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Bush Protest: Another account

BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. We hear the movement of loud drums and marching boots. I look down the street behind us and see two columns of people in black moving toward us.
Yesterday I attended the anti-Bush protests in Portland Oregon. You will not hear much about those protests in the Sunday news of corporate America. When addressed in the media you will hear that "only" 500 people showed up. That they were stupid, uniformed, ragtag "hippies" and "anarchists" who were easily duped into giving up their watch at a Bush visit site. You will hear that Bush calls Oregon protestors - "remnants of a little Beirut". You will hear that the protestors were kept stifled by military helicopters and riot police dressed in black storm trooper uniforms.

I have another version of the event. It is a version deeply rooted in long-time peace and justice activism and a steady alliance to Oregon's working class and low-income population.

The protest group numbered over 1000. It was a group made up of all ages and many issues... because there is so much to protest about George Bush and his select regime. Bush was coming to talk to the rich of the poorest state in the nation. We have the most people unemployed; we are called the hungriest state in the nation because in 1999 the USDA found that more than 160,000 households in Oregon were food insecure (limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods). Children are 41% of those receiving emergency food. Most adult recipients of emergency foods are working, retired or disabled. These numbers were calculated BEFORE the current recession. Oregon's food banks and soup kitchens are being inundated by hungry people. Many of the present poor and unemployed got that way because jobs were sent overseas because of NAFTA-like trade agreements.

Bush was coming to talk to the rich about his new economic policy, which will take more resources from the poor to give to the rich. He was coming to talk to a poor state about his bombing of a poor nation using the taxes of the working class. He has few friends here in the working class. He was coming to a state where constitutional rights are very important. He sicked Ashcroft on us twice and we told them to go away. Now he was coming here in person. Sneaking through the streets of Portland to talk to the rich select in a cordoned off neighborhood. I was going no matter what...

I traveled with 2 other women, an elementary school teacher and a forest biologist. My background is in Public Health and Social Work. We are all systems thinkers. We are concerned for communities, connected ecosystems whether human or biological, systems of oppression, and systems and communities and actions that support the common good. We wanted to go and see George Bush and let him know that we do not support the war on poor people, the gutting of social security, the destruction of the environment, and tax welfare to corporations who have already sent many of our jobs overseas.

We already know that Bush does not want working class progressive people in his audiences . It is an invitation only affair. The whole event is set up for the corporate media. We know that the local media will not show our protests, they will only show what Bush wants America to see.

We ride to Northeast Portland to a Job center for youth. Bush is to show up there about 1:00 PM. The area is where low-income working class people live. It is a mixed racial neighborhood. The police have called everyone in the neighborhood and told them to stay in their homes or they may not be able to get back into their homes that day. Only people with regular telephone service get the call. Cell phone uses don't have a clue. The protestor organizers are not informed of this action.

We arrive and park near a designated meeting place. In the park several hundred people appear within half an hour. By the time we begin to march toward the job center there are almost 1000 protestors. The protest signs are draped in words that speak of loss of social security, stealing from the poor to give tax breaks to rich, stopping the war against Afghanistan, protecting jobs from NAFTA and the WTO. They read "Democracy died with the 2000 election", "Hail to the thief, "Go home - selected one", "No Facisim... give us back our democracy", "Alternative energy not blood for oil", "healthcare not welfare". "The constitution belongs to the People!". There are hundreds of signs.

We march from the park and spill out into the streets. Portland bicycle police try to stop us by corralling us near the sidewalks. We walk around them. We walk peacefully chanting "Whose Streets, OUR Streets!" and "This is what democracy looks like!". We arrive on Martin Luther King Boulevard the main thoroughfare between the neighborhoods of industry and the working poor. We are met by giant puppets. One is an effigy of a corporate fat cat, cigar and all. The other is Mother earth, holding the earth. Which side do we choose?
The line of bicycle policemen dressed in yellow and black jackets and helmets look like bumblebees. We call them the "bumblebee brigade". The protestors move to within one block of the job center. We can go no further. We are stopped by police cars. Soon we hear the pounding boots of the Portland police tactical division. We call them storm troopers. They are dressed in black... boots, jackets, pants, they don Darth Vader-like helmets with face shields attached. They run toward the protestors in rhythmic unison. The drill Sargent calls out commands. The are armed with guns that shoot plastic bullets, wield long black night sticks and have plastic ties attached to their belts; something to use for handcuffs. On the roofs across the street I see my first snipers. They are laying on the rooftops with guns pointed at us. In the sky is a black helicopter circling us. The doors are open. There is red light shining from the darkness inside the flying machine. I see missile launchers attached to the side of the whirlybird.

We are at a standstill. The police announce that we have nine minutes to move up on the sidewalk. At the end of that time anyone in the street will be arrested. We see the police buses and vans drive up. They are to take away the arrested. The protest organizers tell us that anyone who does not want to be arrested should step up on the sidewalk. Many stay in the streets. For nine minutes we chant and sing. After nine minutes nothing happens. We are at a stalemate. For twenty minutes more we still do not move closer to the site. I walk through the crowd and recognize activists from all over Oregon. Amy and Steve who for 30 years have worked to end poverty and hopelessness in the Eugene area. Marshall who organized the activists gathering this summer in Eugene, community organizers from Ashland and Medford, people who stand up for elders, and children, and communities. People from the Corvallis area. We started the First Alternative Coop more than 30 years ago and then went on to start free clinics, shelters for the homeless, suicide prevention hotline, a domestic violence program a AIDS/HIV hotline. People from Seattle who are long-time community activists and now are building a strong and peaceful movement against the Bush regime. People from Portland who are part of the homeless camp, the food banks and alternative energy coalition. Children, and teenagers, elders - one who told me he had been a Democrat and voter all his life and had never seen so much evil in government. He was 87 years old. There are old hippies, and anarchists, and mothers and fathers with their sons and daughters. There are babies in strollers and backpacks. There are people of color: African Americans, Asians, Middle Easterners, Hispanics and others. We are waiting for Mr. Bush. We have something important to say.

BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. We hear the movement of loud drums and marching boots. I look down the street behind us and see two columns of people in black moving toward us. I think we are being surrounded and about to be attacked. Then as they get closer I see that they are on our side. The Infernal Noise Brigade - they came from Seattle. They are street theatre, direct action, and musical militancy. They became famous during the Seattle-WTO mass protests. They show up to get things moving. They did not have to come. They knew we might be a small group of activists... no WTO-Seattle this time. No strong union presence here.

They come upon us suddenly... BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, dressed in black... with wands wrapped in American flags and bright red scarves splattered here and there. Their leader calls out commands. They are loud. They are mocking the storm troopers by their presence. Power against power. We were at a stalemate. They suddenly there appeared about 20 of them, young people faces and identities covered, determined and solid, no hippies here. They marched and boomed on their drums straight into the crowd, straight to the front, they stood with legs firmly planted in the path of storm troopers. Is this what we have to all do to get this movement going?...I think. Are we just wimps who have lost contact with how dangerous our world has become? Do we have to show militancy and have to take on the body language of our persecutors? They have no smiles. They have only direct action... to the front... move this protest forward!
All is dead quiet for a moment. A woman's voice calls out from the crowd, "This is what democracy looks like!" Then a voice from this marching militancy... a woman singing in a Middle Eastern language, fills the air. I do not understand her words but I understand her meaning. The drums join her unwavering melodic beautiful voice.

I am sad that we have to be so strong and so militant to end this thing. This takeover of our constitutional rights and this crushing of our democracy. I close my eyes and feel the urgency in the woman's voice. I allow myself to be swayed by the drumming. I am appreciative that those younger than I am... are willing to stand up and show us the way out of this darkness. I begin to feel strong. The strength starts in my feet and moves up to my heart and then my head. I am ready. I am a direct action pacifist. I do not believe in violence. If they begin to club us or gas us, I will run. If they grab me I will lay down or sit down and will not struggle. If others near me are being hurt, I will try to help them and I will stand by them. Peacemaking is not the absence of action; it is the courage to stand against injustice wherever I find it, non-violently. I am 53 years old. My bones and heart are tired. Never in my life have I experience so much greed, heartlessness, and corruption as now exists in America and in the world.

I don't know these young people dressed in black. What hope have they seen in their life times? And now we have someone in power who was not elected and who is destroying democratic processes and our constitutional rights.

The kids in black burn a corporate flag. They drum and sing and move a few feet forward at a time. More storm troopers arrive. We chant.

"Bullshit! Get off it! The cause of war is profits. This recession and inflation are not caused by immigration! Bullshit! Get off it, the cause of war is profits!" "Whose streets, OUR streets!", "Drop Bush Not Bombs!", "Protecting the constitution is not a terrorist act!"

Suddenly the drums cease. The Infernal Noise Brigade leaves as swiftly as it appeared. We are baffled.

Then one of the organizers gets on a bullhorn and announces that Bush has cancelled his appearance at the site. She tells us to head for the next appearance at Parkrose High school. She tells us to carpool and help each other get there. We all move away from storm troopers. We head for our cars.

It is a trick. A very bad one. Many of us are not able to access our vehicles. While at the protest site the police have taped off the entire area around the park with yellow plastic tape that reads, "Police line do not cross". A police cruiser blocks entrance to each neighborhood block. The officers guarding the area will not let us near our cars. Many people begin to move toward the next busy intersection where they scramble for buses, and hitchhike the one hundred blocks to the high school. I did not go. I am told by friends that many motorists not associated with the protest picked up hitchhikers and took them to the next protest site.

We talk with people who live in the neighborhood. They cannot go home. They are kept out of their neighborhoods. Some residents received phone calls that morning. A warning to stay in their homes. Other did not get the call. They were at work or visiting. We are all stand together waiting. A squirrel crosses the police line. We all laugh and point. Even the policeman smiles.

The person I am riding with does not want to leave her car. She has to be back to our hometown by 5:00 PM. We go back to the original protest site to see if we can talk to some one in charge. We are in for a surprise. Bush shows up!

There are only a few protestors left. Someone from the corporate media tells me he tried to tell organizers that Bush was still coming. "Why did you all leave", he asks. I think that someone probably tipped off the protest organizers that our cars would be trapped and decided to move us on to the next site. We stay and we watch as the caravan of rich people arrive and leave. I watch as a little girl with the group flips us off. A newsman tells me later that she called us "stupid hippies". We go home. I have collected signs from the ground and police line tape. I am looking at them now as I write. One sign reads: "Bush's economic policy: war on the poor, welfare for the rich".

The protestors at Parkrose High school included union troops. AFL-CIO. I am told that over 1000 people were at that appearance. I am told that the Infernal Noise Brigade leads the people on and on. There is very little violence. There is lots of noise. There are storm troopers. There are police on horseback. The people take over the streets. The rich are inside with Bush. He tells them that if we give corporations a tax break they will spread the wealth to the people of America. He tells them that anyone who does not agree with his war on terrorism is not a true American. He tells one man who asks about alternative energy that if we do not drill in Anwar, fight for oil, and build nuclear power plants that we will all live in the dark. He could not hide the protestors. There are few pro-bush protestors. The people in the streets are loud. He heard them. I know he did. And then he left.

If you would like to get involved in this movement to preserve our democracy, our constitutional rights, the rights of the poor and the working class, the effort to bring peace and justice to the world there is another chance very soon.

On February 2nd, The Oregon Peace Festival II will take place in Salem at Willamette University. Time: 10 AM to 6PM. There will be a march for peace through Salem. The event is sponsored by Oregon Progressive Alliance, HEAR, Inc., Oregon Fellowship of Reconciliation, KBOO Community Radio, Oregon Peaceworks and the International Action Center/San Francisco. For more information go to the web site for the event located at  http://www.oregonpeacefestival.org

I know the mayor of Salem. His name is Mike Swaim. He is an excellent humanitarian and lover of peace and democracy. There will be no snipers, storm troopers, guns, head-smashing batons or black helicopters. All are welcome. Hope to see you there.

Bridgetpeace
Despite Mistakes We Were Strong 06.Jan.2002 20:56

Douglas Lain, PPRC Internal Communications doug@douglaslain.f2s.com

It is upsetting to hear that many were unable to reach their cars after the group disbanded from the YO center. It was unfortunate that we left before Bush arrived.

But, we still did an amazing thing yesterday. We were not intending to actually block Bush from entering the YO center, and so the fact that were not out in force at the moment his Majesty Bush arrived is not particularly important. The fact is we were out in force and we did hold our ground despite the cop's tactics. We were visible, audible, and strong.

Also, the fact that we were so strong at Park Rose, even without everyone from the YO center arriving, is an indication of our strength and our real numbers.

I hope that nobody was delayd for too long at the YO center, and I hope that those who were arrested were, in fact, merely cited and not detained. That is what the police told us had happened, and that's what the Oregonian has reported.

We should feel strong now, because we are strong. And we should continue to make the effort to reach out to each other and to the community as a whole.

This war can be ended, and by that I mean both the war on terrorism and the class war behind it. We can become human beings, taking charge of our own communities, our own identities, our own lives.

-Doug


Any Protest Will Do -- This Was Great 06.Jan.2002 22:37

Richard Lochner rploch@qwest.net

In the face of 80-90% approval for the Resident, I think just about any non-violent protest can do nothing but help, showing dissent is alive and well. Many people 'go with the crowd': once they see there's a 'crowd' dissenting, they are much more willing to give voice to their own doubts and disagreements with the powers that be.
What we did right: 500 at the YO center, and I think more, maybe 700-800 scattered up and down the street at Parkrose were impressive on two days notice, rotten weather, and general depression. We had a good mix of antiwar and anti-Bush economic plan signs and chants. The Infernal Noise Brigade, giant puppets and much else were fun. It's unfortunate we were tricked away from the YO Center, but Parkrose was in many ways a better location. On MLK, it was pretty much us and the riot police, at Parkrose thousands saw us driving past on 122nd. As a Union person I had a chance to mingle with the AFL-CIO demonstrators. We had a chance to at least shake our fists at the Resident going past, and briefly block his way out.
What we can do better: the Left and the Democrats have been eloquent denouncing Republicans for the last 20 years, yet voting and activism have still generally fallen. I think we can become more pro-active, and use all occasions for advancing our own agenda for jobs and healthcare for all, sustainable energy, no more sweatships etc. rather than just reacting to corporations. In my experience, people are more inspired by hope than fear and loathing.
Our antiwar perspective mostly could have been raised at any U.S. intervention in the last 40 years and more. While U.S. attacks on civilians are as bad as ever, I do believe the Taliban and Al Qaeda's fascistic character, and the Afghan people's welcome of their overthrow should make our approach to this war different. How to express that properly at protests, I'm not sure.
Like his father, I believe George W's war support is a mile wide and a foot deep. Don't give up the Fight!

Taliban Gone, but so what? 07.Jan.2002 00:46

Douglas Lain

I'm not sure that the 7.5 million people on the brink of starvation in Afghanistan are particularly thrilled with the US war on them. And I haven't heard anyone claim that the Northern Alliance represents any kind of improvement over the Taliban.

The fascist character of the Taliban is no different than the fascist character of Sadam Hussein, and he's no different from Noriega and so on... Of course, what all of these people have in common is their connection to the US Intelligence community.

It's a strange thing, isn't it?

Doug

P.S. And if you're interested in how the women of Afganistan feel about the way we've liberated them check out RAWA:

 http://www.rawa.org/

oh, for fuck sake! 07.Jan.2002 00:51

imay barf

Seriously, why do you people feel the need to cling to the rhetoric around democracy and reclaiming it? It never freakin' existed! It's little more than a myth that keeps you complacent and ineffective. The world is often a sick and ugly place...no matter how many puppets you build, no matter how many signs you paint with hearts and flowers.

This is not a fucking joke.

We are fighting for our lives. Just because you are blinded by your rose colored glasses (and maybe a sizable bank account?) doesn't mean the rest of us can't see what's going on.

I was embarrassed many, many times by the niavety and general apathy of the protesters in Portland. This was no little Beirut! How disgustingly inconsiderate to the people who fought and died there.

If you want to stop George W., if you want to live in a country that is not responsible for massive, worldwide genocide...then do something! Don't just stand there waiting for democracy to hit you like a rubber bullet.

Forwarded to the Ashland Daily Tidings 07.Jan.2002 14:24

Wes

This IMC story was forwarded to our local news rag, the Ashland Daily Tidings with the following comment:

Attention: News Editor Troy Heie

I watched the live coverage from Northwest Cable News: Deplorable! I read the Oregonian, Trib. and the Tidings. Gross omissions.

It is a absolutely unethical and I would go as far to say a "crime against humanity" to NOT report the full story.

Wes Brain
Ashland, Oregon

INB rebuttal to Bridgetpeace 10.Jan.2002 18:23

medic zero, INB kral@infernalnoise.org

this is a response to
'Bush protest:another account' by Bridgetpeace

I am a member of the Infernal Noise Brigade, and whilst we as individuals don't usually don't speak for the group as a whole, I'd like to address some of the inaccuacies of Bridgetpeace's work. Perhaps I should address it to her, but I would also like to set the record straight as well.

You have refered to us 'people in black', and 'dressed in black', not making any mention of the fact that as a marching band we wear a uniform that consists of green pants and also have green and black flags as well as a lot of our accents etc being green as well. It gets a little old always being refered to as being dressed in black by other media outlets, it's even more dismaying to be painted with such a broad brush by our allies as well.
Related to this is the fact that after you have refered us as the 'people in black' you say 'The kids in black burn a corporate flag. They drum and sing and move a few feet forward at a time.' Implying that the INB had something to do with this flag burning. We did not.
'wands wrapped in American flags'-In the tradition of marching bands those are our rifle drill teams rifles. Professional marching band drill team rifles in fact. I suspect our talented rifle drill team would take offense at them being called 'wands'. They redecorate them for almost every action we do, in this case they were wrapped in a stars and stripes motif tape.
'Their leader calls out commands.' We do not have a leader. The drum major(ette) gives signals for the band to do it's different formations and when to halt or advance etc, much as any other marching band would. May I reiterate we do not have a leader. Decisions are made by consensus when not in such situations and when we are performing decisions are still made by consensus as much as possible, when situation dictates otherwise, decisions fall to a decision making team chosen by the group.
'They have no smiles.' I have to wonder how you could tell whether or not we had smiles since you commented on our concealing our identies. In fact some of us were not masked up for various reasons, and although the police had just threatened arresting us first if we 'incited' the crowd, and were moving their riot police around to correspond to our movements in a threatening manner, and so I imagine some of us did look rather serious, we do try and bring joy and fun with us wherever we go, and I know I for one laughed and smiled and did not have my face covered while I was there.
'Then a voice from this marching militancy... a woman singing in a Middle Eastern language, fills the air.'
Just so everyone knows we currently have two vocalists and they sing in many languages.
I hope I'm not coming across harsh here, I just wanted to set the record straight and clarify a few things. So often we are portrayed as other than we are in the media and I know in a tense situation sometimes details can be overlooked and sometimes we all have a tendency to make things fit our story but I feel that a truthful account is more valuable and luckily thanks to indymedia's format we can have a discourse and clarify things.
thanks,
medic zero,
INB