﻿Two Sunday's ago I received a call from Phil Dawdy of Williamette Week. He told me he was
working on the "story behind the story" as to what really propelled the Portland Police to refuse
to cooperate with the FBI. He asked me if I knew of any other states that had similar laws to
ORS 181.575 that prevented law enforcement from collecting and maintaining information about
people or organizations unless those sought were suspected of criminal activity. I responded that
I did not know of any other states with similar laws. I asked him if was going to credit the part
that the Portland's activist community played in the police's refusal to cooperate. He hedged.
I read his and Nick Budnick's article the following Wednesday and unfortunately the story did
not fulfill its bill of being the story behind the story. What should have been said but was not by
ANY of the corporate media follows:
Portland activists have been for years spending long hours fighting for civil liberties in this town.
The National Lawyers Guild, Portland Copwatch, and the NAACP forged a coalition back a few
years ago that resulted in producing a police accountability initiative drive and a task force that
was formed by the Mayor to look into ways of generating more police accountability. These
efforts kept these important issues on the public table and kept the discussion vital and alive. All
of these efforts were the result of dedicated progressives who cared about their society and the
civil liberties that they saw trampled upon. Over many years these folks have met, demonstrated
and sat through city council meetings where they had to listen to hours of staged testimony
before they could get their tightly timed two minutes of presentation to a tired and disinterested
city council. But yet they persevered.
The Portland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, particularly Paul Loney and Stu Sugarman
have organized mass legal defenses of some of the best criminal lawyer minds in town. Through
these defenses and through discovery in these trials we uncovered abuses of power by the
police. This information helped us challenge the way things were run in this town.
The results of the mass defense of the Iraqi bombing protestors and the May Day protestors were
impressive. 95% of the demonstrators got off without any conviction. Judge Marcus declared
one part of the disorderly conduct statute unconstitutional and raised the state's burden
of proof to beyond a reasonable doubt in cases where they would arrest a protestor on a
misdemeanor charge and later drop it to a violation.
These rulings made it much harder for the police to arbitrarily break up demonstrations and
arrest protestors exercising their First Amendment rights. These cases also cost the state
thousands of dollars and resulted in presenting questionable police testimony in court to a judge
who by the end of these trials wrote an opinion that blasted the tactics of the police department.
The City got a big mud pie in the face and was reeling from its effects.
We also uncovered evidence that showed that the police were still spying on non-criminal
political protestors. During the Iraqi bombing trials the DA produced a document written by an
undercover agent stating that they were targeting Dan Handelman of Copwatch for (as the
document stated) non-criminal activity in direct violation of ORS 181.575. This document was
produced to Judge Marcus. Marcus was the same judge who had previously ruled in Squirrel v.
Moose that the City had screwed up by spying on Squirrel and maintaining files on him.
Based upon this newly discovered secret evidence the mass defense team filed a motion with the
court to dismiss all of the protestor cases based upon the state's "outrageous conduct." A few
days later we received a courtesy copy of a letter from city attorney Rogers addressed to the Judge
explaining that the city attorney's office has "goofed" and had not followed Judge Marcus'
previous order from Squirrel to regularly audit the police intelligence department's files.
Rogers went even further and explained that the city attorney should not be required to do the
auditing because they were in a conflict because they were the cops' attorney I was surprised
that Judge Marcus did not do much with this admission.
Push the reel forward to about two years later. The city was reconsidering once again whether to
renew its contract with the FBI to continue the Portland Joint Terrorist Task Force. The
progressive community once again hit the ground running. There were meetings, lobbying of
commissioners, presentations and demonstrations.
Before I attended the first council meeting on this renewal, I had this gut sort of feeling that I
should bring to the council meeting a copy of the undercover agent's report which showed the
Portland Police spying on Dan Handelman illegally and City attorney Jeff Roger's letter to Judge
Marcus explaining why the city attorney did not follow their court ordered duties of auditing the
police intelligence files. Sure, enough my gut reaction turned into one those Perry Mason
Like all of the other activists we sat through hours of staged testimony produced and directed by
Mayor Katz. At one point some Commissioners questioned Mayor Katz and Chief Kroeker
about civilian oversight of the PTTF expressing "their concerns." Mayor Katz triumphantly
proclaimed that assistant city attorney David Lesh had examined the files of the intelligence unit
and found that the city attorney had been auditing the files as required by law and consistent with
Judge Marcus' order in Squirrel v. Moose. She had a memo from Lesh stating as such.
With the documents in my hand signed by Lesh's boss that said the complete opposite I knew
that all the work that we had done over the years had just paid off big time. I was signed up to
speak and did my deep breathing exercise to keep calm knowing that I had them by the (you
know what). Finally they called my name. I proceed to give out copies of city attorney Roger's
letter and the undercover memo to each council member. I got to Mayor Katz and she
unleashed lightning bolts out of her eyes at me. I had my progressive armor on and deflected
I pointed to the letters and said there was a serious disconnect here because the letter before them
from Lesh's boss was contrary to what Lesh had written in his memo and what Mayor Katz had told us. It appeared that
even if they could do the audits they were in a conflict position. The years of work of the
progressive community from Copwatch's diligence, to the National Lawyers Guild mass
defenses, to the years of demonstrations by hard working and caring folks had lead to this magic
moment where we could stand up to the emperess and say, excuse me but you have no clothes.
They were scrambling because we had blown their cover that they had carefully woven designed to fool
the public into thinking that the FBI would be supervised by a civilian elected Mayor. The
council session was continued to the next week for more testimony but everyone knew they were
now in damage control.
Next week they completely changed their position and had Jeff Rogers testify. He admitted along
with Chief Kroeker that the Portland Joint Terrorist Task Force could not have any civilian
oversight including Mayor Katz. For all the "concern" that other Commissioners Francesconi
and Sten previously raised about civilian oversight of the PTTJF, when push came to shove-- it
was only Commissioner Charley Hales who voted his conscience by opposing the continuance of
the task force.
But that moment was carved in their minds. Dedicated progressives in this
town have organized and fought for the rights of the people. Their dedication paid off. It was impressive and it was democracy at its best.
A few months later when the FBI asked the City Police to collect and maintain information for
them about Mid-Easterners why do you think law and order minded city attorney David Lesh
advised the police to refuse? Why is that? Could it be that he was still cleaning off the mud in
his eye that the dedicated people of Portland had put there? Why did Mayor Katz, Chief Kroeker
and Jeff Rogers all say that they knew more about that law than Hardy Meyers. It was true, they
did and they were still smarting from the power of the people who had taught them about the power of democracy.
We can feel proud that the true story can be told. Never ever underestimate the power of good
hearted dedicated people to make a difference in this world. Now why wouldn't corporate media want to
publish a story like that? I wonder?
Co-Chair of the Portland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild