Anti-War Protests Continue At Port Of Olympia

OLYMPIA - A protest became a melee on Olympia's waterfront Tuesday as sheriff's deputies arrested 22 people who stormed the port's gate. And war protesters were back on the line Wednesday night -- as are the deputies.

The protesters hope to disrupt shipments of war supplies heading to Iraq.

For more than a week, the two sides have held their ground on Olympia's waterfront. The military transport ship Pomeroy continues to load cargo bound for Iraq, including Stryker vehicles and other military supplies for the Stryker Brigade from Ft. Lewis. Its escort of Coast Guard boats is always present.

On the other side, the protesters with their anti-war slogans and signs, keep constant vigil.

All week, there were jolts of confrontation. But Tuesday night it turned ugly. Protesters pulled down the port's front gate, then sat down with linked arms, blocking access.

Police and protesters have different versions of what happened next. Protester Jeff Berryhill was one of the first arrested, he describes it this way: "I walked in, I let the cops know this is going to be peaceful we have no intention of doing anything of vandalizing anything of trying to be confrontational."

But Chief Criminal Deputy Dan Kimball with the Thurston County Sheriff's Office says others were threatening his officers: "They began to throw objects at the officers, including about a half full plastic pop bottle, and the last straw was a fairly large rock."

The end result was deputies arresting 22 protesters. Some believe the violence clouds the issue.

"I mean, the real issue here is the occupation of Iraq," says Olympia Councilman T.J. Johnson, "and the fact that our community is now directly connected to what is going over there."

Port staff aren't taking any chances this time around. They moved a heavy cargo container across the gate, and it won't be easy to get around.

What does the rest of Olympia think? Opinions are mixed. We overheard one woman tell another she wouldn't be voting for any councilmember who supported the protesters. Others were sorry they missed the action.

But World War II vet Leonard Nord thinks no matter what your opinion about the war in Iraq, to try and disrupt supplies the soldiers need is a disgrace.

"And I resent the use of public facilities for denying our troops the right to defend themselves, I resent that."

And it's not over. As long as the Pomeroy is in port, protesters plan to camp out here. The Pomeroy could leave port as early as Wednesday evening.

The equipment it carries is in support of the Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade, which is returning to Iraq for its second tour of duty there.

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