portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting portland metro

actions & protests | government | imperialism & war m19 2006

Report Back from Wyden Sit In

.
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.
Postscript 20.Mar.2006 22:30

Witness

I forgot to mention:

Last time I visited Ron Wyden's Portland office, it was in a commercial office building near Lloyd Center Mall. I entered the building, rode the elevator up, walked in the front door of his office, and started talking to his staffer. This time I was greeted with disdain by a group of heavily armed Homeland Security police and refused all entry. Somehow I don't think this "subtle" change is lost on Wyden.

One other thing: I was only there for an hour, but I did not see a single Portland cop. That's new.

I dont think the PPB 21.Mar.2006 07:03

was too interested

Altho I have no evidence one way or the other I have a sneaking suspicion that PPB is not inclined to deal with any matter in Terry Schrunk Plaza or the environs of the Federal Building. There are jurisdictional issues and it's easier to stay out of those if you dont cross the boundary lines.

They are afraid of us 21.Mar.2006 10:22

peaceful protester

When you walked in to Wyden's office over near Lloyd Center, you probably did not call ahead and say that you were coming with 19 other people to discuss his abysmal voting record on the Iraq war. and that you did not plan to leave until he met with you.
Thus, the difference in welcomes.

The Charge 21.Mar.2006 11:49

Gabe

In my opinion the reason we were left in the building until 5:30 was because there is no federal trespass laws and they (Homeland Security) wanted to give us a federal charge. Also now the Senetor does not look as bad. They can say "We aloud them to stay, and we even talked to them. However they cant stay in the building when it is closed." The Senetor might do horrible things but his staff is not stupid. The federal charge was Comformity with signs and Directions. Seems weird "Comformity"? Did they just charge us with comforming to what they said? It seems like it should be like failure to conform, I dont know. Anyway thank you to all those people who were there when we came out.