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RULES OF THE ROAD: WA Traffic Laws (PDF) -*- LINKS -*-
(with apologies to Will Shakespeare)
February 1 (Bellingham) - Despite the national mourning for the Shuttle astronauts, overpass actions around Whatcom County showed a strong turnout. From around the country, reports from Minnesota, North Carolina, Los Angeles and Spokane, Washington show the overpass actions are continuing to grow and spread. In Washington and California, the legality of overpass protests have been reaffirmed. The Washington State Patrol has withdrawn its objections to the protests and a California Appeals Court has ruled that such protests cannot be subject to a blanket ban. See the legal news at the bottom of this weeks report.
In the meantime, here is what's happening on the overpasses across America.
At long last we have pictures of the famous Dogs of Peace on the Sunset / Mt. Baker Highway overpass on Interstate 5. The dogs sent in these pictures so their fans could see the stylish and tasteful peace blankets they wear. "We stayed home this Saturday to watch the breaking news on the Space Shuttle tragedy," one of the dogs told us. "We've had a bad feeling about this space exploration stuff ever since the Russians sent space-dog Laika into orbit with no way to get home."
"You humans have been a menace to the planet ever since you discovered fire," the dog continued. "That's why we've had to keep a close eye on you since that time. Before fire, you were just some under-furred apes and not much of a problem."
The dogs said they'll be increasing their efforts in the future and not to be suprised if Secretary of State Collin Powell tells the U.N. that the dogs ate his homework.
This was a partial count weekend, so the Overpass Project volunteers did not drive the Canada to Seattle stretch of I-5 for a verified count of every overpass. The following numbers are based on eyewitness reports. If your overpass isn't included email us with your report and pictures if you've got them.
The big winner continues to be Samish Way overpass with 32 people holding signs and one dog with a "Make Love Not War" button for a grand total of 33. Sunset and the Sunnyland School pedestrian overpass tied for second place with 22 each. Alabama overpass had twenty, including two American flags. The Memorial Park footbridge just north of Alabama had eight. Reports from other overpasses are still expected and tallies will be posted as they come in.
In solidarity with other anti-war actions around the globe, overpass protesters are expected to put a on big push nationwide for Saturday, February 15 from 11 AM to 1 PM local time.
Public interest in the overpass actions continues to build, even in the absence of media coverage. The lopsided view created by the pro-war media is one of the main driving forces behind the overpasses. The widespread feeling among the people on the overpasses is that the public opposition to the war can be seen to be much larger than reported in the corporate-controlled media.
All along I-5 in Washington State sign holders report anti-war support among drivers is much higher than the polls suggest. Anti-war drivers flash their lights, honk their horns, wave, show the "V" sign for peace or give the thumbs up. Some cars display "NO IRAQ WAR" signs as they drive past. "I really like the people who open their sun-roof to give the peace sign," said one woman on the Sunset overpass.
Typical reports from the overpass say sentiment runs from 3-1 to 10-1 against Bush's war.
Warmongers generally restrict themselves to showing a "thumbs down" or giving what some Bellingham police "road-rage" reports describe as "the universal sign of disrespect" with a single upraised finger. This has prompted some people to advocate a "Give the Finger for Bush" campaign to make rude gestures in hopes of reviving Bush's flagging approval rating.
At the Samish Way overpass, sign wavers were shocked and amused by one quick- thinking teenager. To show his admiration for our president's aggressive war policy, he pressed his naked buttocks to the windshield in a gesture variously known as "mooning," "pressed ham" or "Bush flashing." The three grandmothers standing together on the overpass were disturbed by this indecent exposure. "Did anyone get that license number?," one grandmother said. "I want to talk to that boy's mother."
Another eyewitness reported that the "Bush flasher" showed remarkable speed and agility. "He really didn't have much time to get ready, so I was amazed at how fast he got those hams into the windshield," said a local teacher. Further investigation exposed the possibility that pro-war advocates may be riding around in cars without any pants on, just so they will be able to show their pro-war feelings by "Bush flashing." To date, this remains an isolated incident.
In a related incident of nudity as political expression, fifty women in Montana spelled out "PEACE" in goose pimples on a snowy hillside. Previous incidents of naked ladies for peace had been restricted to sunnier climates like Marin County in California where most people have little attachment to their outer garments.
Our correspondent in Kalispell, Montana writes:
"I thought I would show you how we do things in Montana. No, I didn't go to this one. In fact, I am now trying to figure out why they say I am radical. I think I am kinda mellow compared to this group of women."
click here for the big picture
As reports keep coming in from all across the United States, we now have confirmed reports of overpass actions in ten states: Washington, Oregon, Florida, Colorado, Connecticut, Texas, Indiana, North Carolina, Minnesota and California.
Our correspondent Alyce in North Carolina writes:
"I wanted to let you know in durham, NC, we've dropped 6 banners in the last two weeks. We're inspired by these reports and are committed to increasing our presence."
Meanwhile, in Minnesota, land of lakes and butter, anti-war citizens laid claim to the earliest reported overpass protests. Our correspondent Janice in Grand Rapids, Minnesota writes:
Minnesota has been on it's bridges since November. We live in the community of Grand Rapids, Minnesota with a population of 7000 and we had 44 on our bridge last week. If you knew Grand Rapids, you would know how great that is. We doubled in size in 2 weeks even with -20 degree weather. We have ages of teens to eighties. The response has been overwhelming with honks, peace signs, thumbs ups. Very few thumbs down and the middle finger up. We even had someone deliver us hot chocolate last week. So when you see that Americans are supporting this war be sure to ask, "Who is paying for these results, or manipulating the media" and be sure to write to that lying media and express your concerns.
Anecdotal reports keep trickling in from sunny California, but verified eyewitness accounts have been hard to come by. Motorists have said that they encountered overpass protests from Palm Springs, California to the Canadian border. Our correspondent in Marin County has conducted extensive investigations in the company of Peace Poodle Ebony, but has not encountered anything other than the usual street demonstrations with 50,000 to 70,000 people. Ebony reports the peace patrols have not been totally unsuccessful, as she has been able to locate and identify all of the locations in Mill Valley where free dog biscuits are available.
However, we have located this report of a banner drop in Los Angeles. http://www.calendarlive.com/galleriesandmuseums/cl-et-macgregor15jan15.story
In a room full of Persian Gulf War and post-9/11 posters, two women wore necklaces of giant pretzels, an allusion to President Bush's embarrassing choking incident. (Some people thought the pretzels were peace signs, they said.) They had come from the downtown rally, with a stop for margaritas en route.
One of the women, Bianca Kovar, wore a T-shirt that could have hung in the exhibit. On the front: a reference to the president as a "weenie" and a felt-tip rendition of Dubya's cowboy boots. On the back: "No Mo' Whitey Imperialist War."
The two were still flying on protest energy. They had hung a banner over a downtown overpass during the demonstration, and they wanted to talk about it.
"We had so much support from the people on the freeways," said Kovar. "From semis and compacts. They were all honking their horns."
We have two reports of highway actions in Florida. The first comes via the Common Dreams progressive newswire:
They honked horns, yelled praise and profanities, and raised fingers -- sometimes two, in a peace sign; other times, just one.
Hundreds of drivers zipping past an antiwar protest Saturday afternoon at U.S. 19 and State Road 50 voiced or gestured in support or opposition, providing a glimpse of the divided sentiment splitting the county and the country over possible U.S. military action against Iraq.
Ruth Suttmeier, center, and Nettie Lange, right, joined a group of more than two dozen protesting possible military action in Iraq ( Photo/Daniel Wallace) More than 25 people, including two war veterans, bundled up and joined former independent congressional candidate Brian Moore to protest war, waving signs that read: Why Rush to War? Let the Inspection Work! and Who Would Jesus Bomb?
It may have been one of the first antiwar protests in Hernando County. But it won't be the last, the protesters said. They plan to meet again next weekend, at the same time and place.
See the full article http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0203-09.htm
Correspondent Carol writes from Florida about the Altamonte Springs overpass actions on Jan 29:
Here's a link to a first-person account and photo from one of the participants. Unfortunately they were mightily harassed by the police and had their banner confiscated, but they aren't ready to throw in the towel yet. It is a great idea and we are committed to keep on trying. http://www.falloutshelternews.com/OverpassDemo.htm
From Spokane, Washington, heart of the Inland Empire, our correspondent Mike tells us:
Here's a link to a report I did for an overpass protest in Spokane on Jan. 29th. http://seattle.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=21871&group=webcast
We were first told we had to have a permit for the protest. When that didn't wash, we were told we were distracting traffic. When it was noted that there was no change in traffic, the trooper said he had to take down our names because we would be responsible in court if there was an accident. When asked what was to be done with the names, which he wrote in a plain, white notepad, he said they would go to the captain. He then said that he'd write tickets to anyone who refused to come down. Considering that by this time it was pretty dark and that there would likely be acts of civil disobedience in the future, organizers decided to comply.
In another action, anti-war citizens made a technological breakthrough with GLOW IN THE DARK signs. We were tipped off to this major leap forward in antiwar technique by our correspondent Easy, who sent us the link to Marianne's overpass report page at http://www.icehouse.net/pjals/overpass/
Glow-paint was fantastic!!!! There were signs on three overpasses, during daylight and these during the dark with Glow Paint.
The reaction from the road was fantastic - LOTS of honking, some lights flashing, several little birdies, - at one overpass.
One Gulf War vet who came on the overpass in anger and with whom one of the veterans in the group spent about 10 minutes. One Gonzaga student who walked up the ramp just to say thank you.
And finally, one state patrolman who took names, etc, said it was a violation of a law, but did not know which law. Therefore he didn't ticket. I don't know whether a ticket is forthcoming or not. But what a powerful action!
Our correspondent, Mary, writes from Klamath Falls:
The Klamath Basin Peace Forum held a small overpass demo here in Klamath Falls Oregon on January 18th. We got in almost two hours before we were chased away by the police (from 10 to almost noon). Our demonstration was held over Highway 97 just south of Klamath Falls; 97 runs kinda north-south through Oregon and down into CA.
You have a great website! Here's the address for ours. http://peaceforum.dangeroushaiku.com/
Our on-the-scene reporter in Hawaii sends us the following news from the Aloha State:
The Big Island of Hawaii has only three or four overpasses on the whole island and I think they are all foot bridges on the Hilo (rainy) side. In Kona I found many locals trying to start to work together on a non war movement.
In Hawaii, rocks are believed to have sacred powers. There are numerous stories of mainlanders bringing a curse upon themselves by taking rocks from sacred sites.
So the way that some of the locals do their tagging is a non damaging to the environment. They haul coral up to the hiways and spell out their messages on the lava flows along side the roads.
Here are two pictures of Hawaiian rock displays for peace.
As the report from Spokane shows, the WSP legal muddle is widespread. The need for training traffic cops in civil liberties and First Amendment issues is widely apparent. Fortunately, the state legislature appears ready to step in to correct this glaring deficiency in the training of Washington's Finest.
The first step in clearing up the widespread ignorance of the law among state troopers has been taken. As we reported last week, the NE 185th overpass in Shoreline was the scene of a massive muddle by the Washington State Patrol. Protesters vowed to return this weekend to seek a legal resolution to the problem.
Maryn of Shoreline SNOW, our eyewitness on the scene writes:
We had a great turnout today around 25 people. Prior to the vigil we had a short meeting to decide how we were to handle any police interventions. A plan of action was agreed to and we began our vigil holding our signs on the overpass. Several Shoreline police cars passed, we held our collective breath waiting to see what would happen and they drove on by.
Then we were visited by Marilyn Chase 32nd Legislative District Representative and she said that she had talked to the state patrol, what they did last week was in error, it won't happen again and if it does call her. Marilyn just earned herself some new campaign volunteers!
The First Amendment protects political expression unconditionally. Numerous Supreme Court rulings have upheld the right to political expression in public places. Pedestrian right-of-ways (wherever you can legally walk) in public places clearly include sidewalks.
Long story short: you can hold a sign on a sidewalk - and even the Bush Supreme Court will uphold that right. Any attempt by government employees to interfere is unconstitutional. The rub comes when the expression extends into actions that pose a "clear and present danger" to others. Interferring with traffic could be an issue if it is clear that the protest is causing a traffic jam or causing large numbers of incompentent and unsafe drives to lose control of their vehicles.
This is the hypothetical situation that many improperly trained State Troopers have used as an excuse to violate citizens' rights to free expression. If you think a trooper is overstepping his authority, you may request that he write you the ticket he is bluffing you with before you comply with his request to abandon your civil rights.
All citizens have a legal duty to obey lawful commands from police. The issue becomes what is a lawful command. The immediate test is whether or not they will write a ticket so you can make them explain themselves in front of a judge. No ticket, the protest may continue. If you get a ticket, you are compelled to respect the command to cease and desist.
The other issue that has arisen in overpass protests is the use of illegal tactics like "banner drops." A banner drop is attaching a sign or banner to a structure. This is not legal. This is a good thing, otherwise under the much-abused "commercial speech" doctrine, there would be McDonalds banners hung from every overpass, light post and traffic signal in the universe. Banner drops are not a form of civil disobedience because the law is a good one and the goal of the banner drop action is not to overturn an unconstitutional law that infringes on citizens civil rights. So don't do banner drops.
On the other hand, if some busybody employed by the government wants to impose his or her political views on you and shut down a perfectly legal sign-holding action, refusing to comply with their unconscionable trampling of your civil liberties until they commit themselves to appearing in court to explain their nonsense to a judge is a perfect expression of civil disobedience.
Getting a ticket is defending the Republic. Make them explain themselves to the judge.
Civil disobedience is respect for a higher form of the rule of law. It seeks to hale the offenders (in this case the police or State Patrol) into court where they come under the scrutiny of the judiciary. The following case from California shows how this works.
The Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise reports the following recent California Appeals Court ruling:
On January 27, 2003, the California Third District Court of Appeal ruled that the California Highway Patrol (CHP) can stop a Sacramento anti-abortion group from holding protests that cause traffic congestion. The panel held that a blanket ban on demonstrations was absurd and the issue had to be decided on a case-by-case basis. The panel unanimously upheld an earlier decision to deny an injunction against the troopers intervening with protests by the anti-abortion group.
At issue was the CHP interpretation of California Vehicle Code Secs. 21465 and 21467. Sec. 21465 makes it unlawful to "place, maintain, or display upon, or in view of, any highway any unofficial sign, signal, device, or marking, or any sign, signal, device, or marking which purports to be or is an imitation of, or resembles, an official traffic control device or which attempts to direct the movement of traffic or which hides from view any official traffic control device." Sec. 21467 specifically authorizes the CHP to remove illegal signs.
Justices George Nicholson and Vance Raye, agreed with the plaintiffs that the CHP had misinterpreted those statutes and that they do not apply to signs that have nothing to do with traffic issues.
The agency "does not have a clear or articulable definition of the scope of section 21465," Nicholson wrote. He pointed to the testimony of the CHP's expert, an officer who teaches the Vehicle Code at the agency's academy, when asked why bus advertising was considered legal but protest signs illegal, answered "You got me."
This widespread confusion among the nation's police about their power to interfere with citizens' rights is symptomatic of a common error police make in inventing laws to enforce. Typical of this sort of nonsense is the dissenting opinion by Presiding Judge Arthur Scotland. Scotland lost his attempt to impose a blanket ban on protests calling the constitutional protection of civil liberties "a wrong turn." Fortunately for the citizens of California, the other judges on the panel showed more common sense in their approach to the issue.
Justice Vance Raye authored his own opinion responding to Scotland's nonsense. "I disagree with his cataclysmic vision of the havoc that will be wreaked when citizens are permitted to exercise their First Amendment rights on public property within sight of a freeway," the jurist wrote, reasoning that not all freeways are equally congested.
The case is Sanctity of Human Life Network, Inc. v. California Highway Patrol, 03 S.O.S. 461. This is ruling by a California, not a federal, court and only applies to the State of California. However, it shows the sort of reasoning (or lack of it in Judge Scotland's case) that goes into First Amendment law.
For the original article from the Metropolitan News-Enterprise go to: http://www.metnews.com/articles/chpx012803.htm
Check out our handy two-page guide "Rules of the Road": WA Traffic Laws (PDF download). Know your rights and responsibilities!
A national web site, The War Sign Project is now coordinating distribution of NO IRAQ WAR signs throughout America with thirty-seven distribution locations now in operation and more coming on line every day. They say " The tide is turning. Across America, hundreds of thousands of signs opposing an Iraq war are sprouting. In yards, newspapers; on cars, clothing, the internet: an entire nation just saying NO to war."The War Sign Project has distributed over 70,000 signs, stickers and buttons nationwide with 10,000 going out in the last week. Last week they announced plans to start direct shipping of small orders to individuals around the country. Previously 28 distribution centers around the country had signs for pickup and shipping was previously available for orders of 100 signs. Demand for small orders at Boruck Printing in Seattle has been so high that they are now shipping in quantities of 20. Boruck now reports shipping over 60,000 of these signs.
Send us your overpass pictures, reports and stories.
Download the Overpass Poster (318 Kb)
-*- VIDEO: Jan 4. Video (Windoze Media 621Kb) -*- Jan 4. Video (RealMedia 995Kb)-*-
RULES OF THE ROAD: WA Traffic Laws (PDF) -*- LINKS -*-
Klamath Falls, Oregon Peace action
Common Dreams - Florida actions
More Florida action at FalloutShelterNews
Spokane, Washington glows in the dark
IndyMedia on the Spokane actions
Greeley (Colorado) Tribune
No Iraq War
Common Dreams - Bellingham overpasses
Portland I-5 Action Site
No Iraq War signs from Boruck Printing http://www.boruckprinting.com/niw.html
Seattle Times on the signs http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/134606632_griffin01m.html
The War Sign Project - national sign distribution network
Contact Rob Baxter about organizing your overpass
Download the tally spreadsheet (MS Excel format)
Download the tally spreadsheet (Tab-delimited format)
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