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Nov-16-2007 16:12TweetFollow @OregonNews
War Protesters Clash Repeatedly With Olympia Police (VIDEO)Tim King Salem-News.com
Tensions are seriously out of control as war protesters battle police in riot gear armed with chemical agents.
(OLYMPIA, Wash.) - Salem, Oregon sure is a mellow place in comparison to Olympia, Washington, the capitol city of our northern neighbor. War protesters held police at bay for 17 hours last Saturday, successfully forcing a military convoy back into the port.
The line of demonstrators from the group held hands in front of the port gate in nonviolent resistance as police repeatedly attacked them with close range pepper spray in an effort to make them disperse. Most were from the group, "Olympia Port Militarization Resistance."
You will have to decide after watching the video, but the group's idea of nonviolent protest may be debated in some circles. Either way, levels of violence accompanying their determination seem unrivaled when compared to many protests leading up to now. As the video shows, police wrenched the demonstrators apart and struck them with batons. But their methods look nothing like those of Alabama cops during the civil rights era, still it is very disturbing to watch.
“These demonstrations, motivated by disagreement over national policy, have sometimes blocked the movement of local citizens and interrupted the lawful flow of vehicles to and from the Port," Olympia Mayor Mark Foutch said.
"While most demonstrators have been respectful of the rights of others and have expressed their views lawfully, a smaller group has persisted in actions that, in the judgment of police officers on the scene, exceed their right to use the public rights-of-way for purposes of political expression.”
Patti Grant with the Port of Olympia, says that while the Port supports protesters right to demonstrate lawfully, they do not support illegal acts.
"Local cops cleared the road so commerce could proceed. The customer is the military and truckers are just trying to do their job," she said. But the protesters like Gordon Sturrock, Founder of "Veterans Against Torture" says shocked onlookers who rushed forward to provide help were subsequently attacked.
An Internet newsletter titled "GI Special" stated: "Medics trying to gain access to wounded demonstrators were also pepper sprayed and forced back with batons," he added. "Police heavily pepper sprayed, shoved and kicked demonstrators, as well as medics, legal observers, and bystanders, until they retreated to safety."
I called AMR Ambulance in Olympia, but was unable to reach their communications department to confirm that aspect of the story. The protesters say it happened.
A call was also placed to Olympia Police early Friday afternoon but we received no call back.
Olympia is a hotbed of high anxiety and reactions over the war in Iraq. The local paper "Olympian" stands firmly against the administration's war, but even they were unhappy with the protests last Saturday, as indicated by this excerpt from an editorial that ran this week.
"While we are firmly against President Bush's war and while we fully support protesters' right to peaceably assemble, we condemn the tactics that have played out on the streets of the capital city this week. When protesters resorted to blocking roads, dragging debris into the middle of downtown streets, breaking windows, destroying public property, damaging police cars and hurling rocks at police, they clearly crossed the line."
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"GI Special" also alleges that police hit Patricia Hutchison, an Olympia student, with pepper spray and then immediately handcuffed her.
"She was detained in a police van where she remained for twenty-five minutes. Her repeated requests for medical attention were ignored. 'I thought the skin was literally peeling off my face. I was begging for help and no one would help me.'” Across the street, they allege that Patricia’s identical twin sister, Kathleen, also an Olympia student, saw her sister needing help.
“The hardest thing was seeing my sister in pain. I was begging them to help her.” The newsletter says police forced Kathleen away from friends and shoved her to the ground before dragging her to the police van.
It seems apparent that the problems in Olympia are another extremely tense escalation of a war that has buried our nation in a mountain of present and future problems.
The video below shows protests in Olympia that happened all in the span of one day, last Saturday. Protesters had more problems with police Sunday morning, when a group of women began to lay flowers in the road in front of the port gate in memory of the 48 soldiers from the 3rd Brigade killed in Iraq.
As the women were laying their memorial, they say police moved in, shoving them back to the curb with batons. A male protester, Vietnam veteran Wes Hamilton, says he was shot repeatedly in the groin with pepper spray bullets as he spoke out against the brutality.
Patricia Imani, a longtime Olympia resident, was shocked by what she experienced. “It’s unimaginable that police will come in with full riot gear and respond with such violence to women with flowers and shoot a veteran during a Veteran’s Day memorial.”
But what are the police supposed to do? Peaceful or not, these protesters are going over the line. But they say that it is all a response to the desperation they feel and because the United States is fighting an illegal war. One asked how lawful action on our soil can even be expected anymore, after seven years of a Bush Presidency?
I know I wouldn't want to be a police officer assigned to that duty, and I fear that when things escalate to a certain level, reason is lost and people see enemies in some who they never otherwise would.
In a statement released today, the Olympia Port Militarization Resistance called for people everywhere to find the ways that their own communities participate in the war, and to join together to creatively resist that participation: “We are ordinary people who have found a way to organize ourselves in resistance to this unjust war." "In this way we will act in the interests of the Iraqis, the soldiers, our children, and ourselves."
Hopefully the violence there will subside and at the same time, people who support the war will take notice of the desperation this President has brought the country. It is a sad story for a nation that once stood united.
The video is from "Olympia Port Militarization Resistance" and YouTube.
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