I left the office today at 5:15. It was sunny, but cool. I walked up SW Third Avenue to the Edith Green-Wendall Wyatt Federal Building, where a mass act of civil disobedience was taking place. Early this morning, a group of about 20 peace activists entered Senator Ron Wyden's office in the building and refused to leave. They wanted to inform the senator that he needs to show more effective leadership. The action was supported by a small group of allies who maintained a vigil on the street corner outside beginning around 8:00 this morning.
People had been phoning reports in to the Portland Legal Defense Network all day and the PLDN had published the reports on Portland Indymedia. I followed the story line through the day by clicking on the website every hour or so. I was eager to go down there all day.
As a legal observer, I attempted to enter the Federal Building through the front door at 5:20pm. The doors were locked and three Federal Protective Service and Homeland Security officers stared lazily through the glass at me when I knocked on the window and signaled "WTF?" One of them gave me a rather ominous finger-across-the-throat sign to signal they were closed. Finally one of them sauntered over to the glass and mouthed to me that there was no freaking way I was getting in the building.
Moving to Plan B, I looked around and found the group of on-street supporters clustered on the corner next to Terry Schrunk Plaza, home of the erstwhile Portland Peace Encampment. I walked over and made a few connections with people to get the scoop.
Their comrades indoors had peacefully occupied Wyden's office all day. I do not know their specific requests or demands of Wyden, though I am sure it relates to the war on Iraq and how it needs to end. They had asked that at least one National Lawyers Guild legal observer be allowed to come up to the office to witness the proceedings, but Wyden's staff and the Homeland Security police refused.
On the street it was believed that the people inside were going to be ticketed and escorted from the building at 5:30. Everyone outside was talking in small groups and each of us kept looking at the front door every few seconds. Dozens of government staffers exited the building, but there was no sign of any of the demonstrators. People passing by in their cars honked their horns and threw peace signs. After a while, someone offered me a cookie.
About 6:30, I was standing with a friend that works at the IRS office in the Federal Building. I had not seen him in four years so when I saw him walk out of the building, I ran to catch up with him. While we were talking, I glanced over and saw the entire group of twenty walking up Main Street from the side door of the building. Each of them held a ticket summoning them to federal court on June 2. They are charged with some federal crime, but I do not know what it is or what the possible penalties are. I am sure they will mount a vigorous defense to the charges.