Lawsuit filed against Tacoma over '07 Port of Tacoma arrests

On Friday, March 6, 2009, three activists filed a lawsuit against the City of Tacoma for false arrest and other violations committed by Tacoma police during an anti-war demonstration.

Elizabeth Rivera Goldstein, Thomas McCarthy, and Phan Nguyen were arrested under the pretext of wearing backpacks in a "no-backpack zone" at the Port of Tacoma in March 2007.The activists had been demonstrating against the Iraq "troop surge" and the expedited deployment of the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division to Iraq from Ft. Lewis. For two weeks in March 2007, the Port of Tacoma was the focal point for demonstrations against the deployment, as Stryker vehicles were being shipped out through the Port of Tacoma in advance of the 4th Brigade's actual deployment.

During this time, Tacoma police established a fenced-in "free speech zone" in the Port of Tacoma where demonstrators were compelled to congregate. Police set up random checkpoints to prevent the demonstrators from entering the "free speech zone" with backpacks and purses. The checkpoints appeared arbitrarily at varying locations and at various times throughout the protests. At times, the restrictions were arbitrarily applied to backpacks, purses, bags, buckets, boxes and even plastic water bottles. All restrictions were established without probable cause.

Thomas McCarthy was arrested on the night of March 9, 2007 while attempting to carry a backpack with food and medical supplies into the "free speech zone." Elizabeth Rivera Goldstein and Phan Nguyen were arrested along with six other demonstrators on March 11, 2007 for wearing backpacks into the "free speech zone." Goldstein's backpack contained a teddy bear, while Nguyen's "frontpack" contained a copy of the United States Constitution.

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