An Interview with Caitlin Esworthy of the Port Militarization Resistance of Olympia
Recently, a friend moved to the U.S. from China. She had never seen the Tiananmen Sq. demonstrations including that famous scene of the lone demonstrator standing in front of the Chinese tank. I thought how amazing that a billion people can be kept ignorant of something so important. Then, a week after the events described below I saw an amazing video about a peaceful demonstration in Tacoma, WA that turned violent when police opened fire with tear gas and firing rubber bullets at close range on the demonstrators.
You can see the video of the demonstrations and the police violence at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=q1_lmvhkv3c
The video, one of many, showed how extreme the militarism of the United States had become. It has also shown how the establishment media does not cover all the news; indeed, sometimes the most important news is not covered. As far as I know the video was never shown on CNN, MSNBC or any of the major networks – hundreds of millions of Americans were kept ignorant of what occurred. Would seeing the videos of the aggressive police action had enlightened Americans of the militarization of our country?
In an effort to expand knowledge about this event I interviewed, Caitlin Esworthy of resident of Olympia, WA, who participated in the demonstrations. She is a student at The Evergreen State College, a member of Port Militarization Resistance of Olympia and the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace. These are two of the four organizations involved in this project. The others were Students for a Democratic Society and United for Peace, Pierce County. Descriptions of the organizations and their contact information are at the end of the interview with Ms. Esworthy.
Kevin Zeese: “What was the purpose of the demonstrations at the Tacoma port?”
Caitlin Esworthy: I think there were a number of goals set out during the two weeks of protests, some articulated and some unspoken. Most attainably, we aimed to show our support by voicing our desire to see that the 4th Stryker Brigade 2nd Division remains home and to demonstrate non-violently our opposition to the war in Iraq. Ultimately though, we would like to end the occupation and bring our troops home, and we hope that our actions contribute to the success of the anti-war movement.
KZ: “Describe the protests? What were the protesters doing?”
CE: The protest spanned about two weeks and the community activists as well as the police chose numerous tactics and methods of organizing. Visibility vigils in the downtown area as well as at the port, marches, chants, holding signs, assembling nearest we were able to the Stryker convoys and the ship being loaded to get our message to the troops and longshore workers that we want the 4th brigade to stay safe at home, street theater with the Tacoma Puppetistas, etc. We were using nonviolent direct action and expressing our democratic right to assemble and show dissent with the government’s policies.
KZ: “What was the police reaction?”
CE: In sum: force, intimidation and erasure of numerous constitutionally protected rights. Over the course of the two weeks (from March 2nd to the 17th) the police chose to daily escalate their tactics in response to the large groups of people voicing their opposition to the occupation of Iraq and in favor of keeping the 4th Brigade home. There were consistent, daily attacks on our civil liberties and safety as citizens including: harassment, use of nighttime spotlights on pedestrians and drivers that resulted in disorientation and intimidation, use of “less-than-lethal” (read: sometimes lethal) weapons on non-violent protestors, RAMPANT violation of citizen’s right to not be videotaped by public officials without probable cause, officers refusing to identify themselves, restriction of the right to wear backpacks on a public street and the repeated restriction of citizen’s right to assemble within reasonable proximity to that which they are protesting so that the nature of their protest is not fundamentally altered (both of which are supported by Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decisions), vehicles being searched without cause or warrant, the list goes on.
KZ: “What kinds of injuries were there? Was any emergency medical care provided on the scene? How about private medical assistance?”
CE: I was the first person the police decided to arrest and I sustained scrapes, numerous bruises, and am still dealing with a costly and painful neck injury. On that same night following my arrest, Wally Cuddeford was tased three times WHILE he was passively lying on the ground with a number of police officers restraining him. Shortly after, Jeff Berryhill was shot with a rubber bullet while lifting a cloth “Courage to Resist” sign with both hands above his head to render it visible to the bus of military personnel driving past. During the week pepper spray and tear gas were deployed numerous times on nonviolent protesters resulting in varying reactions, those with contacts or asthma having a more painful and traumatic experience.
The medical care that was provided was primarily by our trained medics who were present at the protests. I would add that because we were not allowed to bring backpack into designated areas (what I call our “free speech zones”) many of the medics were left without necessary equipment. After Jeff, Wally, and my arrest, we were given access to police provided medical attention. I would also add that I personally did not feel comfortable getting treatment from the same unit that had just brutalized me. This would contrast with the Olympia medical attention provided in May 2006 when the fire department and emergency response team established a fire truck, water, and medical treatment behind protest lines to render attention more accessible and safe for those not willing to risk arrest because of an injury.
You can see a video of medics not being allowed to assist people at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=KXO7t0GGVPI
More reports of injury are likely to surface in any further civil suits. Many have filled out claim of damage forms already.
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