OLYMPIA, Wash. – At least a dozen people were arrested in Olympia on Saturday as demonstrators rallied to protest military-cargo shipments at the port in Washington's state capital.
Saturday's actions by police come one day after protesters were able to halt two trucks from removing military equipment that had been unloaded from a ship coming from Iraq. The equipment was bound for Fort Lewis, an Army base about 15 miles northeast of Olympia that is home to Stryker combat brigades.
Protesters on foot blocked traffic downtown about noon Saturday by jumping in front of large trucks towing cargo containers carrying military equipment.
Olympia police in riot gear moved in quickly, spraying pepper spray in the faces of the protesters, pushing them with their batons and dragging them away from the road.
At least three people were arrested at that location, and at least nine more were arrested when they tried to block an entrance to Interstate 5 as scores of protesters deployed to several different locations.
The protesters at the freeway entrance linked arms through PVC pipes and sat in the road. Several convoys drove around them, and police shot pepper spray pellets at them.
When they refused to move, officers sawed through the PVC pipes, handcuffed the protesters and dragged them to a police vehicle.
Nine were arrested for investigation of violating the city's pedestrian interference ordinance, but all were later released without being cited, police Sgt. Ken Carlson said.
The protest was part of a weeklong series of demonstrations by the group Olympia Port Militarization Resistance. They have been protesting the use of the port by the USNS Brittin, which landed at the port Monday to unload equipment that was used in Iraq by the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team).
At the port's gates, protesters wearing goggles and other protective gear withstood several rounds of pepper spray but were physically removed by officers who picked them up and threw them away from the road they had blocked, The Olympian newspaper reported.
One protester, Andrew Yankey, told The Olympian that officers removed protesters' protective goggles and sprayed them directly in the face.
"I was dragged and sprayed in the face repeatedly," he said. "My goggles were ripped off my face and stolen."
Police Cmdr. Tor Bjornstad said officers tried to talk to the protesters to get them to move. The use of pepper spray and batons was "based on what we get from the crowd. We gave them lots of warnings and lots of time, but there comes a point where that's our only option," he said.
Paramedics treated several protesters hit with pepper spray, and supporters provided water to wash out the eyes of those who were sprayed.
Port spokeswoman Patti Grant said once the barricades were gone, cargo was able to move steadily until the end of the day shift at 4 p.m.
On Friday, protesters, including several small children, were able to keep two trucks from leaving the port. Olympia police said the department did not have enough officers available to remove the protesters Friday, and that they were not prepared to physically remove children.