Sunday, May 6, 2007

Commendations to the Boys in Blue

It had the makings of a really bad scene. On one side of the road was a line of police officers. On the other side of the road stood about 50 anti-war protesters. The police announced that the protesters had 2 minutes to disperse (because they were not in the designated free speech area) or they would be pepper sprayed. Nobody moved and the 2 minutes came and went. What would happen now?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

No one was pepper sprayed. No one was arrested. There was no physical confrontation. The protesters stood their ground peaceably and the police -- in a great example of wisdom -- realized nothing would be gained by attacking the crowd.

I know that a lot of people in our movement have a very negative view of the police. In their eyes, nothing the police do or don't do ever is satisfactory. While I certainly agree that I often vehemently disagree with many police actions, in this case, we need to commend the men in blue.

Our local law enforcement exercised great restraint. They didn't allow their emotions to get the best of them. They kept a cool head and turned a potentiality explosive situation into a very manageable and positive one.

I must say that one thing we often forget is that police officers are people too. I had a really nice chat with a Hoquiam officer before the march got underway. He said that a lot of the local officers are with us in spirit, that many of them oppose the war as much as we do. Unfortunately, they have the kind of job in which they often have to swallow their personal opinions.

I am not naive. While today was a great day and things turned out well, the same may not be true tomorrow. And while I genuinely commend people like Aberdeen Capt. Dave Johnson and Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Meyers for the way they handled the overall situation, we still have had several reports of attempts at police harassment and intimidation.

I'm just thankful that cooler heads prevailed and a tense situation did not blow up into a major fiasco.

Monday's Event
We will gather at 7:00 p.m. at the Aberdeen City Hall, 200 E Market St, for a 1 hour or so vigil. There is ample on street parking around City Hall.

I'm sure we will talk about what further actions to take as long as the ship remains docked at Terminal 4 at the Port of Grays Harbor.


  1. This is very good to read, thanks also for your continued reporting and observations.

  2. Dear Trey--

    I'm in general accord with what you say but worry that we peace demonstrators can fall prey to a mild version of the Stockholm Syndrome by overstating gratitude to law enforcment personnel and ignoring, as you have here, the many ways in which the Aberdeen and Seattle officers harassed and attempted to provoke protesters during this action.

    For example, the Aberdeen police chief admitted today in an interview with an Aberdeen Daily World reporter that his officers "shadowed" protesters as they drove to and from the port.

    This is illegal, my friend--but it's standard in a police state; and Joe Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein would have been proud of them. Are you?

    I also witnessed several officers videotaping protesters as we marched peaceably and as we stood facing them outside the little "free-speech swamp" they had determined we should all confine ourselves to like penned-in sheep.

    Such videotaping is illegal unless a crime is being committed, and as none was, several of us stood our ground on that also, vocally and nonviolently protesting this breaking of the law by men who are supposedly there to enforce the law.

    One of the local Aberdeen "peacemakers" tried to suppress one of the most vocal protesters at this point by getting in his face, waving her arms wildly, and yelling at him, "Is this what democracy looks like?

    I had to tell her, "Yes, this is exactly what it looks like. The officer is committing a crime and my friend is calling him on it. He's defending the Constitution and you're getting in the way."

    Part of our education as opponents of war and defenders of free speech is to learn what the parameters of nonviolent action are, and how to best defend our rights to employ them.

    We also need to better learn what our mission is at actions like this: we're there to try our best within the law to stop shipments of supplies and weapons to fuel an illegal war. We're not there to necessarily be polite or meek or cave in to illegal police actions and demands.

    I also think, Trey, that one of the reasons the police backed down after initially threatening arrest and possible injury was not simply that they realized it wasn't necessary to be confrontational; it may well have been because since no one was breaking any law, someone on their side of the law (the mayor?) knew that the police attacked us without cause, the city of Aberdeen could be subject to law suits whose magnitude in cost to the city might dwarf the $1 million-dollar award the 1999 WTO protesters recently received.

    I do not demonize police. I always make an effort to view them as myself, and I as them. We are not-two, essentially, nor am I Mr. Perfect. And I always try to speak with them peacefully, as I did on Sunday, even when i was threatened for doing so.

    But I also do not want to subject myself or others to what in Buddhism is sometimes called "Idiot Compassion." We need to see things clearly, and act accordingly.

    The police are acting on behalf of the state and the neocons in these port militarization resistance (PMR) actions.

    No matter that we may appreciate it when they act with restraint, patience, and even occasional acts of kindness--they are still standing in armed-and-dangerous defense of an illegal and unjust war, in defense of profit-taking by robber barons who have little if any regard for human rights or environmental health, and against the very citizens who most value, most love, and most courageously defend the rights made into law by the founding fathers of this country.

    Yours in Peace, Tenzing

    Karma Tenzing Wangchuk
    Member, Veterans for Peace

  3. Karma Tenzing Wangchuk,

    You make many good points that I will not dispute. That said, my focus was explicitly on a potentially explosive situation across from the road to Terminal 4. In this singular case, I still believe the police should be commended for using restraint.

    How many other times in different locales have we witnessed them reacting in the opposite manner? How many times have we witnessed unprovoked attacks on peaceful demonstrators (like recently in LA)?

    Yesterday's standoff near the terminal entrance had all the ingredients to become another incident of police overreaction and widespread brutality.

    But it didn't turn out that way, did it? So, while I'm not altogether happy with overall police tactics during this period, I do think there's nothing wrong with handing out plaudits where plaudits are due.


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