The Feds were watching for us, so it took a little creativity to all be able to get into the office which was on the 5th floor. 19 people entered in pairs and spread out over the entire building and yet we managed to converge on Wyden's office right when homeland security vacated their watch of Wyden's front door. The power of peace was with us.
We entered the office and were immediatly greeted by office staff.
We explained that we had come to speak to the senator, but were told that he was not there.
A few minutes later, Wyden's chief of staff (Josh Kardon) came out to speak to us.
We then delivered nearly 2000 signatures from Oregonians who were demanding that he bring forth legislation to bring the troops home. After a few minutes of back and forth dialogue and the usual spin that has come to be expected from Wyden's office, Kardon became somewhat agitated with our refusal to accept his clever attempts to dodge our inquires about the senator's position on the war and our demand to speak with the senator. When we asked about whether he was aware of Earl Blumenauer's legislation to bring the troops home, he said he thought he might have read something, but wasn't sure. We felt this was indicative of Wyden's disconnect with his constituancy and fellow lawmakers.
Despite our respectful pleas, he refused to contact the senator by phone so that we could talk directly to him. He then told us that he had a meeting to go to, but that we were welcome to remain in the office until it closed. I don't think he expected us to do that, but we did. Prior to the action we all signed pledges of non-violence that were very specific as to how we would conduct ourselves and we remained true to that pledge throughout the entire sit in.
Homeland security arrived shortly after our discussion with Wyden's chief of staff began. They propped open the door and stood outside waiting for the call to remove us from the office, which never came.
We all took our places in various spots in the very small entry way to the office.
Some of us sat on chairs, but most sat on the floor.
What took place next was both surreal and bizarre!
A representative from Homeland security (introduced himself as "Lane") came in and began to ask us what our plans were. We informed him we were not leaving until we could talk to the senator. This gentleman was exceedingly kind and understanding and told us he had just returned from Iraq the previous year and he seemed to have alot of empathy for the suffering of the people there. He allowed us to go to the bathroom and return to the office and checked in periodically to make sure we were all ok.
No. I'm not kidding.
After some discussion he left and then returned a short time later and asked if we would be willing to have 4 people leave so that the press and legal observers could come up to the office.
After discussing this among the group, we determined that it was not necessary for anyone to leave and that legal observers and the press could stand outside the office and do their jobs just fine.
We were then asked if some of us could sit outside of the office on chairs so that people who had business with the office could get in and out. After more discussion among the group, we felt they were trying to break us down incrementally by first telling us we could remain in the office all day (in an attempt to get us tired so we would leave) and then trying to reduce our numbers by offering deals.
We decided to stay put in solidarity but agreed to move out of the way if someone wanted to get in the office. This was in an attempt to remain true to our non-violent pledge, but there was never a visitor to the office from the time we entered until we left.
Finally, the Homeland security officer (ICE) came in about 3pm and said the office staff had changed it's mind and wanted us removed to allow people into the office. We held fast to our demand to speak to the senator and refused to leave. He then attempted to negotiate the terms of our arrest by offering us citations which he claimed was the same as an arrest. We all agreed we would not simply take a citation and leave, but that we would have to be forceably removed.
We then began to sing "Down by the riverside" in unison!
He returned a short time later and told us he would give us until the building closed to leave at which time we would be arrested if we refused. The office staff left at 5 and were replaced by another federal officer who stood behind the office desks watching over us while a female fed video taped us over and over and over again. Once 05:30 rolled around he came back in and read a statment where he told us we had three minutes to leave or we would be arrested. This was all being recorded.
They then began arresting people in pairs, at which time they photographed us, ran our identification, and issued us citations for failure to obey an officer. We were then forceably removed from the building and dumped out on the side of the street.
We told them we would be back. They smiled and said "We know!"
Our support group was still waiting for us in front of Terry Shrunk park and they cheered as we all hugged and the long day was done at last.
All in all, a very strange day with Homeland security!