Can't stop the peace!
The bigger the peace protests, the shorter the war!
What I saw last night, including being arrested, cited, released.
The greater grow the numbers of people acting to oppose this war, the sooner the self-appointed (mis-)leaders of the empire are in for a reality check. From what I've witnessed in the past 18 hours, peace-loving people across Portland are more determined than ever to find the time, place and action where they will be most effective, collectively and individually.
24 hours ago, the sum total of what I knew was simply that I couldn't stay home while more civilians died, especially given the privilege of being well-fed, warmly-dressed, healthy, unemployed and childless. Like many, I drifted into the student march somewhere in SW Portland about 3 pm on Thursday, 3/20/03-- and found it a focused, energetic and stirring preview of the evening to follow. I gathered and marched with the folks from Terry Schrunk Plaza around downtown.
I wasn't sure what destination I was headed for as I toured the streets. Collective purpose, okay: channel our outrage and sorrow into concrete and effective action to stop the war. My individual choice was to keep moving, even as others stopped to block traffic on Burnside & Steel bridges. But as hours passed, I gradually decided that I should, non-violently, do what I could to help the Burnside sitters stay safely in place for as long as possible.
My 2 cents re: network news dismissals of the Burnside sit-in ... Fun, party, social scene and committed action for a goal can happen all at the same time, duh. Pity the people who DON'T have fun doing what they care about; they won't stick around long enough to achieve diddly.
When the police decided they wanted to break up the Burnside block, they used batons, boots, pepper spray and tough-guy talk to wedge diagonal lines of riot cops between the sitters and everyone else. Ending up on 2nd Ave north of Burnside, dozens of protesters and observers were shoved, knocked, driven back by riot cops in formation in front of a white van with loudspeakers. Something like, "This is the Portland Police. Burnside is being reopened to traffic. You must vacate the street and sidewalk and disperse north, or face enforcement by impact weapons and chemicals."
The "enforcers" sped up, lashing out with batons and the occasional face-spraying as they advanced, trapping people momentarily against the Channel 8 newsvan parked in their path. A block or so later, super-loud popping/firing noises and a sensation of being pelted with little unseen objects. Many people running for cover, darting east and west along the NW street that passes the S side of the Chinese garden.
I followed a number of medics and protesters back south on 3rd Ave to see how the sitters were faring. Still there, lots of riot cops, lots of people wandered out of Dante's and Paris Theater for an up-close look at the situation. The formation and loudspeaker van returned, this time shoving south down 3rd Ave, announcing that it too was being reopened to traffic.
By this time, I decided not to back away any faster than the line of cops approached. When they would slow down or stop, we would too. I decided to walk, not run. So I got knocked over when they took a rush at us, and I got arrested, and it wasn't so bad. A learning experience.
When I went down, some cop had to stand there with a foot on my back and cuff me. Another to help that one in case I might be unruly, and a third seemingly for the sole purpose of hissing demoralizing insults. "You're so stupid! What did you accomplish? Nothing!" Etc. Then into the squad car, along with another cuffed peace protester (hey bro), and down to the House of Love. A couple of hours in a cell, overhearing thru the door a young man explaining to a cop that he had just been at a club to see a concert and got hauled in. Then I was given the choice: tell them my personal info and get out with a ticket, or refuse and stay in for the weekend. Up til then I was refusing, but I decided to tell and leave. Ticket for disorderly conduct, which is what it's called when you peacefully refuse an order to disperse, even if your mission in the streets might be to save human lives.
Minutes later, I was back down at Burnside, where, much to my surprise, a good deal of the sit-in remained, being arrested in twos and threes while a dozen or so people on each side of Burnside witnessed and shouted and applauded our encouragement to the sitters. At least one other person I spoke with down there said he had had virtually the same experience of being arrested, held, ticketed and released that night. I stayed another hour or so until I saw the last sitters hauled away. My thoughts are with them.
What I take all this to signify is that fear is becoming less and less effective as a means of controlling peace-minded people, and that, day by day, we'll be seeing more resolve and steadfastness (and numbers!) in pursuit of our goal of ending the war.
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