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Mar/Apr 2001 issue (#50)
Features'60s Dream Lives On
Suit Filed Against George W. Bush
"Friends in High Places"
Baby Bush Bombs Baghdad
Don't Put the Utilities Back in Charge
Biblically-Grounded Movements For Progressive Change In Washington
How to Run for City Council
Mad Cow: Coming to the U.S.?
Monoculture and Mad Cows
Itching to Ride Light Rail
Is Work Killing You?
Escaping the Globalized Gym
Seattle's Clattering Poets
A Puppetista Manifesto
Living Outside Empire
Don't Put the Utilities Back in Charge
Social Transformation Explained? Technogod
Spokane Free-speech Battle
“Friends in High Places”
The militarization of SEAFAIR
by Glen Milner, Free Press Contibutor
In June 2000, a handful of peace activists began to meet in an attempt to stop the Trident nuclear-armed submarine, USS Alabama, from coming to Seattle for SEAFAIR 2000. The primary focus was to lobby local governments, SEAFAIR and Navy Region Northwest. We decided if the Navy still insisted upon having the USS Alabama on the Seattle waterfront from August 2 through 6, 2000, we would do our best to publicize the role of the Trident submarine system in the continuing threat of global nuclear war. What resulted was a multi-level effort by the Port of Seattle, the U.S. Coast Guard, Navy Region Northwest and SEAFAIR to counter our work.
Numerous Freedom of Information Act and Washington Public Disclosure Act requests have made a number of issues are clear—governmental bodies will work in unison when the threat becomes great enough. In this case, the threat was our ability to present the illegality and immorality of the Trident submarine system to the public.
On June 23, 2000, Lt. Commander Fenick, Navy Region Northwest, sent an e-mail to SEAFAIR and others, “...the intention of the group identified below will do its best to interfere with the Fleet Week activities and make the news. That stated, if we, the City, SEAFAIR and the Navy coord early on, I believe we will establish coordinated credibility early on and prevent this group from using us to promote their efforts.” The “group identified below” was the Northwest Disarmament Coalition comprising of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, Washington Peace Action, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility and Community Action Network. There were many messages with this theme.
The Port of Seattle 2000 Seafair Operations Plan stated, “At meetings the Navy and Coast Guard have expressed the desire to handle any protesters/demonstrators with as much discretion as possible. The goal would be to allow the demonstrators as little exposure as possible.” Publicly, Navy Region Northwest was saying quite the opposite. At almost every opportunity, Navy officials expressed a desire to protect our right to free speech.
Had our friends at Navy Region Northwest asked us, we could have told them what the real terrorist threat was. It was the submarine with 192 nuclear warheads armed and targeted at sites across the planet.
In July 2000, Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin presented a resolution to keep nuclear-armed warships out of Seattle. At a packed special City Council meeting on July 31, 2000, approximately 80 percent of those present were in favor of the resolution. The resolution was never voted on but would have failed 4 to 5. An explanation given was that those who served in the armed forces would feel insulted.
A Public Disclosure Act request to Mayor Schell in November 2000 showed that 95 percent of all messages to his office had been in favor of Richard Conlin’s proposal. Counting signatures on petitions, the number in favor was 98 percent. Richard Conlin said his messages were also in the “90 percent plus” range in favor of his resolution. The real reason the resolution failed was due more to SEAFAIR corporate sponsorships and the Trident nuclear submarine system than concerns for veterans.
Opposition to Richard Conlin’s resolution even enlisted the aid of U.S. Representative Norm Dicks to call members of the Seattle City Council. Bob Watt, SEAFAIR board chair and president and CEO of Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce said in an e-mail dated August 3, 2000 to Beth Wojick, president of SEAFAIR, “Norm Dicks’ office called to say that the congressman had made his call and that ‘they have decided not to vote on the issue’. Nice to have friends in high places... it looks as if we have won this round, nonetheless we still need to build our muscles against this fight in the future!!” The fight in the future of which Mr. Watt so zealously speaks is for the right of free speech for citizens in Seattle.
A somewhat elaborate plan to deal with demonstrators at the SEAFAIR Torchlight Parade was developed. Regarding this, Beth Wojick of SEAFAIR states, “We have a meeting scheduled with our police contacts to discuss the plans we will need to put in order to contain the protesters. We will be hiring extra security in and around the television area as well.” Beth Wojick was also considering pulling a Navy officer as driver of Mayor Schell’s car for fear of the two being targeted with eggs. Demonstrators never showed at the Torchlight Parade to test these plans. It had never been discussed.
One of the more disappointing aspects of SEAFAIR 2000 was that for the first time, the Milk Carton Derby at Greenlake was sponsored by Naval Recruiting District, Seattle. The event had always been sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Washington (off and on and since the 1970s). In 1999, the Dairy Farmers provided promotion and paid $45,000 to SEAFAIR to sponsor the Milk Carton Derby.
In 2000, SEAFAIR agreed to allow Naval Recruiting a 20’ by 30’ space at Greenlake during the event, six 3’ by 6’ U.S. Navy banners at Greenlake, U.S. Navy name and logo on the SEAFAIR Milk Carton Derby event banner, name recognition in 100,000 Official SEAFAIR Magazines, space for one full page advertisement in the SEAFAIR Magazine, plus a guaranteed minimum number of television and radio spots, posters, press releases, and more in return for the Navy’s $30,000.
Next year will be the same. The SEAFAIR Milk Carton Derby will be on July 7, 2001 and sponsored by Navy Recruiting.
Perhaps peace activists at the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action should ask the Dairy Farmers to sponsor an event at Bangor. The Dairy Farmers could even help promote the event.
Glen Milner is a member of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action. Please see www.gzcenter.org.