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About this time next Wednesday, the merry band of peaceniks known as Ground Zero will be preparing to launch all rubber boats for its annual

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Ground Zero on Elliott Bay: Annual Bathtub War Due Between the Navy and the Peaceniks

rubberbb.jpg
About this time next Wednesday, the merry band of peaceniks known as Ground Zero will be preparing to launch all rubber boats for its annual "water-based nonviolent protest against the glorification of weapons of war"--the Navy ships riding into Elliott Bay for Seafair Fleet Week. As you might imagine, the Navy tends to have the upper hand in swatting away Ground Zero's pesky mosquito fleet. The protesters from the Ground Zero Center for NonViolent Action in Poulsbo take it seriously, however, and so do the military and the FBI, which has been secretly looking for dirt on Ground Zero leader Glen Milner for years--convincing him he's doing something right.

A Justice Department report last year shows the feds probed Milner, a Seattle activist and Quaker, and other U.S. peace and social activists over five years, squandering what an inspector general felt was a lot of time and money to determine whether the activists' actions were subversive. The FBI also improperly retained information in its files and classified some acts of nonviolent civil disobedience as acts of terrorism.

Milner, however, says he's not as worried about the FBI as he is about the Coast Guard, which controls Seattle's harbor on Fleet Arrival day. "The Coast Guard makes the rules, enforces the rules, and then prosecutes violators in their own Coast Guard court system," says Milner, who pesters the government with records requests to find out what it plans next for him (he won a major records battle in the U.S. Supreme Court this year). "It shows us what a true police state would look like if the Coast Guard were in charge."

In time for the noon boat-in next Wednesday, the Coast Guard will establish a no-protest zone around Pier 66 during the fleet arrival. Any infringements on the safety zone could bring an arrest and a charge resulting in up to six years in jail and/or a $250,000 fine. In the 2004 protest, Milner was arrested by the Coast Guard for bobbing into a non-protest security zone in an inflatable boat. Facing a $30,000 fine, he fought the arrest for two years, and got off with a warning.

Leonard Eiger, Ground Zero spokesperson, says the Navy displays its ships for four days in downtown Seattle at "tremendous cost" to taxpayers. It's nothing more than "a public relations and recruiting event for the U.S. Navy" while the U.S. is cutting back on much-needed social services, he says. His group protests, he adds, because such displays tend to suggest there's a "normalcy" to modern warfare.

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