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imperialism & war

F15 PDX: People choose beautiful over boring

Mainstream peace organizers take note -- The Feb. 15 anti-war march was a test case that has settled some debates, and not in your favor. It's time for you to change your tactics.

The anti-war action here in Portland yesterday was smaller in number than the previous mass mobilizations on Jan. 18, Nov. 17, Oct. 5, but for sheer energy and verity of spirit, it trumped those days in a big way. The success of this event should bring to an end the debate about permits, in favor of those who have been saying that they are not needed.

It also showed how a well-planned set of speakers is not only unneccessary but undemocratic. And it revealed that the Portland police can behave in a way that they are not (for the most part) trampling on the rights of the people to assemble and march freely, without official police liaisons or peace cops taking charge.

People gathered first in the North Park Blocks, and then marched freely throughout downtown, stopping at Pioneer Square and Terry Schrunk Plaza before going over the Burnside Bridge to the East Side.

The crowd went the wrong way down one-way streets repeatedly, including Grand Ave.

The police followed along, mostly stayed out of the way, and most surprisingly, were telling upset drivers to chill out. At least one driver was actually ticketed for being violent toward protesters. I hadn't seen this on an unpermitted march in Portland before, and it was awesome. I actually tip my hat to the cops for most of their behavior that day. Although I believe that we are all grown-up enough to take care of ourselves, and don't need police, still -- if we're going to have them (and we currently do) -- this is what they should be doing. After a while it became clear that all we had to do was stand in front of belligerent drivers (who were hitting people) until the police bike up, and then they took it from there. Thank you, Portland Police, for doing a good job for once! :) (That is, up until the violence of the arrests and the pepper spray during the civil disobedience on Broadway. A few of you fucked up bad there, but we got your names and badge numbers and know who you are.)

We marched back to the West Side over the Hawthorne Bridge. Here, the police funnelled us down to one lane, but people seemed willing to compromise in this way at that point. The whole way, people chanted, yelled, talked to people along the way, and generally expressed their opposition to war with a very active spirit. It felt good. Really good. Much better than the previous mass mobilizations here, when I felt like we were being herded through pens. On Feb. 15, no one was herding us. We were leading ourselves, and there were no problems, and it was safe.

I really want to stress this point. This unpermitted, unsanctioned, non-organized, leaderless event was SAFE. Children were along and were in no danger. People along the way joined up and marched with us. I've never seen so many bystanders become participants. And they weren't the "usual suspects" either -- they were "normal" looking people, from a variety of backgrounds, of different ages, and they simply stepped off the sidewalk and joined us. Why? Because the positivity of our freedom and joyful boisterousness of our message was infectious. If you present an attractive alternative, people will take it.

This is the point that the mainstream peace organizers do not seem to be able to get into their heads. We have seen how they water down their message, over-sanitize their events, and try to steer every little detail with the excuse of making them "safe" for "the mainstream". Their theory is that unless events and messages are controlled, that "the masses" won't join in or won't understand. This attitude is insulting to those people because it underestimates them. On Saturday, Feb. 15, many of the people that the mainstream organizers are trying to reach were reached, and they joined in. The lack of permit and organization was no impediment -- rather, it was the inspiration and enabling force. It worked because it was beautiful. People will choose beautiful over boring any day.

another debate settled 16.Feb.2003 15:27


The people who blocked traffic were boring. 'Nuff said.

not to be a downer 16.Feb.2003 15:50


they weren't boring. i just don't see why they let themselves get arrested for it. the rowdy march was inspiring but we lost that creativity and energy at the bloackade. we would have done better to keep going- maybe tried to storm a shoping mall or something.

not to be a downer 16.Feb.2003 15:50


they weren't boring. i just don't see why they let themselves get arrested for it. the rowdy march was inspiring but we lost that creativity and energy at the bloackade. we would have done better to keep going- maybe tried to storm a shoping mall or something.

Agreed! 16.Feb.2003 18:49

Den Mark

I agree with much of the original post. As one who goes to "all" marches & who's done protests for 40+ years, i find value in most street actions, permitted & not. Yesterday's F15 action was excellent. Maybe one reason why it worked so well is that it was in fact different. Anyway, i like taking streets, "corking" cross-streets, going wrong way, & so on, & have no sympathy for belligerent drivers. At yesterday's march (i carry a green/white "Justice" flag), a driver put his car against my leg near Schrunk. I did not move, but did explain the scene rationally, & he calmed down. I mean to say, i'm not afraid of drivers & their cars. However!!! One action i cannot & do not support is stopping random cars & holding drivers hostage. That's not consonant with the intent of a Peace march. At worst, trapped drivers could become scared or enraged & do something drastic. Nothing is served by that. Plus, corporate media pirhanas would love that & would eagerly display the blood, & then the good strong messages of the march would be lost. Don't feed the piranhas! Thanks. F15 was terrific. I'm proud of us. Peace!

why so smug? 16.Feb.2003 20:10


Why so smug, spArk? I mean, I agree that permits are unnecessary and that organizers can be kinda self-important, but you're engaging in the same kind of tactic-bashing bullshit that pisses you off when "they" do it. Certainly, one could also say "Radical we-don't-need-no-organization marchers take note -- The Feb. 15 anti-war march was a test case that has settled some debates, and not in YOUR favor. It's time you changed your tactics" (Because "they" got 20,000 marchers and "you" got 500.) And that would be fucked up, right? Right. Privileging tactics is a waste of energy, and is divisive to the core. Instead, let's stay true to our strategies, let's try and communicate with each other about why we believe in them, and let's be in solidarity, forever.

privilrging tactics- numbers count 16.Feb.2003 22:06

raining on parade

I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I have to "privilege" some tactics here. Tactics that result in 20,000 people marching peacefully in the street, getting tons of news coverage, and not pissing off motorists are, in my book, way more successful than "tactics" that result in a small, unremarkable, disorganized straggle. Yeah, maybe it was fun to walk down a street the wrong way and get uppity with the people in cars, but the message was: we are marginal and unimportant. We speak for very few. We do not respect the people in our town.

The only reason this pathetic march got any coverage at all was because of the hundreds of well-planned and well-attended marches that happened elsewhere in the state, in the country, and in the world. It also helped that recent marches in Portland were so well-attended and supported. Portland really failed yesterday. Luckily, I'm sure this will only inspire real organizers to do a better job next time and get thousands of people out in a safe, peaceful, impressive march.

Harmonize 16.Feb.2003 22:30


"Within society there are fixed traditions, popular opinions and irresistable sympathies that instinctively spring from the nature of mankind. When you wish to lead, influence, govern or arouse others, you must first align your values to those held by society. In the way you gain the attention, enthusiasm, and cooperation of others. Prohibitions that run contrary to the sentiment and life-style of people create resentment."

Although I would have had some disagreements with this quote a few months ago, I feel that it now rings true for me.

So the question is how can we align with methods that will make a difference rather than cause resentment?

Maybe in Portland 16.Feb.2003 22:30

B. Franklin

The protests across the world were basically a resounding success, whether W. gives a hoot or not, whether the media gives a hoot or not.

But I'm still struck by the general lack of creativity that the protests demonstrate. Is protesting the only answer? Can't just a few people spend just a few minutes, and brainstorm a list of things to see if we can come up with fresh approaches to activism? No offense, but the word "protest" puts me to sleep.

I live in Philadelphia, Portland's approach on Saturday would not have had nearly as much success here. Big Auto is always right, no matter what the scenerio. People would not have spontaneously joined in off the sidewalk, the concepts of empowerment or activism is way over their t.v. beaten heads. (I'm not kidding.)

However, personally I suspect some subtle adjustments to the Portland approach would in fact work very well in Philly or any U.S. city. Basically a toned down version, for cities that have trouble grasping the notion of Philadelphia freedom. People carrying signs through the streets or the mall in small groups, all on the same day -perhaps that would be an alternative that wouldn't be plagued by nervous police, or by a media that really doesn't want to report it. If nothing else it would be much more effective advertising than what peace/activism usually gets, which is close to nill.

We've been getting some snow here, and snow is good for writing in. Sometimes people stop for 30 seconds to write "Bush sucks" on the side of a car (with their hand). The visibility of this activism is respectable when you consider the ease with which it is performed. Protesting is great but there are much better approaches that no one has thought of yet, or even tried to think of.

Variety is the Spice of Life 16.Feb.2003 23:05

Patriot Act

The march was inspiring and took a very fast pace. It demonstrated that even "regular folks" WILL excersise their constitutional rights during times of grave crisis, it demonstrates that the police department of Portland CAN exersise a degree of restraint and professionalism in these situations (with some contraversy at the wrap up), and it provides a pretty good model for what needs to happen if the bombs start to drop in earnest.

Permitted marches certainly have value from a logistics, planning, and turnout standpoint, but more spontanious actions are key for responding quickly, and to display our determination to preserve our constitutional guarantees.

(Great pic for the cover story, BTW)

Kill That Staticy Noise Windbags 16.Feb.2003 23:39


Most of the people who commented on this are chumps. Maybe even me. But I see a tendency to Quantify phenomenon rather than Qualify them. By this I mean a lot of people are comparing actions to action rather than comparing the action to itself, thus holding it up to a truer gauge of strength. A march for peace doesn't necessarily have to have More people than the last one in order to be a sucess- it doesn't have to reach any criteria that you want it to in order to suceed. It's Quality isn't determined by you, or a pundit, or a god. So stop critiquing every manoeuvre and step and start living true to yourself, or you'll just end up babbling into the mirror.

The person that signs their name with a period is a complete waste of time and space and should be elected God of the Cosmos, or some such bullshit.

On topic- I was working at the Film Festival on Broadway when the protestors took the street. The cops started getting that glazed over, horny look in their eyes and began panting and barking like dogs at people. I had a crowd of movie-goers waiting to get into the movie, and the cops, in their fascisto-logic began tormenting them. I ran out and stopped a female cop who was waving a can of mace like a magic lollipop, and asked her what she was doing, pointing out that these people were waiting in line here for a movie. Her eyes came back into focus for a moment and they met mine- I saw her come to a human realisation- and she apologized and backed off. I was a bit shocked, as every time I talk to an amped up cop they are usually very hostile, and was impressed with her willingness to think rationally.

Then a moment later I saw a guy on a bike being pushed into another guy by a group of cops telling him to move. They were yelling at him to "MOVE MOVE" and he was fumbling and laughing at the ridiculousness of the whole scenario. Needless to say, the guy he was being pushed into was a little bewildered too. Aww, those funny cops!

tatumama 17.Feb.2003 00:18

why celebrate smallness?

I just don't understand why you celebrate the smallness of Portland's march when you had ample opportunity to get the word out far and wide through KBOO and flyers. On a day when huge marches took place everywhere in the world it was embarassing that ours was so little, when thousands more would have attended if you'd only made the effort to announce it and flyer the town.

I was there, I marched with you. It was a fine march, but why do you insist on competing with the "proper" pemitted marches, when we are all out after the same goals and should be working together to create a huge solid united front against war -- not just this war, as there are many more lurking behind the Iraq war. This petty bickering and competitiveness is such an unncessary distraction from our shared goals.

500 people a success??? 17.Feb.2003 01:39

Stephen Rigney

Millions of people around the world marched for peace this weekend, while only 500 people in a leftwing city like Portland. Come on, that's a pathetic turn out. Maybe permits, and a bit of ORGANISATION might have had a better effect. I thought the point was to stop the bloodthirsty fuckers in the White House, not to wax smug about a few people's right to stroll down one way streets.

15 or 10,000. every person counts 17.Feb.2003 01:46


i dont understand why people are so cought up in the numbers. To say that because the march was "small" and "ineffective" and wasnt 10,000 people is a narrow way of thinking and i believe that those comments demean the effectiveness of perhaps maybe just 15 individuals that stand out in a country town or suburb. Those 15 people may not reach the nightly news but that does not mean they are ineffective. Every individual out in the street has thier own reasons for participating and many of those reasons are different. The 500 that marched downtown on saturday were not the only ones. There was the group on Hawthorne, the candle lit vigils, the bike riders today and many other groups that were small in number but large in HEART AND COMPASSION. And when looking at the big picture and the events that have taken place in the past year across the world and the people that have taken a part in those events, the first thing that comes to my mind is...wow. And then I wonder, if Bush were to name every single person that took part in the anti war movement, how long would it take him? Will it take him longer to individually name every single child, mother, father, brother, sister and soldier that will die because of this war?

Viva le PDX 2/15 Protest! Viva! 17.Feb.2003 09:26

Lars the Infidel

Hey, the PDX Feb. 15 rally and march helped saved the city's bacon for the antiwar cause. Would the big organizers rather have had nothing in the streets? I'm sure many are saying yes. And to those people, I politely say Screw You!

Until now, you guys have done very well, but you fucking dropped the ball for Feb. 15. If you're going to commit yourselves to the basic monthly big rally format, please don't just leave out the planet's most important date for the antiwar movement. What happened, couldn't reschedule your Zupan's cooking class or had to lube the Subaru?

We did a great job getting out the people we did, and they took it from there. Way to go Portland Street Marchers!! And to hell with pissing off motorists. Many of these chumps are part of the problem.

Let's just everybody LEARN from what happened Feb. 15, shall we?

And don't leave us hanging again with no street protests, you big rally organizers. That was so very lame. But in the end, it doesn't really matter. The hardcore progressive crowd will always be in the streets. If you want to join us, fine.


p.s.: Great story, pixs and graphic layout Spark. You're goood!

disrespect for diversity of tactics 17.Feb.2003 13:09


For folks who chant respect for diversity of tactics, you sure don't live it. Privileging tactics is a waste of time.

It's called *discussing* tactics 17.Feb.2003 16:28

GRINGO STARS gringo_stars@attbi.com

"Privileging" tactics is something done by EVERYONE - AT ALL TIMES. You do certain things because you honestly believe that you are doing them in the most effective way, otherwise you would do it differently.

There is nothing wrong with discussing tactics and commenting on why certain tactics are more effective than other tactics. It is the problem of the offended reader, if the reader gets defensive and put off. It is easier for someone who is pro-capitalist to come to the bi-monthly BIG PROTEST and then forget about it for two more months until the next one. But don't get all offended just because someone calls you on your apathy or ignorance. And vice versa, don't get offended when the yuppy claims greater numbers.

I love the feel-good Oprah do-what-you-feel-works sentiment but that doesn't work. I must point out a fact; CERTAIN TACTICS ARE MORE EFFECTIVE THAN OTHERS. That's why Napoleon won every battle except his last (when he didn't follow them); the little dude knew which tactics were most effective.

The problem is that there is not a rift in tactics but there is a rift in goals; certain people are fed up with colonialism and corporate capitalism and imperialsm, and certain other people simply think that this particular war with Iraq is uncalled for but otherwise think that our government at least means well. Bravo for spArk being amongst the former rather than the latter.

QUIT GETTING YOUR FEELINGS ALL HURT whenever someone disagrees with you. Be tough and take criticism - it's what makes humans so great.

yawn 17.Feb.2003 18:48


Keep it up, we'll all get used to it, and your message will be lost. All the news can talk about is how 4 people mis-behaved, vandalizing cars. Message lost. Figures.

yahoo! 18.Feb.2003 09:52


I've been outta town since Saturday, so I'm happy to read this article and the associated posts now. Yay to spark for reporting on this. I was there too, and this was a great march. Full of energy and goodness. I also was surprised by how neighborly the cops were. (Until...well, I'll get back to that in a moment.) They marched with us, they helped us block traffic, and I actually heard one of them saying how he "didn't mind" the people taking the streets. (Though he didn't want to comment on the record.)

As for the other incident, I need to say two things. First, this war is about oil. Cars use oil. Traffic is cars, using oil. See Dick drive his SUV. See the suv suck down oil. See Spot cough and gag. See janet and mark go to the persian gulf to get more oil for Dick. See them drop bombs on Aqmed and Abeel. See Jane block the intersection to stop dick from using oil. See the pollution subside, the bombs stop dropping, the soldiers stay home. (And isn't that the best way to "support our troops"?)

The other thing I want to say is that, despite the very good behavior of Portland's finest this weekend (for once), there was that one guy again. You all know who I mean. It's the guy with the tom peterson haircut and the angry flaring nostrils. Yeh, that guy. Badge number 8696 I think. Try as he might to make his co-workers look bad (again!), this time we could all see him for what he is. Yes, it was he who inexplicably pepper sprayed a tiny young woman with a camera in the intersection. It was he who was all jacked up on testosterone and nearly caused this incident to blow up into something dangerous.

Let's remember him. Shall we? Anyone care to post his name or photograph?

a simple point 18.Feb.2003 11:56


Yes, the basic problem is one of goals. The mainstream peace organizers do not actually want fundamental change. They want their white privilege.

They do not share the radical vision of a just and sustainable culture except perhaps to pay lip service to the ideal for their own political gain.

Just so you peace organizers are clear on the point. Attempting to 'reign in' the radicals will not work and just serves to make clear that you are part of the problem, not the solution.

Your true colors are seen and noted.

correction 19.Feb.2003 12:13


I think the cop in question mentioned above is badge number 8969, not 8696. Anyway, we know what he looks like and will remember. (Not that we've forgotten that mug from previous violent encounters....)

great article! 20.Feb.2003 12:27


I'll gladly read everything SpArk has written. It's great journalism. I also really enjoyed the ensuing debate. Yep, I have my own opinion on the whole thing, but my opinion doesn't matter too much, just my actions. Same as you all. Go get em, and yay to Turkey.