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imperialism & war | media criticism a22: bush protest

4-22-02 "Protest" commentary

Observations and a few quotes from the protest staged on 4-22-02 in response to president Bush's presence, and the general ineffectiveness of the protest.
The People. capital letters. They didn't seem to know really why they were there. Taking to the streets. The people didn't know why they were there, except that they were unhappy, and they remember that there was a time when people were unhappy, and talked loudly about being unhappy, and things changed.

The media was there. A local radio station anchor was using a cell phone to deliver a real-time report. A TV anchorwoman lingered; maybe even loitered, with her camerawoman. "What do you think of all this?" we asked her. "It's free speech," she said. "But why are they here? are they right? What do you think about what you see?"

"Free speech," she said, "gives me a job."

How can someone make money off of something free?

The aristocracy was there: one secret service agent was seen at the barricades. The police were everywhere. unsurprisingly, Bush didn't show up to give his side of the story.

The people claimed lots of reasons for being there; "stop the war!" they say, without saying which war. Signs indicate afghanistan, pakistan, Iraq, the world, america. Bush is a thief, they say. He's not responsible to the people, they say.

So what do you expect to happen when you march in the middle of the street? Only the city notices, and the city is already on your side. Honest; they have to live here too. whoever "they" are. Bush will not change a thing because there was a crowd outside his window. The media will show the public outcry, they say: but there are so many signs flying that portray mistrust of corporate media. If they're as bad as you say, why should they help you? They're only around because free speech gives them a job.

peaceful protest, in which you shut down city streets and give way when the police push you, does nothing. Yet there's no reason to stand against the cops: no obvious objective, no real purpose to standing on this particular patch of ground at 6th and yamhill.

And so it was pointless, on both sides. Pointless atrocity (an infant, obviously less than a year old, screams as "activists" try to flush pepper spray from his face and eyes), pointless movement (a 17-year-old skate-punk sits on a bus-stop sign, beating arhythmically with a stick. Is he trying to break it down? I think he is making noise for noise's sake. The steady hum of people and traffic have beat him to the job, though.) Pointless talking (cops talk to protesters, protesters talk to cops. Neither is sure what to say, because neither is sure what the presence of the other really means; instead we see only waves of blue armor and waves of dirty hair).

A protestor gets in an argument with a driver, accidentally stuck in the middle of everything on his way home from work. Only the protesters parting shot is heard: "this <i> is </i> my day job!" Everyone did their job. Everyone played follow the leader, follow the job description, follow the ideal.

Another protest in which no one "won" because there was nothing at issue and nothing at stake.

phone: phone: 503-232-3163

question for &quot;Oatmeal&quot; 24.Aug.2002 16:02


so, if it's all "pointless"--

what is the point of you posting the above article (which tells us ****NOTHING**** we don't already know)?

---- 24.Aug.2002 16:11


ya, I guess you'd be right IF protests had never done anything. Of course you are completely wrong. They are just the outward expression of other organizing that's going on. Sometimes you need to have visible resistance to what the government is doing. Maybe you feel the protests could have been more effective in which case please tell us why. If you really believe what you do then I'd advise you stop spending so much time thinking about things that don't mean anything or do anything. As you said WHAT'S THE POINT!

Exactly right 24.Aug.2002 20:02

Right on

The original post is right-on. The protests were completely pointless. Not only did they not put the protesting groups in a good light, there can be no effect. I was in down-town today and it was just another nice day in Portland, yet again. The circus has gone home.

If you think protests are pointless... 24.Aug.2002 20:05


investigate the civil rights movement, gandhi, the women's rights movement, the labor movement.... nearly every successful movement in history began and ended with direct action from people willing to take their beliefs to the street and put themselves on the line. It is so obvious, upon reflection, it is a near truism.

Right on, Todd! 24.Aug.2002 21:42

lowly human

History shows that every great and necessary movement that transforms human life in a positive way, begins exactly like this:

The contemporary mainstream press ridicules and misrepresents the "rabble" because the establishment writes thier paychecks.

There is an authoritarian crackdown, because the ruling class is terrified of our ideas.

Progressives are forced into street confrontations because every non-confrontational, legal avenue that should be at our disposal is stonewalled by the establishment.

The movement grows to become the majority, and the establishment has no choice but to adopt the major principles of the movement, or be overthrown.

The only difference now, is here in the U.S., we are insulated from the most devastating effects of our lifesyle on the World. The majority of most other countries are awake and progressive already, mostly BECAUSE they suffer from the effects of U.S. imperialism.

It's not as obvious to most of us who don't travel or study the facts, but life as we know it is on an extinction countdown; if it's not greenhouse gas suffocation, or industrial poisoning of everything we breathe/drink/eat, genetically engineered pollution, or nuclear apocalypse (a self-fulfilling prophesy that many bible-thumpers honestly want, just for the "I told you so" right at the flashpoint), it'll be a world of bio-dome cities surrounded be wastelands, and that's for those not wealthy enough to migrate off the planet.

That is why we have to act now, while there's still a world to save.

"When the last tree has been cut down, when the last river has been poisoned, when the last fish has been caught, only then will they discover that money cannot be eaten."-Native American prophesy-

Oatmeal is for breakfast 24.Aug.2002 21:48


Oatmeal, I actually enjoy your writing style, but I question how many people you actually spoke with. Let me put it this way--I know I had something to protest and I believe that I can articulate it quite nicely. Ready?

The Bill of Rights of the United States' Constitution has served us well. It is a very nicely-written guideline for how a society should behave if it wishes to remain free. Several executive orders, and the USA PATRIOT Act, are in blatant violation of the Constitution. Still, the media comments very little. By sharing my substantiated opinion with hundreds of people, I feel that, even if the Bush Administration can ignore the voice of the people at this time, eventually, we can restore the Bill of Rights to its full glory.

Further, many people I spoke with seemed quite articulate in their protestations:
1. Bush's environmental policies, which the vast majority of the experts oppose, are detrimental to the future of America and the world.
2. Bush's involvement in illegal stock transactions, and his refusal to point the finger at himself, although the SEC found him guilty on four counts, highlight his unsuitability to spearhead an effort to clean up Wall Street.
3. The Constitution says that Congress must be involved in the declaration of war, and that much of Congress opposes war with Iraq, and that most experts and pretty much the rest of the world oppose war with Iraq. Bush should gain broad support and provide justification before anyone fires a shot.
4. And on and on!

If you expect to see all of the protestors seeking redress of just a handful of complaints, you're missing the point. There is SO MUCH wrong with what Bush has done, that protestors must exert their energy in many dozens of directions.

If you think that these protestors are not involved in local movements to draw attention to their cause, you're wrong. Many of them are.

If you think that showing up outside the Hilton was pointless, you're wrong. It made national news. Even though it was spun as "several hundred violent protestors who didn't have a point to make and who just wanted to make trouble", it at least showed the nation that there are those of us who oppose Bush's policies and that we don't think he's representing Americans.

You're entitled to your opinion, and I would welcome reading more of your writing, but please don't be so sophomoric!

Bullshit 25.Aug.2002 00:45

your name (required, but can be anonymous or

This is bullshit.

Sorry there were too many people in the streets and too many different messages out there. And sorry that the corporate media can't decipher anything more complicated than the latest on Ward Weaver, or chooses not to.

But I think a lot was accomplished.

First and foremost is the fact that we announced to Portland, to the rest of the country, and to the world (thanks largely to the ridiculous media hype about what they are calling a "riot") that LOTS of people do not support Bush and his policies. There have been truly massive demonstrations (hundreds of thousands!) against Bush in other parts of the world, but this was the largest and most militant demonstration against Bush in the US since 9/11. Even White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer acknowledged that they did not expect anything like this. They seemed truly surprised that so many people would be so angry. Letting them know that, even a little, is pretty important to me. Bush's motorcade drove right through the crowd--people were screaming their fucking heads off.

Maybe nothing concrete was accomplished on Thursday. But the fact that thousands of people showed up and that the state had to seal off a huge chunk of downtown and mobilize 300+ stormtroopers is a testament to what US "democracy" is all about. The guy wasn't elected, he doesn't represent most of us, everyone knows his war on corporate scandals is a joke, few people believe anything he says. And now it even looks like the White House is backing off on the rhetoric around invading Iraq.

Anyway, I guess I want to know more about what your point is. Is it that we didn't have a point on Thursday? (I think there were lots of points made) Is it that there wasn't a concrete goal of the protest? (I would agree on this one) Do you have any suggestions for how this shit should happen?

Hers's what was accomplished 25.Aug.2002 15:41


An obscene poster on live TV. A female police officer beaten. Bush supporters cursed at, spat upon, urine thrown in their faces (so much for their First Amenment rights). Graffiti and trash everywhere. Isn't a protest designed to persuade people to your side? Then put a muzzle on the punk-and-thug element. This over-the-top crap didn't work for Operation Rescue. It won't work here, either.