Daniel Ellsberg Takes the Stand in Tacoma, Testifies in Case of Anti-War Demonstrator

The war in Iraq "is a clear-cut crime against the peace," said 79-year-old Daniel Ellsberg yesterday, dropping in for a brief appearance before a Pierce County jury attempting to determine if an Olympia anti-war protester broke the law by standing in front of a military vehicle. Civil disobedience is necessary when all lawful means of protest fail, said Ellsberg, according to the News Tribune. "Without it, the chances of success - of saving lives and reducing harm - were even less."

He was persuaded to testify in the Tacoma district court case by activist lawyer Larry Hildes, attorney for Patricia Imani, 48, of Olympia. Imani is charged with disorderly conduct for blocking a flatbed truck in 2008 carrying an Army Stryker vehicle to Fort Lewis for repairs. The Stryker vehicle had been shipped to the Port of Olympia on its way back from Iraq.

Hildes, with ACLU assistance, represents Imani and other South Sound-based anti-war demonstrators who tried to thwart the movement of military equipment from Fort Lewis through the ports of Olympia, Tacoma and Grays Harbor. A June Seattle Weekly cover story detailed how a Fort Lewis double agent infiltrated the group and worked with local police - possibly in violation of federal law - to prevent their peaceful protests.

Ellsburg, of Pentagon Papers fame - the top-secret Vietnam War study he released in 1971 to The New York Times and other papers - was a heavyweight witness in an otherwise local misdemeanor case, attempting to support Hildes' defense effort by testifying about his own peace activities.

Under cross-examination by deputy prosecutor Daniel Womac, Ellsberg agreed that copying the Pentagon Papers and providing them to the news media put no one in immediate physical danger, reports Adam Lynn.

Womac intimated with his question that Imani's blocking a freeway off-ramp might have endangered others. No one was injured during her protest, which took place about midnight near Joint Base-Lewis McChord.

Imani said she was out to stop a greater evil: the Iraq war. "I did feel this was necessary," she testified. "My sole intention was to prevent harm. It was urgent then. It's urgent now."

She faces up to 90 days in jail if convicted. The trial continues.

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