Some suggestions for constructive protest
I'm very amused to find that the rightwing, waste-of-skin trolls are using my name to post. This suggests that some of my comments really stung their pathetic little egos. Good on them. Below you'll find some constructive suggestions to perhaps make time spent downtown more productive.
Over the last few days, I have been quietly listening to the people around me discussing the war, and the downtown protests. Few people understand what we are trying to accomplish. Blocking traffic does not send a clear message; in fact, it is seen as so "pointlessly disruptive" (their words, not mine) that a couple of people were heard speculating that protesters had been imported from Seattle! I myself am unsure as to what bridge-blocking accomplishes, although I support those who chose to do it as a true expression of the rage, grief, and helplessness that many of us feel about what is being carried out in our names.
In many ways, protesting is about alternatives. I see a need for alternatives to blocking traffic, because I think it alienates many people who would otherwise be our allies. If we really are going to stop this war, and other wars, we need to gain allies, to educate as many people as possible, and to widen the protests exponentially. To do that, we must bring in those who currently don't comprehend the depth of the need for protest. Following are some suggestions for activities against the war, and for peace and education.
Print out online articles and distribute widely.
The internet is a tremendous resource. It is possible to find a wide range of truthful, unbiased news reports about the war. Many people are not seeing these alternatives. They are getting their news from slanted, thinly-veiled administration cheerleaders, such as Fox news, and supposedly objective sources like CNN. The printed page has power, however, and if we go to webpages such as commondreams.org and cursor.org, and print/photocopy articles to distribute to people going about their business downtown, we can do more to convince average Portlanders against the war than we can by standing in front of their cars. Imagine going up to someone holding a "support the troops" sign and handing them an article about the Repulicans cutting veteran benefits and health care!
Pass petitions and group letters.
Hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of people are coming downtown to demonstrate against the war. In these numbers, it might be possible to get the Portland City Council to reconsider passing an anti-war resolution. Jim Francisconi would make an excellent candidate to receive a few thousand letters urging him to reconsider his stance on council resolutions. Or perhaps a petition to recall mayor Vera Katz could make the rounds, or letters to inform her that her threat to cut social services to pay for police brutality is outrageous and won't be tolerated. The point of this suggestion is to harness the energy and outrage in a way that is likely to have concrete, positive, sooner-rather-than-later results.
Poll downtown businesses.
Currently, all businesses downtown are suffering a loss of income, even though some, maybe even many, do not support the war. It would be interesting to find out which businesses are against the war, and publicize the results on Indymedia and elsewhere. It would be best to be nonconfrontational. Simply go in, ask to speak to the manager/owner, and ask if they are against the war. I would be glad to go out of my way to support a businesses whose owners or managers feel as we do.
Create public art.
Art lifts the imagination and inspires the spirit. Images such as the die-ins are very powerful. Use humor to lampoon the opposition, as with Billionaires for Bush. Create murals with pictures of all those who have died or have been wounded so far in this war, soldiers and civilians alike. Give the people of Iraq a human face, so that those who support the war know what it is they're supporting. Recreate checkpoints and the outcome of gun fights, complete with theatrical blood and wounds. Bring home the horrors of war to those who either ignore them, or think that they are somehow "worth it". Several years ago, an exibit of women's sillouhettes was shown in Pioneer Square, each representing a woman who had been killed by domestic violence. Why not create a series of sillouhettes of soldiers, each with a gas pump coming from them, to represent the people who have died to put gas in wasteful SUVs?
I hope you find these suggestions helpful, but more importantly, I hope you find them to be a jump-off point for further creative, nonviolent actions to educate the average Portlander and to bring in new allies in our war against war. Don't be afraid to try new things. Creativity is our greatest tool.
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