This is What Democracy Looks Like: Citizens Forum in Eugene
A group of protestors from Eugene who attended the Bush Protest in Portland held a Citizens Forum to inform the community about the real story behind the outbreak of (police) violence that occurred on August 22 (A22). There were perhaps 50 people (not including the protestors) in attendance.
As per common practice, the corporate media spun and skewed the story, leaving the public at large with the impression that protestors became unruly and were violent towards the police who were 'just doing their job' of protecting Mr. Bush.
The event had three primary purposes. One was to set the record straight, to tell the truth about what happened that fateful day when Bush visited Portland. The second intent was for the protestors to share their personal accounts of what they saw, what happened to them, and the feelings that they were left with. And thirdly, the forum was to address the crucial issue of our (diminishing) right to dissent.
Hope Marston opened the forum by saying that the message that urgently needed to be heard got pepper sprayed, that the intention of the police was to shut us up and to revoke our right to free speech.
Portland resident, Deva, was invited to the forum to share his up close and personal photos of the police brutality. He spoke of his concern over the clear breach of protocol re the use of the rubber bullet guns and pepper spray; that they are lethal when used in the wrong way.
Deva also showed his photographs from the Critical Mass that occurred in Portland on August 30. He said that he felt the police were even more violent during this particular event then they were at the Bush protest. This raises grave concerns over the growing level of brutality within the PDX police force.
Sara Charlesworth spoke next. She said that she was at the Bush Protest to demand the impeachment of Bush. She witnessed people chanting, drumming and said, "maybe a few were hanging from lamp poles, but that it was a perfectly respectable crowd". Sara said that she told the cops "They're the criminals, were the people; you're here to protect us!"
Pat Conlin, Sara's partner, said that as he watched more and more protestors entering the cordoned off area, it was apparent to him that they (the police) were going to do something. Pat said that there was a woman standing on the front line with them who looked like somebody's mother. When one of the cops starting pushing her back away from the barricade, she shouted "What are you gonna do, shove your mother around?" Pat said this seemed to vex the bullying cop even more.
Lloyd Marbet told us that he was invited to the Bush protest to make a speech on campaign finance reform, at Waterfront Park. He said that he was almost immediately disoriented from a loud roaring engine sound. He looked up to see that it was a military gunship circling overhead. Later, when Lloyd was standing on the front lines near the Hilton - where Bush was dining - he was disturbed when he noticed that there were no badges or other identifying information on the cop's uniforms.
Mark Robinowitz, though at the protest, did not directly experience the violence. He was on the panel to speak to the issue of "criminalizing legitimate protest". He said that he first heard of Homeland Security under the Clinton Administration in 1998, and that it is simply a euphemism for "police state. Mark said that there are a couple of decades of oil supply left, and that it requires intense militarization. He told us on a local level we need to work on the initiatives to get people to repel the U.S. Patriot Act, to contact our representatives - Wyden and Smith - and ask them not to vote for the Patriot Act.
Shauna Farabaugh, also at the protest but not witness to the violent outbreak, urged the audience to take the information being passed on and to take it out into our communities and discuss it with others. She reminded the audience that cops always have the choice whether to attack us, but that they are acting under orders. Shauna said that police are trained to hurt people, so instead of focusing on trying to control the police, our time is better spent on preparing for the sort of police brutality that happens, to learn how to deal with being pepper sprayed. To this she added that there needs to be more medics at street actions. She also encouraged us to take to the streets more, to use our rights freely and fully in resistance to a system that oppresses us.
Coming full circle on the panel, Hope closed by telling us that there is NO excuse for police to use pepper spray and shoot rubber bullets. "This is not democracy what happened in Portland on August 22 and August 30; there is no excuse for remaining silent". She told us that we need to get a citizen statement together to tell the police what we want; that police need to be prohibited from using chemicals on peaceful protestors and that we must Wage Peace!
An elderly gentleman said that he read the article in the Eugene Weekly (by Hope Marston) and that he faxed it to Patrick Leahy with a note attached: "Is this what fascism looks like in Portland?"
A protestor in the audience told us that he got trapped inside Carl Jrs when the cops got violent. He felt that it was a beautiful protest, and told us that the protestors did not provoke violence.
A woman identifying herself as Tracy admitted to feeling a bit upset that so many people went to Portland to protest Bush when no one is out on the street fighting for the injustice against a good friend of hers, Rob Thaxton, a Hispanic anarchist writer, who is sitting in jail after he was accused of throwing a rock through a window at an action.
For more info on Rob: http://eugene.indymedia.org/features/prisoners/
Melissa, from the Human Rights Commission, (whom urged people to come and talk to her with their concerns) said that she attended a protest years ago when "Daddy Bush" was at the Hilton in Portland. She said that they set up a gauntlet using the american flag which people had to cross over to enter. (I really like that idea). Melissa put out a call to action protesting Columbus Day, an event to take place in Denver. For more information on that and to access the ride board visit: http://transformcolumbusday.org
Another audience member said that he attended a demonstration in Chicago back in '68, which was also at a Hilton. He said that he felt it impossible to work with either of the major (political) parties to help correct our problems. He asked if anyone had any possible answers.
Lloyd Marbet said that he was "sitting there seething with the answer". He said that when the police are talking into their walkie talkies he does not see the police anymore; he sees what they are talking into, who they are getting their orders from. "I suggest to you that we need to take the corporations out of our elections, that we take on the system". Lloyd said that the shift that 9.11 brought, opened the door to all of the things that they (the police) wanted to do. He said that this is such a difficult war to oppose because he (Bush) is using terrorism as the reason for it. Lloyd feels that an effective way to build a movement in this country is to be against terrorism, and to show the american people that Bush is not really fighting against terror, that he is fighting against the american people.
The forum ended with a call to get out and protest on September 11, to show our dissent loud and strong. See you in the streets!
A special thanks to Hope for diligently arranging all of the details of the citizens forum.
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