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One Candle Still Burns

One Candle Still Burns
Protest in Portland

An artist's report from the Burnside sit-in
One Candle Still Burns
Protest in Portland

with i-5, 84 and 405 closed
by protestors
its hard to get to
the protest

my ex-wife, the lawyer,
had to walk 10 blocks
to catch the train home

i turn right with the crowd
at burnside and 3rd
and park on pine

i walk up 3rd to
the park in front of the
Mark O. Hatfield
(anti-war protestor that he was)
Federal Building

but the protest has
moved to a more radical
venue on burnside

stop at the corner
bar for some soda and a
bathroom break

the barkeep says the
protests are good for business
they had quite a rush

Walking back down 3rd
the strip joint also reports
fine business tonight

turning at burnside
two of motorcycle cops
are blocking traffic

not to mention
the abc and fox news
trucks setting up shop

abc reporter
complains he's been ordered
to cover the mayor
back at city hall

nbc truck parked
across the street
with two screens inside
one shows the protest, but a
fear factor commercial
is being broadcasting

the one bullhorn blares
"portland for peace"
but no one joins in

cops block the street
some folks sit for peace
but most dance to the drums

a second abc truck
around the corner
editing for violence
as the aroma of good bud
wafts out their door

nbc sports a
new logo next to the peacock
no war!!

chalk body outlines
burnside and 2nd
wash away in the rain

one eyed golden retriever
turns continually to the left

and one very naked guy
and one very pierced fellow in a tutu

a mime is making
balloon peace signs

fox news gets a close up
on the counter protesters
no surprise

the police put up barriers
and settle in for a wait
or the rain

the counter protestors
are getting angry:
"run 'em down with a fire truck"

someone yells to ignore them
then pushes her bike
into the crowd

one of the bums
keeps yelling "usa #1"
he's native american
next is "if you don't like this country
go back to europe"

a nervous cop calls
the protesters morons, his
backup's not arrived

drummers tone it down
while the bullhorners make speeches,
save an occasional rim shots

the stop lights continue
cycling green yellow red
between no turns signs

a 4 year old waves a
home made US flag
in the window of the
salvation army shelter

someone hands me
a candle, i put it on a
bus shelter so i can still write

she lights her candle, mine
and another. i remind her
3 on a match is unlucky and why
(it gives a boer sniper
time to sight in)

people add candles
to the bus shelter
interactive art

the starting irony,
when i ask to get thru
everyone moves politely

abc & fox
are gearing up, the attack
must be close

the riot police are
massing around the corner
are they waiting for the
11 o'clock news?

the camera crews
have their own security
"we're just watching our trucks"

fox & abc
have moved their tripods
to the roof of their trucks
clearing the street for the
coming attacks

the candles are getting
rained out so i move some
inside the bus stop

lights blazing, the cops
come over the bridge
it is starting

the bystanders leave
the sitters stay
i wait for a bus

cops in all directions
the cameras roll

as the police advance
the stop lights switch to
blinking red

"This is the portland police. We are reopening 2nd Avenue to traffic if you
do not clear the street and sidewalk, you will be arrested. Move back or
you will be subject to physical or chemical attack"

looking back from a
block away, the sit ins are
surrounded, but still there

i turn up couch street
but am turned back
i circle around on davis street

flash & bang grenades!!
then the police rush down second

state police expeditions
keep parallel on 3rd
bike cops disperse

motorcycle cops
block off burnside at 3rd
looking stern but scared

a chant of "peaceful protest"
goes up for a while then
"this is what a police state looks like"

next they announce
they are reopening 3rd St

I ask a senior officer
in an unmarked expedition
how are you going to reopen
3rd street with it full of your
cop cars & a bus?

first they move us
towards channel 8 then
towards channel 6

i look up & count
6 choppers overhead

i peek in 6's truck
we are live
or at least the cops are

now they announce they are
reopening burnside
then they push across

i try to head south
but he won't let me
"I'm right behind you"
he reminds me,
"i'm moving," i say

keep moving west they say
how far? we ask
go west young man

it's all academic
the cops have the sitters
surrounded but
aren't arresting them

my batteries are dying
i circle around to the chevron station
i just got pushed past
I say hi to the deputy buying a coke
but they are out of aaa's

i sneak over to my truck
at 3rd & pine, but the batteries
i put in are dead

i start scrawling notes
on the back of my saved
NY Times crossword

two girls yell down from
their 4th floor window
something about the cops
the two frat boys next to me
try to get themselves invited up

at 2nd and ash
there is a black unmarked
cop car w/ 2 flat tires

as i pass the night
lady mops out the DHS
office anyway

i circle down to
2nd & Ankeny to
find mounted police

one block away
i can see the sitters
still surrounded

slowly the mounties
dismount, two of the horses
favoring a hoof

the horses bridles
include a face shield
for the horses

one unhappy officer
mans the line standing in
a pile of horseshit

my pocket watch needs
a new battery but none of
the protestors has a watch

pardon me officer
(from a distance) what time is it?
thank you sir
my watch is correct

the dedicated
observer with the nixon
two armed peace salute
yells out to all concerned,
including the sitters,
"thank you for cooperating"

I wander back to
burnside & 3rd
a cop agrees
"This evening's entertainment is
brought to you by
Time and a Half"

but back at 2nd
and Ankeny the cops would
rather be at home

the sitters burn
their american flag
the frat boys are not
impressed, but i love
freedom of expression

"that's what i love
about america," he says
"you can disagree and
i can agree"

I suggest that may
be what he loves about
being conservative

a continual
stream of party animals
keep trying to get
past the police lines
to their favorite bar

berbati's wants $15 cover
but shanghai lets me
use their men's for free

protesters always
let people thru, but it is the
cops who never do

the protesters politely
move for a car, except
for the middle age barflies
in the middle of the road

the cops do let a van thru
to load up the instruments
for the band at the XV club

channel 2 & 8
news crews chatter on cell phones
and argue over who's package
is going to get picked up first
and who will get to do
a live intro

8 is waiting for
2 to go off the air

the sweet (and tiny) young thing
from channel 8 sees me
taking notes and asks (off camera)
why i'm protesting and why
i'm not with the sitters?
i say i agree with both bush's
and the protester's goals
but not the methods.

it doesn't occur to me
until later that i'm not
getting arrested because
i have to work in the morning

both news crews disappear
shortly after the drunk guy
with the trumpet shows up

12:50 traffic westbound
over the burnside bridge

i look back up 2nd
they've put safety cones across
2nd at Ash street

1:30 the sheriff dept
bus finally arrives
i ask several cops
how long does it take
to arrest someone?
most just shrug & smile

one says that there are
50 of them and you don't want
to hurt your back lifting them

i circle around to
the NW corner of 2nd & burnside
which is open again

I thank a sergeant
for being mostly peaceful
but the flash bang grenades
were a bit much

he says that a protestor
threw etching acid into the face
of an officer, all present agree
that was uncalled for
(although not all agree it happened,
I was there and didn't see it)

2:10 the last sitter
is finally "arrested"
eastbound traffic reopened

a sheriffs deputy
(in dark green instead of black)
asks if i will clean up
the mess the sitters left.
someone is handling it
so i decide to clean up the candles

the cops surrounding my corner
get into their cars and speed off
turns out they were transit cops

I ask one of the remaining cops
if i can cross over?
"I don't know"
"Finally a straight answer"
says my compatriot with the video

I ask him to film me
if i get jumped when i cross
he tells me his batteries, too,
ran out long ago

i clean and save the wax
from the bus shelter and
collect the burnt out tea lights
one candle still burns
i leave it burning

i walk up 2nd
past the cops as they pack up
the cones are still at Ash

3 cops are getting
in their car (the black one, repaired, i think)
i ask if they will get the cones
one looks my way and nods
i head for my truck

i drive down 2nd
the cones are still there but
no cops anywhere

i circle around
one last time and toss the damn
cones into the back

final irony:
the cops started their assault
saying they were reopening 2nd to traffic
that's the one thing they never did

Copyright (c) 2003 by Andrew Seaton. This material may be distributed only subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License, v1.0 or later (the latest version is presently available at  http://www.opencontent.org/openpub/).

Andy Seaton - Computer Poet and Sculptor
Poem of the Moment:
abundance comes not
from individuals, but
from community

homepage: homepage: http://www.bria.org
phone: phone: 503-289-2175
address: address: POB 17190 Portland OR

why is this a feature 22.Mar.2003 11:44


why is this really long narrative poem a feature in times of massive mobilization? This is really not going to make people want to read indymedia for breaking news. and it sure as hell isnt gonna get people in the streets MAKING news.

I read poetry, and love poems, but this is war, and people are still in jail, and still in the streets. Can we have some more pratical features?

The guidelines for features are very broad on the features page, but in my opinion (and i have been reading indymedia for a couple years) this is not consistent with numbers 2 & 4, not enough info, and not in line with indymedia culture, which values direct action and street solidarity more than poetry. And that is not a dis-- I write poems, and read them. But not here,and not featured for goodness sakes.

why not??? 22.Mar.2003 12:23


i believe its better to contribute than to make not-constructive criticism