Border Patrol presence protested in Port Angeles

PORT ANGELES — A march against Border Patrol roadblocks and increased activity on the North Olympic Peninsula attracted about 75 people from Clallam and Jefferson counties on Saturday.

Although focused on roadblocks that occurred along U.S. Highway 101 east of Forks and on state Highway 104 near the Hood Canal Bridge last summer, the protest also commemorated the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, and protested U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More work must be done to expand human rights to everyone around the world, said Port Angeles resident Lois Danks of the Stop the Checkpoints Committee, which organized the rally along with the Clallam County Green Party and Veterans For Peace.

Celebrating efforts

“There have been thousands of people who have fought for human rights” since the declaration, she said at the gathering at Veterans Park on Lincoln Street in Port Angeles.

“Let’s celebrate those people and their efforts.”

The rally included a series of speakers, as well as protest songs from the Port Townsend Raging Grannies and musician Howly Slim.

Afterward, the protestors marched silently on the sidewalks down Lincoln Street to City Pier and back.

Jane Whicher, Port Townsend attorney and legal volunteer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the ACLU is organizing visits to discuss the roadblocks with Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, who represents the 6th District, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Freeland, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace.

Whicher said the ACLU wants to speak with anyone stopped by the Border Patrol.

“We want to know what happens at the checkpoints,” she said.

The Border Patrol has authority to conduct roadblocks within 100 miles of the border, which demonstrators referred to as a “Constitution-free zone.”

“They are using national security as an excuse to create a no-Constitution zone,” said Port Angeles resident Nelson Cone, a Green Party National Committee member.

“We agree that this is a serous violation of our constitutional rights.”

The Border Patrol conducted roadblocks on the Peninsula during the summer, with the most recent on Sept. 9.

Most of those detained were suspected illegal immigrants, while others had warrants for state or federal violations.

Alex Hepler of Port Hadlock said that Border Patrol agents don’t always ask for proof of citizenship, and questioned the effectiveness of the roadblocks for national security purposes.

He posed this question: “Wouldn’t a terrorist be able to cooperate and be sent on his way?”

Members of the committee distributed a petition to encourage city and county governments on the Peninsula to oppose the roadblocks.

The next step would be to distribute a petition directed at state and federal government, said Eric Chester of Port Townsend, a committee member.

Danks described the group as a “grassroots, democratic, united front.”

The committee has about 25 active members who have either been stopped at roadblocks, knew neighbors who were or who were “just upset by the increase of the Homeland Security presence.”

The demonstration was the second organized by the Stop the Checkpoints Committee. The first was in September.

It attracted more than 100 people.

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Reporter Tom Callis can be reached at 360-417-3532 or at tom.callis@ peninsuladailynews.com.

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