The Navy’s war fleet arrives in Elliott Bay today and, as usual, Seattle’s Peace Fleet will be there to greet them – at a distance. It’s the annual Seafair standoff, in which the Navy displays its weapons to defend democracy while the U.S. Coast Guard enforces a 500-yard no-protest zone around Pier 66 to keep peaceful dissenters at bay.”Why would we demonstrate for peace at a Seattle maritime festival?” says Leonard Eiger, of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action. “Because the celebration of warships in our harbor helps bring about the normalcy of modern war.”He calls the the Seafair fleet arrival “a public relations and recruiting event” for the Navy. A violation of the safety zone by demonstrators buzzing the ships in their rubber boats could result in arrest and up to six years in jail and/or a $250,000 fine. Longtime Seattle activist Glen Milner tells us that besides the Navy’s 500-yard rule, demonstrators will likely again be prevented by the Port of Seattle from accessing the high-profile rooftop area of Pier 66, in further attempt to limit exposure of their protest to the public and media.”It seems our ‘defenders of freedom’ do not much care for what freedom looks like when it is standing next to them,” says Milner.The government doesn’t care much for Milner either. A 2010 Justice Department report revealed that the feds secretly investigated the Seattle peacenik and other U.S.activists over a five-year period, wasting what an inspector general said was time and money to determine if the activists were subversives. The FBI also improperly retained information in its files on Milner and others and classified some acts of nonviolent civil disobedience as acts of terrorism.But then Milner, who was SW’s Best of Seattle “Best Citizen” last year after winning an important U.S. Supreme Court records battle with the feds, doesn’t care much for the government either.The Port, for one, has been actively trying to limit his group’s demonstrations, spurring his interest in the Port’s operations. In the past, he learned that a Port police officer, pretending to be a sympathizer, had attended one of his group’s Seafair protest planning sessions. More recently he learned the Port had been giving away services to Seafair and the Navy for the fleet arrival, leading the state auditor to conclude the agency should charge the full amount for berthage rates while the ships are in Seattle.
In light of the Port’s Seafair support, Milner says it seems hypocritical of the agency to oppose the proposed new SoDo sports arena, claiming it will increase traffic congestion and delay local commerce. “Hundreds of hours are spent by Port of Seattle personnel for the Navy’s largest military recruitment display in our region,” he says, leading to increased traffic congestion, not to mention clogging up Elliott Bay and tying up scarce downtown resources. “If the Port really wanted to free up operations for commerce,” Milner says, “they would send the Navy fleet to Tacoma.”