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Tasteless Cheney Article In Portland Tribune

The Bush administration's jaunts among the common people resemble, more and more, the movements of the world's dictators. Encased in bulletproof vehicles, isolated from the general public, and with any protest or demonstration of a differing view ushered into an isolated area where it cannot be seen or heard.
The following article appeared on the front page of last Thursday's PORTLAND TRIBUNE, accompanied by three photographs . . . one of a protestor standing behind a high chain link fence topped by razor wire and emblazoned with "police line - do not cross" banners . . . one of an overkill number of riot police and police on horseback, standing between about 80 peaceful protestors in the "free speech" area and the Embassy Suites hotel where Cheney was speaking to about 65 donors . . . and a beaming portrait of Mr. Cheney himself.

The Bush administration's jaunts among the common people resemble, more and more, the movements of the world's dictators. Encased in bulletproof vehicles, isolated from the general public, and with any protest or demonstration of a differing view ushered into an isolated area where it cannot be seen or heard.

This is the policy of preemption carried to further extremes. If differing views are isolated and made insignificant, they need not be considered by an administration with its own agenda. All protestors are treated like nuts and terrorists, and their right to peacefully protest and make their point nullified by an administration that simply does not care what they think while paying lip service to "free speech."

This turn of events horrifies other free nations such as England and Australia which refused to make concessions for Bush that would have limited the rights of citizens to peacefully protest when he traveled there. The really horrifying thing is that -- here in the United States, the land of the free and the home of the brave -- a majority of citizens are simply accepting this bizarre turn of events in exchanged for perceived by largely non-existent "security."

Here is the article (with a few personal notes):

It's easy in, easy out when VIPs come to town
"LITTLE BEIRUT" FADES AS CITY GETS CRAFTY
Donors, protesters never meet during Cheney fund-raiser
By Don Hamilton and Janine Robben, THE TRIBUNE

After years of practice battling protesters, Oregon Republicans think they've finally figured out how to get their VIPs in and out of Portland with a minimum of fuss.

This week's fund-raising visit from Vice-President Dick Cheney involved tactics in dealing with protesters that the party has refined in the last two years (NOTE: Interesting to interject here that only Republicans seem to have a problem with protesters when Bush administration figureheads come to town . . . and that they see any form of protest as a problem).

None of the difficulties that have marked recent visits by President Bush could be found at the Cheney reception Tuesday night at the Embassy Suites Hotel at Portland International Airport. There were no traffic jams, no pepper spray, no freeway closures and no ugly confrontations with police, and as a result Republicans were able to easily move donors in and out of the hotel (NOTE: This has more to do with the location chosen, not with the presence of protesters. Even if there had been no protesters in downtown Portland, traffic would still have been disrupted and freeways closed because of the motorcade and the safety perimeter demanded and the presence of police mandated by a Presidential or Vice-Presidential visit. The article also ignores the lack of problems encountered at the University of Portland venue, which would also have required street closures regardless of the presence of protestors).

Party officials were so pleased with the outcome that they will explore whether to hold future political events around the airport, especially if, as they hope, President Bush returns before the November election. (NOTE: Surely they are not naive enough to believe that the speaking location would make a difference regarding the number of protesters if Bush himself returned to Portland to fund raise or speak? Oregon Republicans are assuredly not the only people who "learned something" after the Cheney visit)

"We learned from this, and this is something we'd like to do again," said Dawn Phillips, spokeswoman for the Oregon Republican Party, which raised approximately $400,000 from the visit. "It's a viable option, and we proved that."

But there also was no real protest, demonstrators said, because they were held so far from the hotel that few Republicans saw protesters and few of them say any Republicans.

Police directed protesters to a muddy field at least 100 yards from the hotel and then erected an 8-foot-high chain-link fence topped with razor wire.

"Symbolically, if not literally, they were criminalizing political protest," said Will Seaman, spokesman for the Portland Peaceful Response Coalition. He compared the effect of the public seeing the protesters photographed behind a fence to a jury seeing a criminal defendent in leg irons. (NOTE: It's worse than that. At least there is some presumed evidence of guilt in a criminal trial; the protesters had done nothing but stand with signs and exercise their lawful right of free speech. To fence them all off because they "might" do something is a misuse, once again, of the egregious "preemptive strike" doctrine so popular with this administration. Whether it is protesters of a past Secretary of the Treasury, if the administration does not want to hear what someone has to say or does not like it, they move to soil the reputation and the motives of the group or the person)

VIP visits have created problems in the past. Republicans, after all, dubbed Portland, "Little Beirut" for the big protests that met the first President Bush.

The biggest recent confrontation came in August 2002 when President Bush stayed overnight at the Hilton Hotel for a fund-raising dinner for Senator Gordon Smith, R-Ore. Traffic was tied up downtown as more than 1,000 people loudly confronted Republicans attending the dinner and then skirmished with police through the night. (NOTE: There were far more than 1,000 people downtown during that rally, and it does most of them a disservice to suggest that the entire group "loudly confronted" Republicans and "skirmished with police". Most of us never saw a donor and stayed for only a couple of hours. Protesters did not provoke the tear gas incident; police panicked when they could not move a barricade quickly enough. I was close enough to inhale the tear gas; I saw it all.)

For Bush's visit a year later, downtown Portland was avoided as was the overnight stay. Party officials held his August 2003 fund-raising lunch at the University of Portland. Donors were bused to the campus to they wouldn't have to encounter protesters, but the visit still meant substantial disruptions for the North Portland neighborhood. (NOTE: Funny, I thought they were bused primarily for their convenience since U of P is probably far from the homes of most of the Republican donors. Again, any disruptions occurred because of closed streets and the presence of police . . . something that would have happened whether protesters were present or not)

So for Cheney's visit this week, there wasn't a motorcade, he never left airport property, and there was no disruption of residential areas. Police found controlling access easier in the industrial area around the airport. (NOTE: I fully agree that having these events at the airport makes all kinds of sense. If our President and Vice President were welcomed by people and making several appearances to the community at large, one could condone the closing of freeways for a motorcade, the blocking of streets for an auditorium event, etc. But they aren't and so these visits very often provoke only anger on the part of motorists trapped in traffic. One could ask how siting the speeches at the airport impacts airport traffic and flight schedules but for some reason nobody has gone into that one.)

Police would not say how many officers were on hand, but perhaps 100 were visible inside and outside the hotel - many in full riot-protection gear. (NOTE: This is so sadly hilarious you've got to cry. We've got Cheney and 65 donors inside the building, plus Secret Service agents, plus as least 100 officers to protect them from perhaps 85-200 peaceful protestors from Portland Peaceful Coalition and the Sierra Club. Let's see. We pay for these police and agents. There were 85-200 protestors outside and 65 donors inside. And look how the majority of citizens were treated by the police they pay to protect their rights. I'm not coming down on the police personally; they do what they are told and are obliged to. But whoever instructed them to enforce the third-world barrier and deprive citizens of their right not only to protest -- but to be heard -- should be read the riot act.)

Police agencies at the event included the Secret Service, the Portland Police Bureau, the Multnomah County Sherriff's river patrol and the Port of Portland Police. There were police on horses, bicycles, and all-terrain vehicles. The explosives team and bomb-sniffing dogs were there, and TriMet sent five buses so officers would have a place to warm up.

Assistant Portland Police Chief Stanley Grubbs said city tactics have evolved.

"Each time, we improve," he said. "Each time, we try to provide better service. It's always positive when we don't have to take enforcement action."

He said police have kept in close contact with groups that plan to protest at political events.

The Portland Peaceful Resource Coalations's Seaman said he recognized the need to establish a "perimeter" for the vice president's protection. But he said that fencing in the protesters after they started gathering was "just not right."

"It was completely inaccessible," he said of the wet field, which was approximately a half-mile from the MAX station used by some of the protesters to reach the area. "It was a marsh." (NOTE: And TriMet probably didn't welcome any protesters on its police warm-up buses)

Seaman said that he expected relations between protest groups and the police to become "more difficult" if "this is the direction they (the police) are going to go."

But police spokeswoman Sgt. Cheryl Robinson said the bureau was doing what it needed to do to protect the vice president, which she said was its "No. 1 priority."

"You have to kind of admire them," Robinson said, who stood - hatless - in the sub-freezing wind Tuesday night near the protesters. "They aren't the usual rabble-rousers." (NOTE: Define "usual rabble-rousers", please . . . and throw away that wide brush you're tarring us all with, Ms. Robinson.)

Robinson estimated the number of protesters at 60 to 70. But Nat Parker, conservation organizer for the Sierra Club, put the number at 200, based on what he said was an actual head count. The number may have changed over the couse of the protest, which began in late afternoon and ended around 7:30 pm.

Parker, whose group organized most of the protesters, said they did not find out the time or location of Cheney's appearance until four days before the event.

"It's unprecedented that it would be so late," Parker said Wednesday. "The (Bush) administration has been crafty in choosing where they have their events. As you saw last night, they were pretty successful."

Parker said that the Sierra Club, which has been a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Cheney's Energy Task Force, was there to protest what Parker described as the Bush administration's failed energy policies.

If the protesters were unable to see Cheney, they did see a full but restrained show of force by police.

At one point, after a small group of protesters started dancing in the bike path on Southeast 82nd Avenue, dozens of riot police and other officers on bicycle, horseback and all-terrain vehicles massed across from them. Protesters heeded the police's admonition to get out of the street but then started shaking the fence. (NOTE: Heavens! Dancing in a bike path! Call Tom Ridge and raise the color-coded security alert!)

"Since they put us in a cage, we decided to rattle our cage," Seaman said.

At 6:10 pm the protesters were informed, via loudspeaker, that any attempts to pass or tamper with the barricade could subject them to the use of force, including chemical agents or impact weapons, as well as to arrest and criminal charges.

"This is the Portland Police," the voice on the loudspeaker said, prompting the protesters to chant back, "This is the people of the United States of America."

Within minutes, the fence-shaking had stopped.

The cost in police overtime won't be known for several weeks, but Portland Mayor Vera Katz plans on again sending the police overtime bill to the Bush-Cheney '04 committee, said her spokesman, Scott Ferris. A $116,000 overtime bill sent to the committee for last summer's appearance was ignored. (NOTE: Vera, why waste the paper. We all know it's wrong but we also know that these bastards will NEVER pay. They're so arrogant they feel it's their right to use cities and people without compensation and they've made that clear by blowing off the last three bills. I remember that Bill Bradbury's committee PAID when they were presented with a bill by the City.)

Ferris said the city will send similar overtime bills to any candidate or officials, Democrat or Republican, who appears at strictly political events with no official function.

"If it's open to the public with no charge, we don't bill," Ferris said. "If it's strictly a political visit, if it's not open to the public except by paying money, we will. They pay for the balloons, the banners and the program. It does not seem unreasonable that they budget into that the costs of the city providing the security."

David Livingood of Vancouver, WA, who said he saws the protests on TV, thinks taxpayers shouldn't have to pay the overtime for a strictly political event.

"When Puff Daddy comes to town, he brings his own people," said Livingood, a former Portland resident. "It seems like the largest fund-raiser in America -- the Republican Party -- should be able to step up to the plate." (NOTE: Sadly, they only seem willing to step up to a plate if a donor has paid $1,000 and up to eat off of it.)

-----
Contact Authors:
Don Hamilton at  dhamilton@portlandtribune.com
and Janine Robben at  jrobben@portlandtribune.com
Free Speech Zones & Intimidation Not a Solution 18.Jan.2004 16:38

Cheney Watch

Before they begin patting themselves on the back, Oregon Republicans should consider that one can only contain a pot of boiling water for so long by slamming the top down on it and allowing nowhere for the steam to escape.

counter attack 18.Jan.2004 18:06

mem

We should give 'em a taste of their own memory: hold a "gay/lesbian/abortion rights festival" (something we know the rightwingers can't stand, and then work with the police to have the protesters who come be caged in similarly to this cheney protest. If the police do it, we say "now what do you say about caging protesters?", and if they don't, sue the city for being biased.

Fucking A 18.Jan.2004 18:56

jlii

mem

Thinking outside of the cage again. Great let's do it, mostly to see if there is equal enforcement of the law.

peaceful... 18.Jan.2004 19:02

drummer

As JFK once said "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." Best think about that, you 'crafty city' officials.

Re. Inconvenience At The Airport 19.Jan.2004 16:37

Postal Customer

I, too, thought it was strange that nobody said anything about whether (or how much) airport customers and businesses around the airport and the Embassy Suites Hotel were inconvenienced by the Cheney visit.

Today, while dropping mail off at the Airport Post Office (located adjacent to the Embassy Suites near NE 82nd and Airport Way, I asked the employees if there had been any problems. There certainly had been. First of all, PO traffic was rerouted, all traffic on 82nd was allowed only to turn one way onto Airport Way and delayed at times. In order to "cheat", a number of motorists detoured down the road to the PO which parallels Airport Way, and backed out the "in only" opening to the PO in order to sneak onto Airport Way. This dangerous and annoying situation continued persistantly for the entire time Cheney was conducting his fund-raising.

Employees reported seeing masses of police on horseback, on bikes, on ATVs, and on foot surrounding the hotel and surrounding area.

When told that Republicans considered the airport a win-win situation for a location and that they would probably come back with Bush or Cheney again, PO employees extended a tip: If you want to mail something quickly, don't come into the airport PO the day after; it was wall to wall with customers - all people who had been afraid to try and mail anything the day before when Cheneyrama was going on next door.

letter to the editor 19.Jan.2004 22:41

letterwriter

Here's the letter I emailed to the Tribune regarding this article. Kept it brief to meet the 200 words or less requirement. I'm pretty sure they won't publish it so I'll just share it here.

"I take issue with your characterization of Portland in the article 'Little Beirut' Fades...
The writers imply that Portland's activists are less active or less of a 'threat' these days because the Vice pResident was able to sneak off a plane and into a Hotel at the airport without being confronted by those who oppose his administration. I think the tactics speak volumes about just how frightened of this city these officials are since they dare not show their faces in public. Instead they arrive practically unannounced, scurry to a heavily guarded location on airport property (a location which gives law enforcement special powers in the name of Anti-Terrorism) and collect more money for a re-election campaign that has already broken all fund-raising records. To spin this cowardice as a triumph of planning and use it to belittle the activists of Portland is irresponsible but, unfortunately, all too common in American media today."

Another letter to the editor 20.Jan.2004 08:40

Marie Antoinette

The Police and others in the city are busily patting themselves on the back for their ability to separate the riff raff from the paying corporate types who ponied up big bucks to hear the unelected Vice President speak at a gala dinner last week. The dissenters (the HIGHEST FORM OF PATRIOTS) were kept well back in a gulag of barbed wire by a cordon of jack booted SS-oops, I mean Police Riot Officers. Congratulations. If folks are not allowed honest dissent in this "free" country, I fear that we will soon see the kind of desperate attempts to be heard that we see in less "free" parts of the world, say the Middle East. Tell me again what it is that our troops are dying in a foreign land for? Oh, I forgot-HALLIBURTON.

Let em eat cake is a VERY dangerous political policy. Even the Teutonic Knights were eventually brought down to the people's level by desperate action. The high tech jack boot suits that the fascists have outfitted the gendarme in will be of little use, if the people become as desperate as some of the unfortunates in the Middle East and elswhere. How much good would these suits have done for the poor firemen who risked and lost their lives in the World Theft Center?

A quote from somewhere 20.Jan.2004 10:21

Jo Routens

The quote goes something like "The legitimacy of a ruler is the inverse of the amount of security that he/she needs to be surrounded by."

How is it tasteless? 05.Feb.2004 00:31

Jenny

Letterwritter,

Evils of irresponsible corporate media aside, I want to take issue with YOUR characterization of this Tribune article. In what way did it "spin this cowardice as a triumph of planning and use it to belittle the activists of Portland"? Please articulate more clearly how the article belittled the activists.

I don't see any condescension toward activists in this article. Will Seaman sounds smart. I didn't feel embarrassed for him. He was not belittled.

I see several points of view reflected in the article, from the organizers, from protesters, and from law enforcement. It is quite clear from the article that the organizers of the event went out of their way to prevent Cheney and his donors from seeing protesters and to make it inconvenient and uncomfortable to protest.

The event could be characterized as a triumph of planning to accomplish a particular goal. It could also be characterized as an instance of using planning to discourage political protest and silence dissent. It could also be a story of the problems and evolving strategy of local police who have to enforce the event security policy of the secret service for the vice president as they are required by federal law. In this particular article, it is characterized in all these ways, depending on who is quoted.

The planning may very well have been a cheap, dirty, cowardly way to avoid protesters. I think so. (But that's editorializing. To be fair, a reporter can merely say that it was an effective way to avoid protesters and leave it to those he or she interviews to add in the cheap, dirty, cowardly bit.)

Just because it was a triumph of planning doesn't mean it wasn't cowardly. Just because it was a triumph (i.e. effective) doesn't mean the reporters think it was morally righteous. And just because a protest was limited by the planning doesn't mean that the Tribune or its reporters were using the story to "belittle the activists." I just don't see these reporters taking a point of view in their story. They don't say Cheney and his handlers are cheap, dirty, cowards, and they don't say activists are dumb trouble-makin' rascal losers. Instead, they did some interviews and let the organizers and activists speak for themselves.

I think the following two passages--from the Tribune article--accurately reflect the point you make in your letter:

"But there also was no real protest, demonstrators said, because they were held so far from the hotel that few Republicans saw protesters and few of them saw any Republicans."

"'Symbolically, if not literally, they were criminalizing political protest,' said Will Seaman, spokesman for the Portland Peaceful Response Coalition. He compared the effect of the public seeing the protesters photographed behind a fence to a jury seeing a criminal defendant in leg irons."

So tell me, please, where's the belittlement?

and North Portlander,

On a similar note, I would like to know what makes the article "tasteless" as the title of your comment suggests.

In your notes, I see you disagreeing with the organizers and police—with the action-- not with the way the reporters present information about the action.

What specifically should these reporters have done and written differently so as not to be "tasteless" in your eyes?

Hey guys, I'm all for criticizing journalists—mainstream, alternative, corporate, non-profit, partisan, independent, what-have-you. If they are sloppy, inaccurate, misrepresentative, boring, lazy, or flagrantly unfair to those they quote, have at 'em. But those criticisms should be specific and backed with evidence. If we can get away from nebulous bitching about the evil corporate media and present clear arguments that are supported with specific evidence, a lot more people will be receptive and sympathetic to these complaints.