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This is What Democracy Looks Like: Citizens Forum in Eugene

keeping dissent alive!
This is What Democracy Looks Like: Citizens Forum in Eugene
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!


Audience Response

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.
photo of: military gunship circling overhead 07.Sep.2002 21:12

Barbara

from bush protest
photo of: military gunship circling overhead
photo of: military gunship circling overhead

An American Police State 08.Sep.2002 07:40

Kristine Noonan ecohead@aol.com

Yes, this article describes the current "police state" in America. We now live in a country that has an unacknowledged "ruling" class.( We have all noticed how Kenneth Lay, advisor to VP Cheney during energy policy sessions in the White House has been charged with NO criminal activity. This in spite of clear evidence of wrong doing. He and other corporate criminals are the new ruling class.) This ruling class is using fear of terrorism to leverage use of owr own tax dollar paid police forces against us as we attempt to question the governmnet policies in a public setting.
Yes, this new police state is now the frightening state of democracy in America. We have seen and heard too much from the independent media to sit idly by while hoping for the best.The time has come to demand impeachment hearings against President Bush. The citizens of this country must unite in an effort to remove a man not truly + fairly elected. A man who is prepared to commit this country to an illegal and immoral war. We cannot allow our sons to be sent to another country to act as hired killers for the Bush oil agenda. Dealing with Hussein can be done without turning young Americans into outright murderers.
We could be energy self-sufficient if our dollars were invested in development of alternative energy sources. Experts have said that a 5 year commitment to R+D would bring us to the point of independence from oil. That of course would mean freeing us from reliance on the middle eastern countries and the oil industry Americans who have gained so much control over our very lives.
Not unexpectedly, Bush et al. are driving us to further dependence, and at the risk of families in the Middle East and here in the US. The Iraqi's are now caught between a dictator that did not choose and a power driven American President who is willing to kill them by the hundreds of thousands to achieve his agenda. If they turn for help to other Arab countries for protection, should we be surprised?
I ask for a grassroots drive with petitions delivered in person to our elected representatives in Congress from each state of the United States of America, calling for the impeachment of President Bush.
Stop this President BEFORE we are embroiled in WW 111.Stop him before we have so few rights that it is impossible to achieve a constitutionally allowed impeachment hearing in this country.

Hamburg NY

Missed my point...way 08.Sep.2002 22:43

jane

I attended this meeting because i support anyone to speak up about this military police state which is out of control.

Unfortunately, i spoke up at the end, during the question and answer time. In the above article the author misunderstood me, misused my words, misused my name and did not have permission for any of it. oh and the cameras suck

I attended this meeting and I heard all of these great people tell of their experience when they got to go to Portland and publically express their dissent to bb bush. Certain angles of what I heard angered me.

In order to explain their non-violence stance towards protest, some of the speakers repeatedly said that they were non-violent, non-rock throwing, peaceful, respectable people as if the police only attack a crowd if they are provoked by violence. Well it is the police that are the agitators and the problem when they show up at peaceful events and start pepper spraying human beings. This is the only point that needs to be repeated. By continually saying we were peaceful, we were non-violent, non-rock throwing and respectable people, the 'message' diminishes the reality that the police agitate whomever they want to. Things were said like 'they even pepper sprayed someone who looked like a mother' and 'it is not like we were radical hippies out there'.
The problem is the police and the people that gave them their orders to spray pepperspray, rubber bullets and tazers as if they were guns with bullets to keep the power and control in their hands when it is not.

I tried to explain why their technique was not ok to me. I brought up our comrade Rob Thaxton, who is serving 7 1/2 years in maximum security prison for throwing a rock at a cop after the eugene cops had turned a day of protest into a riot by pepperspraying community members who were gathered together lawfully in a public park. June 18,1999.

I am not sure but I am guessing that these folks do not know Rob or his situation or they just wrote him off... but i get offended when we act like getting peppersprayed is a big damn deal when someone who was defending himself against an angered bigoted cop-straight from the LA police force-gets 7 1/2 years in prison and we don't even care to mention a thing about him while we carry on and on about police violence.

Rob came to a street protest in Eugene and he never went home. He did not break a window he threw a rock-in self defense-at a cop-and he is serving 7 1/2 years in prison because of it.

Rob is a political prisoner taken by the violent actions of this police state. He is of Mexican dissent. He is Tejano. He is not white. He did not receive a fair trial. He is an anarchist and a writer.

Perhaps you think this off topic well it isn't. Not if you are in this forsaken town and you are talking about police repression.

Rob's website is  http://www.defenestrator.org/roblosricos/index.html
He could use support!.letters.art.cash.money.books.thanks
jane d. of eugene

clarification 09.Sep.2002 08:46

author

Jane - I apologize for the error in your name as well as for the inability to accurately convey what you were trying to express at the citizens forum meeting.

The thrust of your point, as you (again) say in your comment, was about the need to support Rob Thaxton. My intent (in this article) was to inform the community about his situation, just as yours was. Thus I included a website for more information.

In re to having permission to incorporate audience commentenatary in the article, I used first names only, if at all, and in your case, not even the real name!, to protect anonymity.

Finally, it is important to let the the rest of the world know that we were peaceful at the protest, and that the police attacked without any provocation at all.

Thanks for attending the Citizens Forum.

Barbara

Followup Action 09.Sep.2002 10:26

Hope Marston hmarston@epud.net

This is part of the email I sent out to those who attended the forum and were interested in following up with some action to guide policy for pepper spray etc. In my opinion, there is no excuse for using pepper spray or rubber bullets or any weapon against anyone protesting non-violently. If others wish to extend this discussion to include people in other than protest situations, I'm open to that. I'm not trying to be exclusive, though my own focus at this point is allowing people to dissent the government without fear of punishment.

If you're interested in following up with some action, please let me know. Here's part of the email I sent:

Thank you so much for coming to our Citizens' Forum on September 3 regarding the Portland protests on August 22.

I am hopeful that together, we can lobby for and achieve the ability to peaceably assemble and seek redress of grievances from our government, as is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US Constitution -- unhampered by
pepper spray or rubber bullets etc.

We need support from law enforcement so those are not just empty words.

I received an email on Sep 4 from a city staff member, Jeannie Parisi. She told me that the chair of the Police Commission attended our meeting on Sep 3. Jeannie also sent me a URL so I could see the current state of police
guidelines regarding pepper spray and other chemical weapons.

www.ci.eugene.or.us/policecomm/actions.htm

From my brief reading of this information, it appears that there is still a distance to go in bringing Eugene police into compliance with our aims to peaceably assemble without fear of being attacked with chemical weapons. Take a look for yourself -- this is something we should discuss.

From what Jeannie wrote, it sounds like there are some on the police commission who would be willing to meet with us after we've come up with some items to discuss.

Let's see if we can meet the week of September 23, after all of us have had a chance to study current guidelines and come up with our ideas for how or if we want to change them. Monday or Tuesday (Sep 23 or 24) between 6 and 8
p.m. are good times for me. How about the rest of you?

Again, thanks for your interest in effecting change in our community. I know if we have the will, we can achieve our aims.

Thank-you.
Hope


And thanks so much to Barbara for reporting on the work we're doing! I honor her commitment to freedom.

thanks 09.Sep.2002 12:57

jane d

Barbara, thanks for the response. I appreciate your reporting of the Citizen's Forum. Please excuse my frustrations. We Eugenians need to keep talking.
Great work Hope and all for expressing your outrage and moving this issue of police misusing their power and state repression forward and working toward solutions and taking to the streets and as you said Hope, doing whatever we can. with respect, Jane

WHAT HAPPENED TO ASKING FIRST? 09.Sep.2002 18:47

MELISSA melissamona@hotmail.com

I attended the event, and I am one of the people "quoted" in this post. I am not happy about being paraphrased without my permission. No one told me that I would be filmed, either. I spoke on behalf of myself, and in support of others who spoke up about local political prisoners. My comments contrasting the vocal and active response in Portland to George Sr. years ago with the A22 events were to illustrate the waning tenor of dissent. When panel members repeatedly pointed out that they were chanting "peaceful protest" and telling us that they didn't throw anything or try to cross any barricades, I wanted to ask "Why NOT?". Everyone has the right and duty to act according to their own conscience, of course, but where was the element of vigorous dissent I have come to expect? I DO sympathize with anyone who is attacked by the cops. I think that Kroeker and Katz should be run out of town for ordering the repression in the first place. I wanted to underscore the fact that although A22 attendees were unfairly punished for trying to exercise their right to protest, other protestors are paying a heavier price. Free, Rob and Critter need and deserve the support and righteous angry outcry of all of us. If we are supposed to be outraged by pepper spray and rubber bullets, where is the outrage over a twenty-two year sentence for Free? I made this comment to illustrate a connection, but not to lessen the severity of the treatment protestors received on A22. I also wanted to encourage everyone to attend the Anti-Columbus Day actions in Denver. It will be a powerful and effective statement about the glaringly obvious connection between the US Government's policy toward Native Americans (i.e., genocide) and the growing destructive power of globalization.

I would have appreciated being asked before my comments were paraphrased on this site, and I think I should be able to expect that kind of courtesy from the folks who put the event together. I don't think it's okay to take away peoples' voice by repackaging what they say - and it seems to run counter to the entire mission of Indymedia.

Response to Melissa 09.Sep.2002 22:28

Barbara

Melissa - thanks for your comment.

I did not use direct "quotes" of anything that you said at the citizen's forum, but, yes, I did paraphrase portions of your comments.

There were two reasons that I included your remarks from the forum in the article. The first was because you introduced yourself as a representative of the Human Rights Commission. You asked the community to come and talk to you with their concerns so I used your name so that those who were interested in speaking to you would know who to ask for.

Secondly, I wanted to relay the information that you gave out about the Columbus Day event, with the website address.

Oh, and I also really liked the flag/gauntlet story. It's an idea that I'd like to borrow.

So, my intent was to give your voice more range, to carry your message to more people, not to take it away from you or to "repackage" it.

In re to the mission of indymedia, my understanding of it's mission is that it is a forum where anyone, indeed all of us, are the media, and are free to report events, share our stories, post our comments and concerns, etc. I am simply and humbly someone who feels the responsibility to record ourstory (history), so I write articles of this nature to alert the community to our collective voice of dissent, to let others know that we are taking action against government policies that we do not agree with.

Given that the citizen's forum was a public event, my understanding is that those who choose to speak are aware of the possibility of becoming a part of public record, in this case, indymedia. I am careful however, to protect the anonymity of individuals by either not using their name or only using their first name. I specifically used your name, as I've said, so that those interested persons know who they can talk to in the Human Rights Commission.

Re the filming of the forum, no one from the audience was filmed; it was strictly the panel members.

It is vital that we continue to dialogue with each other re our concerns, even though we all share different views. It's the only path to peace, our ultimate goal.

Respectfully,

Barbara

Sounds Familiar 10.Sep.2002 08:10

Melissa

Barbara -
Thank you for responding to my post. You sound very defensive. I am not attacking you, simply pointing out for the future that it is always better to ask first. And, in my humble opinion, direct quotes are more accurate and better reporting. Paraphrasing someone does indeed reduce the autonomy and voice of the speaker. I have no quarrel with your efforts, I just want to underscore this because a project like Indymedia should ideally promote direct interaction between people, with no mediating controls. I commend you for your hard work and dedication, and I appreciate the time you spend spreading information. I would simply like to have been accorded the same respect I would give anyone else. The whole public forum argument is correct on a superficial level, but it sounds like the same thing that the Portland Police will say when protestors question why their photos were taken. We might want to go a little deeper than that, and at least talk about how to respect one another and allow maximum autonomy and voice. That's what it's all about, right?