A conflict between civil liberty proponents and those backing road, bus and highway checks for terrorist threats developed on the North Olympic Peninsula following a Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Customs and Border Protection policy of instituting random checkpoints in Clallam and Jefferson county.
Area motorists began seeing more green-clad trucks, cars and agents early in 2008 as the Port Angeles U.S. Customs and Border Protection staff grew from six to 25.
The agency set up its first checkpoint in late August on U.S. Highway 101 between Forks and the Beaver community.
Several more checkpoints followed at the agency's other two established checkpoint locations, near Quilcene on the same highway and on state Route 104 west of the Hood
While the checkpoints are designed to find terrorists or terrorism-type activities, they have caused more than two dozen arrests with charges of drug possession, illegal entry into the country or outstanding warrants, according to the agency.
Hundreds of Clallam County residents became offended by the stops, were separated from family members deported from the country as a result of the stops or believed the stops were an example of illegal search and seizure and organized protests and marches against them.
A newly formed coalition, the Stop the Checkpoints Committee, organized the protests, the largest of which garnered 150 people to march through downtown Port Angeles.
Customs and Border Protection spokesmen insist the
checkpoints are within their jurisdiction, 100 miles from the border, and are a part of their effort to catch terrorists or instruments of terror, indicating they cannot ignore the fact someone has a warrant or may not have U.S. identification.
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