Silenced in Jacksonville
Trish reports on what happened in her hometown when Bush came to visit.
Silenced by the President
>> > By Trish Bowcock
>> > Oct. 16, 2004
>> > A few weeks before my father died, he woke me in the wee hours of the
>> > morning. He needed to talk. He was worried about Attorney General John
>> > Ashcroft and the destruction of American civil liberties. I comforted
>> > my father, believing he was delusional from medications. I was wrong.
>> > I write this from my home in Jacksonville Oregon (population 2,226).
>> > President George W. Bush came here this week. The purpose of his visit
> was political. Southern Oregon has been deemed a "battle ground" area in
>> > presidential race. John Kerry has made incredible inroads in this
>> > traditionally Republican stronghold. President Bush's campaign stop was
> an attempt to staunch the slide.
>> > Jacksonville is an old gold mining town. Our main street is only five
>> > blocks long, lined with restored storefronts. The sidewalks are narrow.
>> > We are a peaceful community. The prospect of an overnight presidential
>> > visit was exciting, even to me, a lifelong Democrat. My excitement
> turned to horror as I watched events unfold during President Bush's visit.
>> > In the mid-1800s, when Indians invaded Jacksonville, citizens clambered
>> > upon the roof of the old library. It was the one building that would
>> > not
>> > catch fire when flaming arrows were shot. This week it was a different
>> > scene.
>> > Police armed with high powered rifles perched upon our rooftops as the
>> > presidential motorcade approached. Helicopters flew low, overhead. A
> cadre of motorcycle police zoomed into town. Black SUVs followed,
>> > several black limousines carrying the president, his wife and their
>> > entourage as they sped to the local inn where they would eat and
>> > sleep.
>> > The main street was lined with people gathered to witness the event.
> Many supported the president. Many did not. Some came because they were
> simply curious. There were men, women, young and old.
>> > The mood was somewhat festive. Supporters of John Kerry sported signs,
> as did supporters of George Bush. Individuals, exercising their rights of
> free speech began chanting. On one side of the street, shouts of
>> > "four more years" echoed in the night air. On the other side of the
> street, chants of "three more weeks" responded. The chants were loud and
> apparently could be heard by President Bush. An order was issued that the
>> > rhetoric be quieted. The local SWAT team leapt to action.
>> > It happened fast. Clad in full riot gear, at least 50 officers moved
>> > in.
>> > Shouting indecipherable commands from a bullhorn, they formed a chain
> and bore down upon the people, only working to clear the side of the
>> > appearing to be occupied by Kerry supporters. People tried to get out
> of their way. It was very crowded. There was nowhere to move. People were
>> > being crushed. They started flowing into the
>> > streets.
>> > Pleas to the officers, asking, "where to go" fell upon deaf ears.
>> > Instead, riot police fired pellets of cayenne pepper spray into the
> crowd. An old man fell and couldn't get up. When a young man stopped to
> he was shot in the back with hard pepper spray balls. Children were hit
> with pepper spray. Deemed "Protesters" people were shoved and herded down
>> > street by the menacing line of armed riot police, until out of the
>> > President's ear-shot.
>> > There the "Protesters" were held at bay. Anyone vocalizing anti-Bush or
>> > pro-Kerry sentiments were prohibited from venturing forward. Loud
> anti-Bush chants were responded to by the commanding officer stating:
> to which the entire line of armed police would move, lock-step, toward the
>> > "Protesters," forcing backward movement. Police officers circulated
> filming the crowd of "Protesters." Some were people like me, quiet
>> > women. Some sported anti-Bush signs, peace signs, or Kerry signs. A
> small group of youth, clad in black with kerchiefs wrapping their heads
> chanted slogans. A young woman in her underwear, sporting a peace sign
> sang a
>> > lyrical Kumbaya. Mixed among the "Protesters" were supporters of the
>> > President. One 19 year- old man shouted obscenities at anyone
>> > expressing
>> > dissatisfaction with the president, encouraging the police to "tazar"
> the "Stinking Protesters."
>> > Neither the "Protestors," nor the police harassed this vocal young man.
>> > Across the street, individuals shouting support for the president were
>> > allowed to continue. Officers monitored this group but allowed them to
>> > shout words of support or hurl derisions toward Kerry supporters,
>> > undisturbed. Honking cars filled with Bush supporters were left alone.
>> > A honking car full of Kerry supporters was stopped by police on its way
>> > out of town.
>> > The standoff with "Protesters" continued until the President finished
> his dinner and was secured in his hotel cottage for the night. Only then
> were the riot police ordered to "mount-up," leaping upon the sideboard of
>> > huge SUV, pulling out of town, and allowing "free speech" to resume.
>> > In small town America I witnessed true repression and intimidation by
> law enforcement. I saw small children suffering from the effects of being
> fired upon by pepper bullets. I felt legitimate fear of expressing my
> political opinions: a brand new feeling. Newspaper accounts state the
> started when a violent "Protester" shoved a police officer. No one I
> talked to
>> > witnessed this account.
>> > It is reputed that President Bush and his staff will not allow any
>> > opposition activity to occur within his ear or eye sight. I can
>> > confirm,
>> > that in tiny Jacksonville, Oregon, this was true. Physically violent
> means were taken to protect the president from verbal insults.
>> > Freedom of speech was stolen.
>> > My father was not paranoid as he lay dying. He was expressing great
>> > insight into the dangers of our current presidential administration and
> its willingness to repress personal freedoms. If I could talk to my father
>> > today, I would say, "I am sorry Daddy for doubting you." And, no
>> > matter what, I will continue to exercise my individual right to freely
>> > express my opinions. Americans cannot take four more years
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article