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Does Anyone Have My Back?

A favored tactic of the police state is to divide the people and then play them against each other. Often, we are pathetically easy prey for this. Sometimes, we do it ourselves.
I hear that organizers of the Friday march against police brutality handed out flyers telling people not to go to the march on Saturday. From what I understand, they told people that the families of several victims of police homicides did not want people to go because "they do not support violence." I admit I didn't see any of these flyers for myself, but enough people told me about them to make me confident that they were real.

This disturbs me.

Certainly, people have the right to feel however they feel. (Even if I believe they're wrong.) If the families of some victims did not want to be associated with the Arissa march, that's their right. They were free not to attend. Many other people whose families were effected did attend Saturday's demonstration, including a woman whose brother was shot in the back by police in 1974, as he stood with his arms in the air begging them not to kill him. Her mother still has the clothes he wore that day, stained with blood and torn through the back by bullets.

This is the world we live in.

It depresses me endlessly that people believe they have no other way to make a difference than to ingratiate themselves with the system by selling each other out. Can they really believe the cops will stop killing them, if only they prove what good people they are by kissing up to the police? Do they think the corporate media will stop telling people their sons and daughters were "merely crackheads" and deserved to be shot down if they turn on the Arissa organizers?

The fact that people would side with the police, would fall so completely into the corporate media's web of lies (even though they have never been anything but victimized by either of them), reminds me of any other abusive relationship. People become so disempowered, so beaten down, that they come to believe their only way out is to somehow appease the abuser. "If I can only please him," they think, "He will leave me alone. If I can only prove I am not his enemy."

Maybe that's why Joe Keller went to the corporate media to complain about the Saturday march. (Or maybe his words were merely taken out of context.) Maybe, even though his own son was gunned down by the cops, even though he knows his son was innocent and the police murdered him, maybe he still thinks he can make friends with the system and it will all be all right.

I don't know. All I know is I feel disgusted that people actually put their strength and energy into dissuading others from standing up to police aggression. At this time, when we can so clearly see that the police state is completely and irrevocably out of control, people turned from that battle front and instead began sabotaging the work of others who might have been allies.

People who did not agree with the Arissa organizers need not have come to Saturday's march. But they surely would have done themselves better to leave it at that, and not sell out those of us who did go. I went to the so-labeled "peaceful" demonstration, and I went to the Arissa march as well. (And incidentally, I saw no violence at either event except the ever present violence that comes with being threatened by the guns and clubs of the police.) I did not have to choose between the two, as I felt both were important expressions of the pain this city is reeling under right now and both might lead to a greater sense of community, a stronger sense of empowerment by the people. But I am left with a sense of betrayal and anger to learn that others played into the hands of the police state by helping to brand me and everyone else who went on Saturday as some lunatic fringe element who ought to be chastised and ostracized.

If the police had unleashed their pepper spray and batons on us yesterday, as they so often have before, would these people have stood by us? Would they have recognized this as part of the never-ending cycle of police violence that attempts to make victimes of us all? Or would they have nodded in acquiescence? Would they have believed we deserved it, as we have been told that Jahar perez "deserved it," that Kendra James "deserved it," that Jose Mejia Poot "deserved it." Would our presence at a radical demonstration have been "proof enough" that we do not deserve anyone's respect in the same manner that cocaine in someone's mouth is counted as "proof enough"?

Until we can stop sabotaging each other's work, until we can stop climbing over each other in vain attempts to become the police state poster children for good and virtuous citizens, until we learn who are enemies really are, there can be no change. Until we learn to watch each other's backs rather than stabbing them, nothing will change. Is that really what we want? Do we really want to just keep gathering and venting in splintered but "peaceful" marches each time another unarmed person is gunned down by cops? Or do we finally want to examine what we're doing, and what we might do differently?
yes 25.Apr.2004 15:55

it was disgusting

It was very disturbing that there was a concerted effort to stop people from participating in this event. We expect that from the police, and even from the corporate media. But it's unbelievable that people would put time, effort, and energy into UNDERMINING others when what we ALL want is an end to police violence.

The portland police were billing this as a "violent" march, and they were stereotyping the people who might attend as "a small radical fringe." What a lie. There were young people there as well as little old ladies and little old men there, black people and brown people and white people. There were people who "look" radical, and people who don't. It was a very lively event, and the only violence was that initiated by the police. As always.

I'm disgusted that some sanctimonious liberal boneheads took it upon themselves to make us the enemy rather than the killer cops. I really, really want to understand why they did this, and how we can move forward. But I'm so angry about this I can't even imagine ever going to another liberal march.

Before you say, "Well good, who needs that 'radical fringe,'" I should tell you that you have no idea how many "regular folks" that this move has alienated. I don't look like a radical. And I'm in my 30s, I own my own home, I go to work every day. I have a family that I work to support. In short, I don't fit your ridiculous stereotype. And I'm PISSED about the police killings and medals. And I'm PISSED that someone tried to keep me from coming to this march, selling me lies and liberal crap.

Let me tell you something. Many people didn't go to the march because they were afraid to. Not because they thought the demonstrators would do anything to hurt them, but because they feared the police would. They felt, as I feared, that the police would think they had carte blanche to do what they wanted to the people who attended, because they had co-opted dumbass liberals into doing their dirty work for them. When it's so completely apparent that the liberal nutcases will leave us hanging any time the shit really flies, they know they can get away with whatever they want. And the police do NOT like being called on their crimes. I expected I might be beaten by police if I went, and almost didn't. But this was important enough that I was willing to take the risk. Thanks, whoever you were, for making me feel afraid. Thanks for the sickening flyers that sold me out.

If you were one of those handing out flyers on Friday night, you ought to be ashamed. And the next time the cops cut down another of your neighbors, you need to think about the role YOU played in keeping others from preventing it.

I Didn't Attend the Demonstration... 25.Apr.2004 18:13


...but I am sure glad that you both went, and I am thankfull to everyone that attended. I would be proud to stand with either of you.

We have your back sister. 25.Apr.2004 19:04

Michael b

We have your back sister.

So, CatWoman 25.Apr.2004 21:28


You would call city hall and the police department to get their story; but you wouldn't call these people for theirs.

// 25.Apr.2004 21:45


Dio Dio Blah Blah Blah
Dio Blah Dio Blah Blah

Maybe people know about some things that you don't know about. Ever think of that?

Fine 25.Apr.2004 21:49


The Fucking Liberals Will Fuck You Over Every Time

This is a fundamental law of the universe.

When it comes down to it, they will sell you out, stab you in the back, talk about non-violence and never address how violent their lives are.

Malcolm X knew it well. He was one smart dude.

I GOT YOUR BACK 25.Apr.2004 21:53


yes! iam spartacus!

Maybe no effect 25.Apr.2004 21:54

George Bender

I'm also disgusted that people -- I'm not sure if they were "liberals" -- tried to stop this march, but any time you try to do something, liberal or radical, someone will try to stop you. There are always sick stupid people like that around. There are doers and stoppers, and there are some of both in both camps. Remember all the radicals who criticize every big peace march.

I'm not sure, however, that the stoppers had any effect on the turnout for this event. The event on Friday, organized by black ministers and apparently fine with the liberals, had only about 150 people attend, according to The Oregonian. Maybe 150-200 people is all you can get to come out on this issue at this time. Maybe the opposition actually had no effect. How many people even heard about it, outside of Portland IndyMedia? I'm sure the opposition didn't put anywhere near the energy into their opposition that Arissa put into promoting the event.

I suggest ignoring them. Don't give them the power to upset you. Just go on and do what you want to do and don't worry about the stoppers. They can't -- and didn't -- stop you. Stoppers don't like to do anything, so they don't have any power. Doers win every time.

Also, don't judge the effectiveness of an action by the attendance. It doesn't take many people to make a statement.

DIY, Dio 25.Apr.2004 23:35


If you want answers, Dio, go get them. Then post them here. That's what this site is for, as you know.

Maybe CatWoman wanted answers from city hall and the police because they are (supposedly) public servants, and they owe the public answers. Maybe CatWoman didn't want to disturb still-grieving relatives who had lost family to police violence. They have gone through enough. The family members have given their story countless times already to all kinds of people. CatWoman is a decent human being who doesn't want to rub salt in the families' wounds, in my opinion.

Police and city hall are responsible for these murders, so they should be the ones grilled. Repeatedly. The families will provide information if and when they feel like it.

Nobody ever had my back 26.Apr.2004 00:50

after I was worked by the Portland police

Admitting, I don't believe in anyones sincerity.

On Calling "these people" 26.Apr.2004 07:10


I'm not sure whom Dio is referring to when s/he asks if I called "these people" for their stories. If s/he means the families who allegedly signed onto the flyers in question, I attempted to contact Joe Keller but have not heard back. Since Joe has been through more than enough harassment already at the hands of the Portland police, I refuse to hound him for answers on this. If he wants to respond, then he will.

I was more concerned about those who actually printed these flyers and distributed them. I had heard it was fellow activists, possibly even the organizers of Friday's rally. Persistent rumor has it that Portland Copwatch (and Dan Handleman in particular) had something to do with it. So I contacted Dan.

While I have still not received a direct answer as to whether either Dan or Portland Copwatch printed or distributed the flyers, Dan conceded that he did discourage people from attending. He and I are still engaged in dialogue on this issue, so I hesitate to share too much of the complete sense of betrayal I'm feeling over this. At this point, it's still not clear whether he actively undermined the Saturday march, or merely told people who asked him that he didn't support it. If it's the latter, well, he has the right to his opinion. But if he has been actively undermining other activists who are working toward an end to police violence, then there is a problem. To say the least.

(A friend once said in desperation, "Those damn liberals will fuck you over every time. Every time." Those words keep running through my head right now. I'd like to believe it can be otherwise, but history is against it.)

Oh, and THANK YOU MICHAEL B. I got yours too. I'm mad with love for u.

Abandonment 26.Apr.2004 08:04

Den Mark, Vancouver

I was at two peace events Saturday before saying to others that i was going to P-Sq. I was asked at each event why i would go when we were asked not to, & what was my "rationale", & was told "they" (Arissa) were not "us". So, yes, divisive dissuasion at friday's rally did affect people, & numbers. My response was that i had to go because i had to be with those who were abandoned & now in danger. They are my brothers & sisters!

The behavior of black clergy & white liberals was & is angering for me. I was annoyed by the shot in the Oregonian showing black clergy arm-in-arm marching down the street Friday. It was a mockery of civil rights marchers of the 60's, when such marchers were in clear danger & faced clubs & dogs & guns. Ministers on Friday were permitted, had the mayor's blessing, were escorted by police. What disgusting mockery that picture is.

Yet those "brave" clergy, & liberals, too, abandoned Saturday protesters who were in fact under threat, & made the threat worse. And where were white clergy? To paraphrase the nouveau-cliché: "Where would Jesus have been!" I think i know the answer. So i'll be kind & think that clergy & liberals were merely confused. I'm tempted to go further & think they are part of the problem.

On Portland Copwatch 26.Apr.2004 09:47

radical element

Portland Copwatch recently sent out a communique through Dan Handleman that read, in part, "There should be pressure put on the Mayor (Police Commissioner) Katz, the Chief, and other members of City Council for institutional changes and some form of discipline for these officers."

Why, then, would they not have supported the Arissa marchers who went directly to the mayor's home and demanded change?

I don't want to create even more division here, by just venting empty anger at Portland Copwatch. What I want is a dialogue, a building of trust, community and solidarity. I want us to come to some understanding that will prevent a repeat of this sorry state of affairs. It's going to take all of us to find a solution, so I do not want to alienate Dan or the people from Portland Copwatch, because I believe they mean well. But I also don't want to be shot in the streets by portland police who believed they could get away with it because the liberals will support them in it.

Portland Copwatch: I challenge you. Answer this charge. Did you, or did you not distribute those flyers and work to discourage people from attending the Arissa march? If you did, do you now see that it was a mistake? That you broke ranks with the people in favor of the police state.

I want you out there, PCW, continuing to work toward an end to police violence just as the rest of us are doing. But if you're going to stick a knife in me when I turn around, then I will never again turn my back to you. If you are going to assist the police state in dividing us, in demonizing some of us, and if you are willing to sabotage other people's efforts to make changes, then you are part of the problem. You're going to have to do a lot of work now, to undo the damage you have done and rebuild the trust that you betrayed. It's worth the effort. Much more worthy of such effort that the work that went into making and distributing those flyers and creating this division in the first place.

violence 26.Apr.2004 09:55


You don't have to look too incredibly deep to see why people thought this was going to be a violent demo. In the book by Craig Rosebraugh (co-founder of arissa and owner of the high end vegan restaurant on Hawthorne?) he states that non-violence has been exhausted and then goes on to rebuke Gandhi's assertion that the Nazi movement could have been stopped by non-violence.
First off non-violent civil disobedience is rarely practiced today mainly because people are afraid of the government and their goon sqad of police(and this on both the radical and the liberal side).
Sometimes saying that 'what's the sence in getting arrested for what you believe in, you only lose your freedom by being behind bars',
I tell you that I would rather lose a very minimal amount of freedom (a stay in jail for your average civil disobedience is from a few hours to a night in jail not much time at all) than to submit to the repressive orders.
And I garuntee that if the city was faced with having to arrest 150-200 people for holding a political demonstration that they would have backed down in a second and given you the street (probabaly blocked traffic for you as well).
The jails and the courts are the city's weak spot...the jail is highly overpopulated and the court has a line out the door and around the corner everyday.

Second the assertion that the Nazi movement could have only been stopped with political violence is the same arguement that the US military uses to talk people out of contientious objection. And if we look at how political violence turned out in this situation with the firebombing of Dresden and atomic bombs being dropped on Japan, I think that it is quite speculative to say that violence worked and non-violence could not have.

Gotta run think on this and reply.

Still a Great Event 26.Apr.2004 11:09


Even with the efforts of sabotage, this was an inspiring event. Thanks to the Arissa organizers and toa ll who showed up! I walked the route, and was really happy to find that we were on mayor katz's doorstep. Good work. And great speakers, especially Alton (?). He ROCKS.

I think it's awesome that at least 200 people showed up for this, given the short notice, sabotage, and fear that the police would kill someone.

It was a good event 26.Apr.2004 11:30

attended both

I also attended both events (Friday and Saturday)

The corporate media and the police are using the black leaders to keep people from being angry and demanding change. At least the Saturday gathering offered some action and hope of future action. If I hear one more prayer that things will change I will scream.

ARISSA is not the scary monster the press makes it out to be. Even I was scared to go. I didn't know what they had in mind and I didn't want the police to shoot me or beat me up. But it was all OK. A couple of speakers were even stirring and going to the mayor's house was a great idea.

I think it's terrific that there were so many police there. It shows just how scared they are of people who want change. They are so very scared.

There is always a tactic by the police/policians to divide movements by racial lines. Whatever. A demand for justice is a good thing no matter what the color of the skin of the people who are shouting the loudest.

And by the way Catwoman and the rest of you who were there on Saturday I've got your back.

P.S. I also have the back of the people who weren't there - it's not easy to see the truth in the face of corporate lies. It's not easy to be brave when armed hooligans are surrounding you. These liberal cowards and radical haters may not help me but I will help them. That's what Jesus would do.

Don't trust Portland Copwatch 26.Apr.2004 11:43


Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch is part of the problem.

He took over the organization and has isolated himself. He does not have the respect or goodwill of the activist community. He doesn't go to gatherings. He doesn't demand change. He doesn't even hit the streets to Copwatch.

Dan is a collaborator. He sits on committees, he talks to the press and he puts himself out there as a copwatch authority. He receives alot of attention but doesn't do anything to insist that the committees are heard, to insist that the changes are implemented or to even document police abuses.

I hold him, JoAnn Bowman and the Albina Ministerial Allaice partly responsible for this most recent murder by the police. They collaborated with the police and the mayor after the Kendra James murder and left the community with the impression that changes were going to happen. Those changes didn't happen partly because they didn't bother to follow through with implementation and partly because the community was mislead by them.

Dan, JoAnn and the AMA doesn't have our backs. To pretend that they do is dangerous - just look at what happened to Perez.

Great commentary, great analysis 26.Apr.2004 12:46


Thanks so much for this concise and accurate piece.

Not sure I'd hang Dan and P Copwatch Just Yet 26.Apr.2004 13:58


I'm revolted by the idea that so-called "activists" would help the police by handing out said flyers. However, I'm unwilling -- for the moment -- to throw Dan Handleman and P Copwatch out with the bathwater.

I've seen some good, solid efforts going on by P Copwatch. This is another group of activists who are working against police violence. And Dan's record, as far as I'm concerned, shows he's doing what he can as well.

I think the jury is still out on whether or not Dan and PCW were involved with the flyers. As was stated above, if they were involved, then that's another apple. But if they weren't, well, I'm not going to help the pigs divide us up any more than I want them to.

Thank you, CatWoman 26.Apr.2004 23:13


You were honest and said you had not seen any of the flyers and you didn't know who produced and distributed them. You even said it was possible that "the families of some victims did not want to be associated".

My opinion, of course, however, that is an important point. Black activists in my neighbourhood worry about white activists taking advantage of black troubles for white adventurism. History supports their misgivings. They especially fear that white adventurism will provoke retribution on the black community. They can cite both history and Leninist theoreticians. I am not saying these reactions are the case, here, but they are reactions to which we must always be sensitive.

Even absent the RealPolitik, there are grieving families, a grieving community. You cast aspersions, projected motives and intentions -- in particular, "dissuading others from standing up to police aggression". Without even asking. Anybody would be upset at you and your comrades. Even if you were completely accurate.

As it turns out, it appears from later comments, somebody else, possibly a genuine traitor to the proletariate, was behind the fliers. There is a good story to go after, despite having bruised your credibility.

I can't let you off that easily 26.Apr.2004 23:18


The optics remain.

You talked to those white politicians.

You talked to "other people whose families were effected".

But you didn't say, "black people".

But you didn't say, that you tried to talk or should have tried to talk to the families you assumed were behind the pamphlets.

Regardless how the people directly involved feel, the whisper rustles in the darkness.

The police state hardly ever bothers to divide the people. When we aren't doing it ourselves, we are asking to have it done.

dont tread on me 27.Apr.2004 00:04


YOU "rustle in the darkness."

hey DIO! 27.Apr.2004 14:56


The only one with "bruised credibility" around here is YOU. Did you even read any of this thread? Geez.

Go lightly on the "comment" button. Wait till you actually have something to say.

check your privilege at the door please 28.Apr.2004 18:07

p. mac. intosh

"The corporate media and the police are using the black leaders to keep people from being angry and demanding change. At least the Saturday gathering offered some action and hope of future action. If I hear one more prayer that things will change I will scream. "

this comment heavily implies that black leaders can't think for themselves. why do the majority of "activists" in portland, pasty white activists, i might add, think they can just jump in this struggle, a struggle that has been going on in earnest since before their pasty butts have been around, and call the shots? how many times have you all been pulled over for driving while black in pdx, or had a family member popped for driving while black? or lynched? the black church has been a steady and constant source of community and resistance since slave times (more effective at some times than others, but always there.)

this is a struggle that belongs to us all, but it is arrogant and racist to pull whitie rank and attempt to shut down or denigrate forms of resistance that come from the black community.