia Port Militarization Resistance member Andrew Yankey said he cannot speak for Khanna and Steiner but thinks protesters who were arrested plan to fight any criminal charges in court.

"We do have a legal defense fund and lawyers working with us," he said. "I do think that a lot of people will be fighting the charges in court."

According to Khanna's citation, "On 11/08/07 I observed Shyam intentionally get in front of a vehicle in the roadway. This caused the vehicle to brake and swerve quickly to avoid a collision. Shyam was then told he was under arrest. He refused to exit a group of people and tried to physically prevent his arrest. He was arrested and booked."

Khanna was at Eighth Avenue and Plum Street, Wilcox said. Olympia Police Cmdr. Tor Bjornstad has said that officers used pepper spray when a crowd gathered around Khanna to prevent him from being arrested.

According to Steiner's citation, "During an 'Iraq War protest,' Steiner stood in the middle of the roadway blocking the path of a convoy of 'Strykers' from the U.S. Army. I ordered him to move numerous times but he refused. I then had to direct him from the roadway using his baton."

Steiner was at Market and Franklin streets, Wilcox said.

City prosecutors have up to a year to file misdemeanor charges against the protesters, Wilcox said.

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