Bellingham Activist Helps Protect Olympic Peninsula, With Mixed Results
Olympic National Park, Wash. – Residents, visitors, and wildlife are threatened by the U.S. Navy’s proposal for electromagnetic warfare training over the Olympic peninsula. Noisy “growler jets” likely could cause hearing loss for some people as well as trauma for wildlife. For that reason, on Wed. Aug. 12, 2015, three women and I handed out flyers (see page 9) in the parking lot at trailheads on Hurricane Ridge. We had been assured by “Save the Olympic Peninsula” activists that permission was granted by park authorities to hand out leaflets without a permit.
In the Visitor’s Center at the base of the mountain, Ellen and Shirley, two of my companions, were told contradictory warnings about leafleting when they explained to office staff our intentions. When they tried to discuss this with a park ranger, his vehicle left before the women could reach the agreed-upon meeting location.
Meanwhile Elizabeth and I had already started handing out flyers, and we received mostly appreciative comments from people who read the information. None of us received information from staff about a “free speech zone” in the national park. When a park ranger approached us, he mentioned no information about a free speech zone, but he insisted we needed a permit. With a crowd listening, I raised my voice and said, “I have freedom of speech.”
He said, “Give me those papers” and reached for them, which I held in my left hand. The ranger later claimed that I pushed (“assaulted”) him; I might have raised my right hand in self defense. I know that he pushed me back hard enough that I landed on my back, with the ranger on my legs. A plainclothes “retired” police officer “happened” to have cuffs handy, and he wrenched my arms behind me to apply the cuffs.
Elizabeth protested the brutal treatment and was told to stand back while they brought me to the rear seat of the ranger’s vehicle. I sat there in pain for what seemed like a long time. (Later, my doctor noted rotor cuff issues and my right hand’s numbed surface.) The ranger had injured his knee and phoned for backup.
When a second ranger finally arrived, he placed my hands in cuffs in front of me, relieving me temporarily of some pain. Ellen placed a cup of water to my lips and helped me relax from the trauma. Shirley and Ellen did not witness the “take down,” but they stayed for support and followed the ranger’s vehicle when I was taken away.
Elizabeth wanted to send an email to Dahr Jamail, a noted journalist who earlier had written in Truthout (an independent news organization, go to www.truth-out.org) about the growler jet noise issues, so she left the park. Ellen and Shirley were told by the ranger that they might receive citations, but so far that has not happened.
Earlier when Shirley asked the first ranger why I was placed in the vehicle cuffed, the ranger emphasized, “He’s going to jail!” I was taken to the Clallam County Jail in Port Angeles. Shirley and Ellen were told that I would be in jail overnight and would be brought to the Federal Court in Tacoma the next morning. When I was finally fingerprinted that evening and brought to a cell, the jail employee expressed how puzzled he was that a 5’7” retired librarian would be charged with assault of a much younger, taller, beefier ranger. I later learned from a friend that the first ranger previously served in the U.S. Navy.
After I was driven to the Federal Courthouse in Tacoma on Aug. 13, I was placed in handcuffs and leg chains and fingerprinted again. The employee who did this surprised me by commenting on my political affiliation, which he had searched online. I consider that intrusive, irrelevant snooping. That morning I was brought to my court-appointed attorney and told my trial before a judge would be Oct. 19. I was released, and Shirley and Ellen, angels in disguise, brought me back to Bellingham. Since then I have consulted with my attorney and a local civil rights attorney.
My court-appointed attorney warned me that judges are more likely to believe a law officer’s testimony before they believe the accused. Knowing that, I decided to accept an arranged plea bargain – that I have a “petty offense” (less than misdemeanor) of “trespass” in Olympic National Park. I have sent a check for a modest fine and expect to have the charge expunged from my record. The Oct. 19 court appearance was therefore canceled.
Of great importance to me has been the support and encouragement I have received from loyal friends. They rightly have helped me understand that there are broader issues that still deserve to be addressed. Although free speech issues and the militarization of rangers are important concerns, I remain focused on our primary reason for going to that national park: wanting to protect our environment. Our neighbors and wildlife will suffer from the Navy’s proposed electromagnetic warfare training. Join us in opposing that plan.
For More Information on Navy jets and the Olympic Peninsula:
Go to: West Coast Action Alliance:http://westcoastactionalliance.org/
Go to: YouTube.com and search for “The Olympic Peninsula Is Not For Electromagnetic Warfare Training” to view a 10-minute video produced by Olympic Peninsula Watch.
Further reading: “Navy Expands Domestic War Games, Despite Public Concern Over Alleged Illegalities,” by Dahr Jamail, www.Truth-out.org, Nov. 16, 2015.