ANTI-TRIDENT ACTIVIST Glen Milner, still angry that the Coast Guard blocked a waterborne protest of the arrival of the nuclear missile submarine USS Alabama last August, is using his opponents' words against them.
Since the incident, Milner has obtained numerous documents relating to the Alabama's visit to Seafair in hopes of proving that he and two other protesters were illegally detained. A small boat containing Milner, two supporters, and a banner reading "Choose Life" was intercepted by the Coast Guard and forced to stand aside as several Navy ships entered port for their traditional Seafair festival visit. Milner says he was operating his boat legally (staying at least 500 feet from the ships) and that pleasure boats without protest signs were allowed to sail into port with the Navy fleet.
Among Milner's public disclosure discoveries:
Seafair and Navy officials closely monitored City Hall criticism of the Trident visit. Although three Seattle City Council members had proposed a resolution asking that ships carrying nuclear weapons not visit Seafair in the future, most of the concern centered around Mayor Paul Schell, who was apparently seen as a closet peacenik. In one e-mail, Navy Lt. Commander William Fenick wrote his superior officer: "We'll see what Schell is really made of." When the council's resolution was tabled without a vote being taken, Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce head Bob Watt gleefully e-mailed Seafair organizers: "Nice to have friends in high places. . . . It looks like we have won this round; nonetheless, we still need to build our muscles against this fight in the future."
Navy investigators may have attended a protest planning meeting incognito, based on information in one document describing an "overheard" statement made by a protest organizer. Milner confirms that one stranger did attend a public planning meeting. The Navy's official threat assessment rated the Seattle visit as a low-risk affair, although training exercises were held simulating an attempt by protesters to board the sub.
When the ships arrived, the port police had a mini-panic when divers were reported alongside the nuclear sub (on closer perusal, the anti-nuke "frogmen" turned out to be seals).
Port of Seattle police documents state, "The goal would be to allow the demonstrators as little exposure as possible."
Beyond these interesting tidbits, Milner hopes to show the Coast Guard's actions were basically aimed at keeping his boat (and the protest banner) away from local media coverage of the ship's arrival—essentially turning most of Puget Sound into a "no-protest zone." He has enlisted the help of the American Civil Liberties Union in pressing his claim. "There was no safety issue involved; there was no security issue involved," he says. "They just didn't want us spoiling their party."