Over 50 people gathered in Pioneer Courthouse Square for the Portland Peaceful Response Coalition peace rally this Friday. This event attracts a fairly diverse crowd, with people of all ages. Skin tones also vary from white, though the Caucasian percentage is still disproportionately high compared to the population of the city.
The highlight of the rally was a talk from a woman recently returned from a trip to Iran and Afghanistan. She gave us first-hand accounts of life there, including the suffering and the joys of those trapped in war-torn places. The U.S. government is dropping bombs on people everywhere, and they are normal people, like you and me, just wanting to work, fall in love, raise families, and live in peace. The speaker made these people very real through her stories. It was inspiring and I hope she has other opportunities to to share her experiences with people publicly. More people need to hear what she has to say.
The crowd marched out of the Square and down Broadway. They had flyers that they passed out to pedestrians, which was a great addition to the event. Onlookers who appeared curious had something to take and read. Outreach. Right on.
This was the first time in a few weeks when the crowd was big enough that "Walk" signals didn't last long enough. This was somewhat of an issue. Most of the time the light would switch, people would wait, and the march would get split. Then the front half had to wait for the back half, and it messed with the rhythm. I corked a couple intersections long enough to help keep the thing together, but not all the participants appreciated this. So different opinions about tactics were present within the group.
Some people don't like to block traffic ever, even for short amounts of time. One reason is that it might "alienate" people. From riding Critical Mass, I've come to consider this an inadequate reason. Yeah, some drivers will be upset if you make them stop, but its partly the high number of drivers that fuels this country's voracious appetite for oil, and it is for oil that the government starts wars and kills people. Let 'em get upset. They're complicit in murder by driving their death machines.
Other people might not like to block traffic because it is illegal. I could be wrong, but it seems like some subscribers to non-violent resistance embrace not breaking the law as an essential part of their philosophy. As an avowed non-violent resister myself, I find this concept absurd. "Illegal" does not equal "violent". Many effective acts of active non-violent resistance are illegal. Plus which, what's illegal is expanding at an alarming rate right now. "If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists" could easily translate into stricter laws against public demonstration in the next couple years. Will we quit then? I hope not.
Nope, we gotta push the envelope now, and not let the powers-that-be or the tyranny of the majority decide our actions. Resisting the increasingly fascist state here at home and the government-sponsored killing of people abroad is an effort we cannot be timid about.
All that being said, it's marvelous that people come out every Friday to demonstrate against the war. Just showing up is a brave act and I admire it. We must remind the world that the approval for this war is not universal. "Who will tell the people?" We will. We must.