OLYMPIA – An Olympia city councilman described himself as a reluctant participant in a demonstration last week at the Port of Olympia protesting an Iraq-bound military shipment.
Councilman T.J. Johnson said he went to the port as an observer when the military convoys arrived and when the Navy ship docked to take on military equipment.
“I agree absolutely with the cause of protesting the war, and I was there primarily to witness the crowd and police, and to the extent I could help at any point, in terms of communication, I was prepared to do that,” he said. “I became a reluctant participant.”
His involvement escalated Tuesday night when he faced off with authorities after an altercation between a state trooper and a protester. Johnson said he saw a trooper shove a woman in the back as she was following his instruction to move back.
Johnson said he asked the trooper for an explanation, but was told to move back then was pushed with a baton. Eventually, authorities used pepper spray to disperse the crowd.
The councilman, who was not cited or arrested, said he supported the people’s right to express themselves, but did not agree with protesters who damaged property.
Some of his constituents have spoken out against his actions. Some have sent e-mails to City Hall calling for his removal from office.
“Get with the program and work on local issues that are in line with your responsibility on the City Council,” Bob Jones, a retired Army lieutenant colonel from Olympia, wrote in an e-mail to Johnson and Mayor Mark Foutch the day after the protest.
Larry Mosqueda, a professor at The Evergreen State College who helped organize some of the protests, said Johnson was observing the protests and doing his job. “I respect what T.J. was doing,” he said.