Meet Trey Smith, police liaison for the Aberdeen port protests
Trey Smith was the police liaison for the peace protestors at the Port of Grays Harbor protests last week. He is a longtime activist and a relatively recent transplant to Aberdeen (he moved to Washington in Dec of '05), where he lives with his wife, 3 dogs and 2 cats. He is the Treasurer for the Washington State Green Party and edits their weekly e-zine and bimonthly newslwetter.
I caught up with him the day before the last day of protests for the latest in our "Underground Notes" interview series:
TA: Before I start, I just want to congratulate you on a job well done. Every day the protests have gotten larger, and so far, there hasn't been any rioting, at least not according to the papers.
First off, what drew you to this protest? How did you get involved?
TS: I wasn't drawn to this protest; it was drawn to me. The military decided to ship weapons of mass destruction through the Port of Grays Harbor here in Aberdeen. As a longtime pacifist and peace activist, I had no choice but to take to the streets in protest. Not being involved was simply not an option.
TA: How would you rate the level of engagement of the local community in Grays Harbor?
TS: To be frank, most of the people who participated in the various rallies and marches over the course of 4 days were from the South Puget Sound region and beyond. A great deal of this number also protested similar shipments hailing from the ports in Olympia & Tacoma. Since the shipments are a national issue, does it really matter where a person calls home?
Small rural communities tend to be more conservative than urban areas. Consequently, it's not surprising that we had no more than 20 area residents out in the streets. That said, I hope our efforts will motivate more people to get involved if the military chooses to use our port again.
TA: How have you dealt with the members of the police and other government officials? Have there been any communication problems between the protestors and the police? Any violence?
TS: Because I have experience and training as Child Abuse Investigator -- talk about high tension situations -- I volunteered to serve as our loose knit group's police liaison. I carried a radio that provided direct communication to Capt. Dave Johnson of the Aberdeen Police Department. Dave & I communicated daily about where we planned to meet for each day's protests and the routes we would use for marches. I also kept in contact with Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Meyers.
Communication was adequate, though many of the police tactics were not. That said, because we worked to keep the lines of communications open between us, there was no property destruction, no violence and no arrests by local authorities.
TA: The press has made much of the involvement of anarchists in all three port protests. As a Green, you must have some knowledge of how anarchists think and operate. How would you characterize their involvement in protests of this sort? Are they a net positive or a net negative? Can liberals/progressives/socialists peacefully coexist with them?
TS: There were no specific anarchists who participated in any of the protests in Aberdeen. I'm sure there were many people who agree with some aspects of anarchist ideology, but we had no one here who explicitly identified themselves in this way.
These reports of anarchists in our midst were simply a misinformation campaign perpetrated by the police to provide them with the political cover to justify turning Aberdeen into a virtual police state. If you are able to frighten the citizenry enough, most of them won't question why hundreds of law enforcement personnel descended on this rural community. It's nothing more than creating a make-believe bogeyman.
As to the last part of your question, what it comes down to for me isn't so much about political labels but about the dichotomy between violent protest vs nonviolent protest. These two polar opposites cannot exist under the same tent solely because those prone to violence negate the goal of nonviolent activists. If you are a pacifist, as I am, you simply don't condone violence, regardless of who initiates it.
TA: As a member of the Green Party, you must be frustrated with the level of political discourse around the continuing occupation of Iraq. What do you think should be done in Iraq, and how do you think it can be achieved?
TS: The Green Party has opposed this immoral war from before Day 1. If a Green had been President in 2001, we wouldn't be having this discussion at all.
Of course, a Fascist, not a Green, was President then (and now), so we're embroiled in a murderous quagmire. If we had the power to do so, we would start removing our troops today and have most of them stateside in a matter of weeks or a few months. Some would need to stay, but under the command of the United Nations, not the US military.
We would then need to usher in a Marshall Plan for rebuilding Iraq since we're primarily responsible for laying it to waste. One way to fund this is to seize the assets of corporations like Halliburton -- corporations that received sweetheart deals, were paid billions of taxpayer dollars and then delivered substandard or nonexistent services.
TA: According to your bio, you ran for office twice in Oregon before moving to Aberdeen. Have you considered running for office here in Washington State? If so, what issues would you focus on?
TS: If I run for office here in Washington, it will most likely be for a local office. Because of this, it's a little hard to say which specific issues I would need to focus on. In general terms though, I would work to ensure local services meet the needs of ALL residents, not merely the community's wealthy elite.
TA: In addition to being State Treasurer of the Washington Green Party, you're also the editor of the bimonthly newspaper, the Evergreen Voice. What role do you see such alternative publications having in today's saturated media environment? Do you have any ideas on how to increase the public's interest in independent media?
TS: The role of all forms of independent media is to educate people on the wide divergence of ideas and perspectives in our society. The mainstream media purposely narrows the discourse because they don't want the rabble -- you and me -- to get any "wild ideas".
I truly believe that the blogosphere is one surefire way to expand public interest in alternative media and I think it is succeeding. As more and more people become web savvy, they are only a click or two away from exposing themselves to a rich diversity of perspectives. If the US would undertake a program, comparable to a lot other nations, to make broadband and/or digital service universally available, then most anyone could learn more in hour or two than they would watching or reading the mainstream news for an entire month!
TA: The candidates for President in 2008 are traveling the country and selling themselves everywhere they can find a microphone. Are there any candidates you support, and if so, why? If not, what sort of platform would you like a Presidential candidate to have?
TS: Several people have announced that they are seeking the Green Party nomination for President. One of these candidates is Elaine Brown, a former national chair for the Black Panther Party. She will speak at the Green Party Convention this Saturday, May 12, 2:00 p.m. in Lecture Hall 03 on the campus of The Evergreen State College in Olympia. The speech will be taped and later rebroadcast by TVW.
TS: I'm not saying I necessarily will endorse Ms. Brown, but I'm leaning that way. I will want to hear from other Green Party candidates before making a decision.
TA: Surely this won't be the last event of this nature to take place in Grays Harbor. Do you know of any other events or meetings that our readers should check out? Is there somewhere they can go to find more information?
TS: For progressive events specific to Grays Harbor, see whatisnext.us. If the military decides to use the Port of Grays Harbor again and I certainly hope they do, we're going to be even more ready for them next time. We're developing some new and innovative strategies that will certainly drive the police bonkers. Such activity will most likely cause them to request even MORE police backup (if that's possible) and this will drive their costs through the roof.
For many of us, that right there is what will cause more and more communities to say NO to the military. The cost to ever-tightening municipal budgets will grow to be so prohibitive that it will be the city governments themselves, not us, who will shoo the military away from our ports.
Categories: Underground Notes, War & Peace, Local Events