On August 31st, 2016 Olympia Port Militarization Resistance (PMR) released the following statement. “As long as the US military is engaged in racist wars, including so-called targeted strikes, we will actively resist military use of the Port of Olympia. We refuse to profit from, or be complicit in, illegal, immoral wars through the use of the public port. We seek to realize a vision of a more just and sustainable world, free of militarism.”
Mobilizing for port militarization resistance came quickly amidst rumors of a potential resumption of military shipments through the Port of Olympia.
Where port militarization resistance is action-based, organizational work is focused on supporting activists. The history of Oly PMR began in May of 2006 following decisions of local activists to orchestrate human blockades to resist the movement of combat Stryker Brigade equipment moving out through the Port of Olympia. Eleven days of sustained actions also occurred in November, 2007. The strategy of mass civil resistance to the US military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan grew into a regional movement. Tacoma PMR and Grays Harbor PMR were formed following the 2006 actions.
The movement that took hold in Olympia connected with militarization resistance happening nationally. Mid-Atlantic PMR was formed. Indigenous rights activists resisted base expansion in Hawaii. Oakland saw resistance that focused on port transport of war machinery. On May 1, 2008 the ILWU held an 8 hour walk out, shutting down work at 29 ports along the west coast in protest of US military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The port militarization resistance that occurred in the NW region sustained activists through experiences that showed movement building was possible where value was given to include a greater spectrum of approaches in mass action. Respect was given to autonomy, support work was done collectively and focused on the needs of activists.
Since the November 2007 protests we have not seen military movement through the public port of Olympia.
The current formation of PMR includes activists formerly involved in the 2007 protests as well as newer activists. Sandy Allen, active in both the former and current PMR movements, explains the multiple and intersecting reasons underlying sustained interest in opposing war: “ Increasingly, people understand the connections between concentrated wealth and power and never ending wars – which largely serve the interests of weapons manufacturers, military contractors, and other war profiteers.”
It was learned through a public disclosure request, made by PMR activist Robert Gorrill, that much of the effort to renew military contracts has been initiated by Port of Olympia Marine Terminal Manager Len Faucher, and Port of Olympia Executive Director Ed Galligan. Findings also show that Bob Jones, an Olympia area self-defined management consultant, who in 2015 ran a losing campaign for the District 3 Port Commission seat, influenced the port’s direction with the contract. Though decisions on contracts are left to management to deal with with little if no oversight, the emails showed that Port Commissioners were informed as early as March 2016 of the timing of the sought after shipments.
We released our public disclosure findings to expose the lies and lack of transparency of unelected port employees, as well as the Commissioners themselves.
Where Commissioners McGreggor and Downing are known to be aligned with corporatists, Commissioner Zita, who filled Sue Gunn’s seat, is considered an ally by liberal types and so was naturally asked several times (throughout summer months) when the port was talking about moving military equipment. Consistently the reply from Zita was ‘I don’t know’ (as was the case when questioned at a July 7th OMJP/PMR meeting she walked into)
I find it hard – after reading the emails in the public disclosure, to not believe Zita, too, was complicit in following orders. This email to EJ Zita (and other port commissioners) from Ed Galligan, directs Zita on what to reveal in order to ensure the military contract is not put in jeopardy:
From: Ed Galligan/ Poly
To: EJ Zita/ Poly@Poly
Cc: Bill McGregor/ Poly@Poly, Joe Downing/ Poly@Poly
Date: 05/ 16/ 2016 01: 39 PM
Subject: Fw: advance conversations on military shipments
Thank you for including me on your e- mail to President Bridges. I look forward to meeting him in the coming months.
While I also look forward to having the group conversations about military shipments at the Port of Olympia, it is highly desirable for us to refrain from indicating any time from, such as “ September” or even “ this year”. Doing so seriously jeopardizes the probability of a shipment being designated by the military to our Port…”
What I am reminded of is that politicians can never represent the will or the voice of activists; at best they undermine our efforts and appropriate our work. There is transparency, and then there is creating an illusion of transparency. As expressed by Olympia PMR activist Luna Rae, “She talks of transparency yet fails to live up to her own demands. Who can you trust when even the liberal is just another politician?”
Despite all the grandstanding, it still remains the elected port commissioners exercise no power at the port, but function as props of democracy while the non elected employees run amok, wheeling and dealing in taxpayer dollars as they see fit. For those in the greater community whose mission it is to reform the institution – have at it and good luck.
Where efforts to hold the port accountable through reform type efforts will continue through coalition groups, PMR can again focus on direct action to resist shipments that serve to destroy and not protect.
Through observations and research PMR confirmed the MV Ocean Glory, that ship contracted to move equipment to and from Fort Lewis, did not enter the Port of Olympia, and as of September 21st was moored at a BC Port, and at Port Angeles Sept. 19th. Online sources report the Port of Tacoma handled its cargo.
On September 22nd the Port of Olympia began unloading and staging fracking proppants that will be transported to the Bakken shale formation, the Dakota Access Pipeline is intended to move that very crude oil from the Bakken. The pipeline is sometimes referred to as the black snake. It seems our port is feeding the snake.
Tri Lliam is an Olympia area activist and writer.