One Eye Witness Account: Protest During George W's Visit to Portland
a photo essay through the lens of my perception
|The day began as we assembled at Irving Park. After a brief warm up from a handful of speakers and a guest appearance from "Billionaires For Bush" a few hundred of us marched rather solemnly to within a half-block of YO, the Youth Opportunity Center. Chants began with a hint of enthusiasm but trailed off rather quickly, leaving an air of silence minus the shuffling of feet on pavement, until another chant was taken up and sent through a round of repetition. Signs danced above the crowd, pleas to the world to wake up! to the terrorist acts that america is committing to the planet (in addition to the bombing of Afghanistan).|
|As we neared YO, we were greeted by the Portland police who told us that we could go no further, but that they would be happy to accommodate us in a "fenced" parking lot. Imagine that, protestors settling for a closed off, out of view area from which to launch their protest, whilst the President spoke a short distance away, unaware of our presence. Or at least unable to see us. Several cops stood in the way with their vehicles blocking off the road. Silly yellow strips of crime scene plastic were no deterrent to our growing dissent as the crowd became more vocal. A call and response: "Whose Streets - OUR STREETS" and "Whose Police - OUR POLICE" began to lively things up. |
|Growing restless, we inched our way forward until we were met with an ominous force - cops adorned in full riot suits. First one group and then two, and more flying overhead, they stood in front of us, blocking the street, standing erect and automaton like G.I. Joe action figures. Barely moving a muscle and staring straight ahead, there were a few instances of eye contact with the riot cop that I was standing next to. |
Nike and terrorism: partners in crime.
|While the cops were busy guarding George W. from us, a man came blazing through the crowd carrying a sign welcoming Bush to Portland. Obnoxious and boastful, his presence was immediately recognized as a plant, as he yelled through a smiling fa?ade, tried to provoke us to action. Nice try. |
|Breaking through his loud and condescending ploy, the "Infernal Noise Brigade" made it's way to the front lines. Mesmerized by their brand of activism, an angry energy channeled into a musical feast, their contagious rhythm added a sweet melodic rebellion to our protest. The powerful drumbeat, a reverberation of the Great Mother, was a moving testimony (that I feel) even the cops, weighed down by their gear and ignorance, could not help but feel moved by, although they stood motionless.|
After about an hour of standing on the street geared up to protest Bush's scheduled appearance at the YO Center, a fellow protestor came on a bullhorn and announced that the YO stop had been cancelled. Hmmm, a way to clear the streets, perhaps? (Rumor has it that Bush did indeed keep his scheduled appearance at YO and that a few people who stayed on the street were arrested).
|We moved to the next scheduled site for Bush's speaking tour, the Parkrose High School. Upon arrival we were greeted by cops on horses and more cops in riot gear. Towards the end of the protest, as tensions rose making the cops more angry and their horses more skittish, many of us feel that there was clearly animal abuse occurring. One such instance was when one of the horses was frothing and kept swallowing hard moving his head around trying to free itself from the steel mouthpiece of the harness. Several of us told the officer that his horse was in distress and to please take care of it. He simply dismissed our concerns by saying "you're mistaken". |
|A small growing crowd of people gathered behind a Wendy's parking lot, some of them waving American flags, excitedly awaiting the arrival of the president. Atop her mother's shoulders a young girl clad in an oversized American flag smiled demurely as a local television reporter asked her name so that he could use it in his news story. The girl's mother proudly told the newscaster that her daughter had collected some 3000 stuffed animals and a sum of $2000, and then bravely flew all the way to N.Y. to deliver them. Standing next to her was a family who had been waiting in the bitter chill for several hours, the mother with camera clad in gloved hands, nervously and politely asking anyone who stood in front of her to please move since she had been there for hours waiting to see the president. Her son, when asked by someone his age and if he was in school, said that he was 17 and had just recently enlisted in the military. |
|Another form of fervor showed up when a man wielding a large sign urged people to "support our president" and "trust Jesus". His message met with great disdain as several people shouted at him, one of them calling him a "child molester" in response to having his children with him and carrying signs. When the man carried his message to another area of protest, people began chanting "Jesus Hates War".|
Uncertain of which direction Bush's motorcade would come, a crowd of protesters also awaited his arrival on the street corner in front of a Wendy's parking lot (besides the crowd waiting behind it) and adjacently, in front of the parking lot of a Burgerville, which is where the convoy subsequently entered.
While the President was speaking at the high school, protestors gathered on both sides of the street to the high school parking lot entrance, but were held back by police who were not allowing anyone to cross from one side to the other, all except for the man with his sign asking us to trust Jesus. When this was brought to the cops attention, they ignored that they were even being questioned about it. Another plant?
Saved by the bells, whistle and drums once again, the Infernal Noise Brigade appeared and effortlessly took over the streets where the cops had moments before forbidden people from entering. They were quickly joined by fellow protesters who spilled onto the street dancing and rejoicing in this victorious takeover.
I stood watching it all from the sidelines as haunting melodies from the Brigade filled the air, while a crazed man on bended knees atop his bright yellow heavily painted van with Jesus propoganda screamed "REPENT", and a man with a large picture of the American flag danced from one side of the street to another, mixed in with the sight of riot cops quickly growing in numbers on the street. It was a surreal apocalyptic moment.
It was also an exciting moment because we effectively closed down the street, dancing as the band played on while both lanes of traffic piled up from either direction. But it didn't last long. It seems that the "force" decided to give us a few minutes, as a way to possibly appease us, and then told us to get out of the street or we would be arrested. Some of us lingered, a few sat down with arms linked, wanting to stay in the street, to show that we were serious and wanted our concerns addressed. This met with hasty contempt. Cops on horses, (which is when the abuse of the animals intensified) came towards us swiftly and forcefully, pushing us out of the street. An army of riot cops jumped on us as well, shoving us hard with their sticks, even though we were off of the street and at least one linear foot onto the sidewalk. I asked the cop that shoved me hard in the arm if that felt good, that it didn't feel good to me. He stared straight ahead, not blinking an eye, even as we videotaped and wrote down the number dangling from his gear. Chilling.
After a few more brief scuffles between cops and protesters, the crowd began disassembling, riot cops began retracting and night took over the streets of Portland once again.
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