November 14, 2007 in City

Protesters block military shipments at Port of Olympia

The Olympian The Spokesman-Review
 

For the second time in a week, protesters stopped military equipment from moving out of the Port of Olympia on Tuesday.

A couple of vehicles attempted to leave around 8:30 a.m. but with no police on scene were stopped by protesters standing across the access road.

“I’ve talked to them,” said Olympia police Cmdr. Tor Bjornstad, referring to officials coordinating the equipment’s movement. “They tried. It didn’t work so they’re just going to hold off.”

Protesters were allowing civilian vehicles to exit the port. In one case, the protesters jumped in front of a military vehicle that was traveling behind a tractor-trailer rig carrying non-military equipment.

Frustration boiled over for at least one unidentified truck driver as he walked out of the secured port property to confront the protesters.

“All you’re doing is costing this truck driver money. … ” he said heatedly.

Fort Lewis issued an advisory last week saying the convoys of between eight and 10 military vehicles would travel during night hours when fewer motorists are on the road.

However, the rigs contracted by the Army to return military equipment to Fort Lewis “will occur throughout the day because they travel more individually,” said Joseph Piek, a spokesman for Fort Lewis.

Seventeen people have been arrested since the protests over military equipment leaving the port began one week ago.

Olympia police cited two protesters arrested Thursday morning for pedestrian interference or resisting arrest as the equipment and vehicles began leaving the port to return to Fort Lewis, Bjornstad said.

Police have referred the other cases to city attorneys who will determine whether to prosecute, the police commander said.

Cyrus Hester, a 20-year-old Olympia resident, went so far as to designate himself a mediator in the conflict. He sent up chairs and offered water and soda on a corner of the intersection of Franklin and Market streets – the epicenter for the protests – that he dubbed a “drama-free zone” and “unity corner.”

“Until we can get the protesters, the supports and the cops all on one side, we’re not going to get anywhere where we solve our problems,” he said.

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