As thousands of peopl in Portland and around the world protest the war today, we must remember those who face police reprisal for their protests. Some are currently in prison, and other have given their lives. Others face looming charges.
One is Camilo Viveiros, arrested protesting the Republican National Convention in 2000, whose trial is coming on April 5. Camilo has worked for years as a housing organizer in Southeastern Massachusetts in the same largely-immigrant immigrant community where he grew up. Camilo's dedication, caring, and gentle demeanor are clear to all who are lucky enough to spend time with him. He organizes for the long haul, knowing that slowly building leadership is often more important than quick flashy actions.
On August 1, 2000, Camilo was among thousands of people protesting the criminal (in)justice system and police brutality during the Republican National Convention in Philly (where the guy currently in the White House was nominated officially). Over 400 people were arrested that day in scenes marked by absurd police overkill. Some were picked up for simple civil disobedience, like blocking a street, but faced multiple charges and five-figure bails. Dozens were arrested when a warehouse being used to make art was surrounded (in addition to arresting everyone inside, the police put all the art into a trash compactor). There were numerous incidents of excessive force. Toward the end of the day, Camilo and others were on an unplanned march. Police Commissioner John Timoney (known for overseeing the overwhelming police violence in Miami this November), who was out in the streets that day, has said that he and other officers deliberately rode their bikes into a group of protesters who they allege were tryign to pick up a car. In the ensuing chaos, Camilo (who is not charged with having touched a car) found himself under arrest and having suffered a concussion.
Despite having been the victim of police violence, Camilo was charged with numerous counts including assault on an officer and riot--charges which could lead to thrity years in prison if he is convicted. A judge initially threw out many charges against him, but after Timoney appealed in the courts and the media, the charges were reinstated.
Now Camilo (and two co-defendants who have chosen not to organize around their cases) face trial on April 5. If the police are able to take this dedicated organizer out of the community, it will be a blow to all those working for justice. It will also send a chilling message about what can happen if you dare to protest--a message that will not be lost on the tenants with whom Camilo organize as they decide whether to stand up to a landlord.
As you protest, remember that you could be Camilo. And do what you can to help him as his trial approaches. Letters of support (particularly from organizations) are crucial, as are petition signatures. Donations are needed as well--legal bills pile up after 3.5 years! Information on how to help--and more background on the case--is at http://www.friendsofcamilo.org. An online petition is also located at http://www.petitiononline.com/foc/petition.html (we hope you'll sign, but we hope you'll do more as well!).