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Corporate Media: May Day Activists Apply for Permit

This article spins a different tale on the May Day permit.
Activists try a new tack for Thursday rally
May Day parade organizers apply for permit for first time
By JIM REDDEN Issue date: 4/29/2003
The Tribune
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Weeks after staging some of the largest antiwar demonstrations in Portland's history, some activists now are questioning protest tactics they think backfired.
For the first time, May Day parade organizers have taken out a permit for the annual labor celebration. Previous organizers have refused to even apply for a parade permit, sparking confrontations with police and heated City Hall debates.
Last year's parade did have a permit, but it was taken out by former council member Mike Lindberg, rather than the organizers.
But after the chaos created by the recent antiwar protests that did not have valid permits, this year's organizers decided to play by the rules. They have taken out a permit for the parade, scheduled to leave the North Park Blocks at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
"We don't want to interfere with workers who are simply trying to get home after a long day on the job," said Peter Savage, an official with Local 247 of the Carpenters Union, who filed for the permit on behalf of the May Day Coalition.
Portland State University history professor David Horowitz thinks that activists will have to do a lot more to restore their credibility with most Americans, however. As Horowitz sees it, the recent protests were so strident and wrongheaded that few people take the antiwar movement seriously anymore.
Speaking at an April 21 PSU forum on the war, Horowitz, who protested against the Vietnam War as a young PSU professor in the 1970s, described the movement as pervaded by a "depressive mentality" that blames the United States for everything wrong with the world today.
"I regret that the moral smugness, ideological rigidity and marginalized nature of the peace lobby have left the American public without a credible opposition that can reasonably examine the strategic choices that most certainly await us down the road," Horowitz said.
Even some local activists are reassessing the recent protests that clogged downtown traffic, closed area freeways and resulted in more than 170 arrests. In recent weeks, attendance has plummeted at such ongoing demonstrations as the Friday afternoon Pioneer Courthouse Square rallies sponsored by the Portland Peaceful Response Coalition.
As a result, activists are struggling with the question of how to regain the supporters who are drifting away, said coalition spokesman Will Seaman.

Activists admit errors

Despite criticism, the antiwar movement still has many supporters, including Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. He said recently that the activists are "visionaries" grappling with such major policy questions as the appropriate use of military force, the United States' leadership role around the world, and the war's impact on the U.S. economy.
"The people in this country who are raising these questions are playing a very important role in framing an issue that's not going to go away," he said. "It's not just the major foreign policy issue of our time, it's the major domestic policy issue, too."
Helma de Vries, a research assistant at the University of Maryland, said the activists succeeded at mobilizing, on short notice, a large number of people to oppose the war.
"The remarkable thing about the antiwar protests was the huge number of regular people who showed up, just to say they were against what was happening," said de Vries, who surveyed protesters throughout the country as part of her work with professor Mark Lichbach, chairman of the Government and Politics Department at the University of Maryland.
Some local activists concede that mistakes were made, however. Alex Harvill, a coffee roaster and regular Critical Mass bicycle ride participant, believes that the few small incidents of property damage that occurred during the recent protests hurt the credibility of the entire movement.
"Many consumers so identify with McDonald's and the Gap that they take it personally when (these businesses) are attacked," he said.
At the same time, Harvill defended protest tactics such as blocking area streets, bridges and freeways. As he sees it, many activists believe that the consumer and car cultures are based on a capitalist system that oppresses workers and exploits natural resources.
"They were a physical attack on downtown businesses and a psychological attack on motorists," Harvill said.
Horowitz believes that such statements prove the protest movement is out of touch with the vast majority of Americans.
"The basic premise is, the American people are pigs who don't know any better," he said. "But you can't hope to impact peoples' views if you don't respect them."

;Antiwar events coming up

Despite the reassessments, local activists are still planning and holding a large number of events:
Talks, video showings, panel discussions and fund-raisers are listed for almost every night of the week on local activist Web sites such as portland.indymedia.org.
The Peaceful Response Coalition is continuing its 5:30 p.m. Friday rallies in Pioneer Square.
Critical Mass is still flooding downtown streets with bike riders every Friday afternoon.
Weekly antiwar rallies also are being held in the Belmont, Hillsdale, Hawthorne, Hollywood and Mount Tabor neighborhoods.
And, according to Savage and others, thousands of people are expected to attend this year's May Day parade.
"The Bush administration says we're in a state of permanent war, so we need a permanent protest movement," Seaman said.
Still unresolved is the fate of those arrested during the last few weeks, however.
The Southeast Law Center is coordinating the defense of protesters arrested since the war started March 20. Paul Loney, an attorney there, estimates that at least 170 people have been arrested since then. Most face multiple charges such as failure to obey the police, reckless endangerment and resisting arrest.
Loney said a handful of protesters already have pleaded guilty to reduced charges, but most are waiting to see the evidence against them before deciding how to plead.
Multnomah County Community Judge Stephen Todd is overseeing most of the cases. He predicts that most of the pleas will be entered in late May.
"The legal strategy is to have these people found not guilty if they are not guilty.," Loney said. "Many of these arrests will not be backed up by witness statements and videotapes."
Contact Jim Redden at  jredden@portlandtribune.com.
Hmmm... 29.Apr.2003 08:38

Lucy

Getting a permit is one thing, but playing into the "good protestor/bad protestor" dynamic is not cool. Getting a permit makes no difference in terms of whether or not the protest will "interfere with workers who are simply trying to get home after a long day on the job". The protest will block traffic either way. Applying for a permit and playing by the rules gives can make sense as a tactic, but why not spin it differently? Granted, this spin could be the reporter's, but why play into it?

Another thing, it seems like Redden is a little crazy to not acknowledge other factors for his claim that "attendance has plummeted at such ongoing demonstrations as the Friday afternoon Pioneer Courthouse Square rallies." He does not acknowldge that the war is mostly over, and what typically happens when the war starts (that a large chunk of the opponents shy away). He quotes David Horowitz and Will Seaman and alleges that it was the rowdiness of the day of bombing action that scared everyone away. I don't expect much from the corporate media, but I would expect more from Jim Redden.

proper context 29.Apr.2003 08:55

alex

<snip>"Many consumers so identify with McDonald's and the Gap that they take it personally when (these businesses) are attacked," he said. <snip>

I explained that, in my opinion, the antiwar movement couldn't be separated from the fight against globalization. I know that no GAPs were damaged recently and simply used them as a symbol.

<snip>"They were a physical attack on downtown businesses and a psychological attack on motorists," Harvill said.<snip>

I don't remember saying this. I did say, "capitalism is a house of cards, and we just have to figure out where to hit it."

Maybe it's good Redden didn't use that quote.

As for the May Day permit issue, the process for the coalition was no different this year than the last two. It was decided that no permit would be requested, the city offered up a permit, and conned the fellow who talked with them into signing for it. He didn't understand the symbolic importance of the act.

Regarding the Horowitz quote:
"But you can't hope to impact peoples' views if you don't respect them."

I doubt Bush or FOX News have any respect for the hateful, ignorant rednecks to whom they appeal, and have been extremely effective with their manipulation. Simply because American politics has been so debased as to resemble a used car dealer's sales pitch doesn't mean this is the responsible approach.

Bad Politics, Bad Process 29.Apr.2003 09:08

I'llbethereanywaybut...

Getting a permit for May Day sucks, and the rationale behind it sucks even more. Permits don't keep anything "safe." Mayday 2000 had one, and the cops attacked. The very "peaceful" Maydays of 2001 and 2002 did not ask for permits, and made this a very vocal and visible part of their media and police liaison strategy. Getting a permit this year is giving back all the gains made in the past 3 years.

Plus, I thought there was agreement early on in the planning this year that folks would NOT ask the city for permission to freely assemble. What happened? Sounds like some folks decided to override the process.

Mayday is a celebration of the gains made by radicals, not union bosses.

May Day is Also May 1 29.Apr.2003 09:15

.

Mayday is a celebration of radicals! Mayday is also (for thousands of years, now) a celebration of spring! In the past, efforts were made to get the radical pagan community involved, to get a maypole and a spiral dance and the awesome energy of the season to kick off the day. I hope that happened this year, but I haven't seen anything on this site or on posters. What's up, organizers?

Makes You Go Hmmm 29.Apr.2003 09:20

smellarat

Alex says: "As for the May Day permit issue, the process for the coalition was no different this year than the last two. It was decided that no permit would be requested, the city offered up a permit, and conned the fellow who talked with them into signing for it. He didn't understand the symbolic importance of the act."

Um, that's not what is sound like via the Peter Savage quotes (in the Trib and earlier in the Oregonion): "We don't want to interfere with workers who are simply trying to get home after a long day on the job," said Peter Savage, an official with Local 247 of the Carpenters Union, who filed for the permit on behalf of the May Day Coalition.

Who made Mayday? 29.Apr.2003 09:23

Morgan

I'llbetherebut says:

"Mayday is a celebration of the gains made by radicals, not union bosses."

I have to disagree. Mayday (Chicago 1886) was made by workers who were acting in radical ways. The radicals were isolated because they were calling for over the top militant action when the average worker wasn't ready for it.

I'llbethere... shows the same elitist attitude that isolates us today. I think the Carpenters union guy was right on saying we're not trying to keep workers from getting home after work or being able to pick up their kids from school or day care.

to smellarat 29.Apr.2003 09:41

alex

It wasn't Pete who signed the permit, and I wasn't there either. What I wrote was my understanding of what had happened. I agree that the situation sucks, but there is no way to undo it now. I agree that previous gains have been given back and I'm not happy about it. I'll be out there nevertheless.

If the pagans and more radicals had wanted input, they should have come to the meetings. They would have been more than welcome, and I was disapointed not to see more diversity. May Day this year is not exactly what I would have wanted, but I did have input, and that's all any of us can hope for.

whaaaa? 29.Apr.2003 09:44

anon

hey morgan-how does getting a permit have anything todo with helping workers get home home after work or being able to pick up their kids from school or day care? its still a march and it still blocks traffic same as if it didn't have a pemrmit.

To Alex 29.Apr.2003 09:56

balanced

You may want to do some asking around. Peter Savage is the name on the permit.

Give the Permit Back 29.Apr.2003 10:03

Lucy

Alex says there is nothing to do about it now. What about tearing up the permit and marching a different route?

One of the issues for May Day in PDX in recent years has been the right to march without a permit and free speech, and that was the decision of the coalition: to not ask for permission. Why not stick to that?

Give the permit back.

to balanced 29.Apr.2003 10:17

alex

Have you seen the permit? I have not, so you might be right. My understanding was that Pete provided the city with the route (as has happened with the past May Days) but didn't sign any permit request.

If no signature had appeared, the city would have surely found one of their own to sign it just like last year. Really, I think this permit debate is getting silly. I don't agree with the way it was handled but it's not something I'm crying about. It is a symbolic fight and there are much better ones out there.

Hopefully, if folks are so upset by what has happened this year they will involve themselves next time and cheese the armchair activist schtick. If you don't like it, fix it. It isn't fun trying to reach agreement with a room full of differing opinions, but the "more radical than thou" approach doesn't accomplish anything and could be described as a lack of solidarity at this late date. Show up at the march or boycott the march, it doesn't matter, but if people have firm opinions about how it should be done differently next year they can at least go to the meetings.

to Lucy 29.Apr.2003 10:22

alex

I like the idea of tearing the permit up and marching a different route.

organizing and diversity 29.Apr.2003 10:36

left out

I personally would've gotten involved in the planning for Mayday if someone would've made public the meeting times. I didn't hear boo about Mayday until late last week when folks started to get irritated with indymedia for not covering it more. How is the average person supposed to get involved in organizing these things if there's no information given? I tried to contact Jobs With Justice several times and got no response. If more diversity and participation is what you're after, you need to spread the word well in advance of the event!

to left out 29.Apr.2003 17:13

alex

I can't say anything about JWJ not returning your calls.

Info was posted here about the meetings, and there were some flyers. Sure, communication could have been better, I agree. That's one more thing which needs to be addressed next year. I'll personally work to get more information out about the planning next tme.

May Day 2000 had no march permit 30.Apr.2003 00:24

iwastherebut

illbetherebut says that May Day 2000 had a permit, but that is not quite true.

First off a little clarifying point:

There are two different kinds of permits for events like this.

The first is the big deal one, the parade permit. This is what most folks are really talking about when they say do or do not get a permit.

The second type is a park permit. The park permit is more about paying for the wear and tear on city property (yes "we the people" own it, but maintence $$ needs to come from somewhere) and making sure that there is insurance for accidents or other problems that happen (mostly it's insurance covering the city for injury to people during events people hold in the public parks). There are some double-edged parts to a park permit - you have to get the neighborhood group to sign off on it (not so bad in a residential neighborhood, but the downtown neighborhood group isn't exactly like most other ones around town) and you have to get the cops to sign off on it too (good luck getting them to do that for anything with the name 'May Day' on it)

For May Day 2000 the coalition decided (after much careful discussion) to not get a parade permit, but to get a park permit for the south park blocks. Why? Free speech for the former and because we wanted to have a picnic for workers who couldn't get off work in time for the main march for the latter.

Of course, the picnic never happened, the cops sealed off the park (and attacked may day celebrants and trashed the may pole) and wouldn't allow people in.

Secondly:

May Day is about a whole lot of different things (labor day, beltane,hanging baskets on doorknobs) and it's silly to demand that people adhere to one "true" ideal of May Day. May Day in 2000 was different than May Day in 1886 or May Day 2003 will be. Part of the gains of the first few years of May Day is that we showed that parade permits aren't needed and are unjust, while there have been some slight reforms about permits in the city (and of course they can be rolled back) the real victory is in creating space for some people to push further and for other people to take advantage of the breathing room the May Days helped create.

So should May Day be about permits every year? No. Is trying to work through mainstream unions to talk about radical ideas with rank and filers gonna be an easy process without compromises? Probably not, but it's certainly worth doing.

May Day is what we make it. Worker's Holiday. Celebration of Life. Day of Solidarity and Strength.

Plus if it doesn't work out this year, there's always next year.......

ba ba ba 30.Apr.2003 00:43

redworker

jesus christ,

if you people spent half the time organizing as you do bitching about permits...

social revolution will not be permited. there is no form for it at city hall.

repression is when they break up your permited marchs, or when they won't issue a permit because the march has broader social implications then just marching down the street.

the fact that the city is waving the fee, and not trying to stop a mayday march is because it is currenltly not a threat to their power.

organizing is alot harder work then finger pointing and second guessing. i don't care if mayday is permited or not. it's not the issue. revolution will not come from (childishly) defieing "the powers that be", but from excercising our own authority. we are not their yet. organize.