Police Corruption Case Study: Arrest the Latest in Months of Bluehour/PPB Opression
Is the two-foot area on the street next to walls (often blocked by vehicles) in the Pearl warehouse district the only legal public walkway? Is to illegal to use a rolled up piece of paper or plastic to speak through if you can be heard within 100 feet? Should the First Amendment be curtailed if it is simply inconvenient to a business? Should 6-10 officers not direct their attention toward violent crime (in progress or unsolved) on a Saturday night? Are these tactics symptoms of a larger failure by the PPB to consider the rights of citizens equally to those of business?
Bluehour restaurant serves Foie Gras, a paté made of grossly enlarged, diseased goose or duck livers that can only be produced by means of horrible torture.
Foie Gras production is an intolerable cruelty. PDX animal rights activists have been waging a campaign to rid our city of this diseased food since early 2008. So far, 3 restaurants have removed Foie Gras from their menus.
Local animal rights activists first approached the owners of Bluehour months ago. Their plea was for Bluehour restaurant to replace Foie Gras with menu items that were not produced under such cruel conditions. Given that Foie Gras is one of the most torturous and deadly forms of factory farming, this is a goal that many omnivores and vegans can agree with.
Bluehour's initial response has been to ignore these requests. In the past four months, Bluehour has given drunk hecklers raw meat to throw at the activists and free Foie Gras to taunt the activists with. Bluehour management has even hired a man who assaulted several demonstrators. Their staff has been openly hostile, valets have attempted to listen in on conversations of activists, park cars where activists are standing, and use customer's vehicles to purposely block off the activists (often at the risk of damaging the expensive vehicles). Bluehour management has also been spotted laughing as hecklers throw objects and alcoholic beverages at demonstrators.
Within seconds of activists holding signs outside of their restaurant, the management always places white partitions and drapes in front of the windows. Their next step is to call the PPB.
All of this from a restaurant that proclaims at every opportunity (even within an anti-AR handout that they distribute to patrons) that they love the activists showing up because the demonstrations increase sales.
Up until recently, the police have had little involvement with the activists. They have merely observed and asked that the activists to not block the sidewalk or entrance (which they were not). The police then had long conversations with Bluehour management, who at first appear concerned, and then laughing along with the police after a few minutes as they both watch the demonstrators with bemusement.
Times have changed. Over the last month, the police have been enforcing every ordinance that they can find in their little books, and even making up new ones.
About a month ago, a city attorney was on hand (how many times have you gotten the attention of the city attorney's office when you needed a grievance settled?) to observe and advise the police officers on which obscure ordinances they can arrest the demonstrators for.
One area of confusion (for activists and police alike) has been the public walkway. The area around NW 13th and Everett is a converted warehouse district where the sidewalks run right up to dock areas. Pedestrians either walk in the street or on the dock areas. These dock areas connect several businesses and are quite obviously public property. Bluehour uses this area as a balcony. The PPB has been telling demonstrators that they cannot travel in these areas (even though other pedestrians use them freely without police interaction). Demonstrators have also been told that they cannot demonstrate in the street. When Bluehour valets park cars by the demonstrators, they yell at them, honk their horn to move (so that they can strategically park their customers' BMWs and Mercedes in a fashion that makes it impossible for activists to stand), and have even been known to "bump" the pedestrian activists as the PPB admonishes the pedestrian activist and not the driver. When confronted about the fact that pedestrians all over this district walk on the balcony/sidewalks, the police shrug their shoulders. Once, for a few minutes after being questioned as to why the PPB were not threatening everyone who walks in the street, they actually made a few half-hearted attempts to tell the passers-by that they were not allowed to walk off the sidewalks.
Saturday, (09/06/2008) there were about 8 officers on hand (1:1 ratio to peaceful, lawful, unarmed demonstrators). A few officers approached Mike D, who was using a small plastic toy cone, and warned him that the cone was illegal. Mike countered that the device itself produced no sound and was a simple plastic cone. The officers insisted, and Mike challenged them on the topic once more. The officers said that they would not arrest him on that offense and asked him to stop using it.
Next, a conversation ensued between the officers and several of the demonstrators. The officers once more had no clear legal information on where the public walkway was. The officers assumed a very casual "buddy" attitude and tone toward the demonstrators as they took up Bluehour's talking points. They told the demonstrators that Bluehour actually likes activists showing up and that they are not there for Bluehour (even though Bluehour calls them and consults with them for long periods of time). The officers said that they were only responding to nearby residents who wanted to protect their sleeping children from the noise.
Next, the officers tried to convince the activists that their signs were effective enough and questioned the validity of their tactics (because this is the job of a public officer?) by saying that Bluehour's sales were not affected, and that no matter how loud the demonstration was, it was inaudible inside of Bluehour's glass doors. This begs the question of how the sleeping children hundreds or thousands of feet away are disturbed by the demonstrators?
The police concluded by asking the demonstrators to just be decent people and consider others. One demonstrator (Johnson) countered that the issue of resident complaints was likely due to poor city planning, gentrification, and the fact that residences that were positioned on top of restaurants and bars. A second point was made that there were likely many times during now popular movements, such as the civil rights movement, when residents were inconvenienced by the first amendment.
Throughout the night, the officers were seen making calls (likely to superiors and the city attorney) to determine exactly what crime they could charge the activists with.
As the demonstration went forward, a few demonstrators (Mike D, Johnson, and Johnson) walked across the balcony/sidewalk. Mike D was at once detained by the now blue-gloved officers and placed under arrest. Other activists asked the name of the arresting officer, the police replied coyly "We all are". When asked which jail Mike was being taken to, they replied "There is only one".
Mike D was arrested for using a sound producing device that was audible over 100 feet (this is a highly unscientific qualification, one can hear a pin drop from that distance under the right circumstances). The cone itself of course produces no sound of its own, is not an electronic amplification device, and does not make a person's voice louder than it is naturally.
Immediately after Mike was taken away in a cruiser, the officers went around admonishing the demonstrators to not step on the balcony/sidewalk.
This was quite curious, why was a demonstrator arrested for using a toy that he was previously told he would not be arrested for using? Why were the officers now admonishing activists to not stand on the balcony/sidewalk?
The situation now became more curious as officers stood on the balcony/sidewalk guarding against the demonstrators entering, while passers-by walked past unmolested. Over the next 15 minutes, an independent film maker stood filming next to several of the officers on the balcony (in a position that certainly would have resulted in an arrest for one of the activists).
The activists concluded that the officers and city attorney do want wish to actually have to enforce the balcony/sidewalk as private property, because in fact, it is not.
The ramifications of a ruling in this matter could change the dynamic of demonstrations dramatically.
The ramifications of Mike D's arrest are unclear. Are citizens now disallowed from using a rolled-up piece of paper or any other conical device near their mouths if their speech can be heard 100 feet away?
These events may seem minor compared to the grand spectacle of police brutality at the 2008 RNC, or the overall intimidation of activists by federal agencies (see greenisthenewred.com), but they represent a continuing failure of law enforcement to "protect and serve" citizenry.
When officers are acting in ways that are meant to intimidate demonstrators, when they have to scour field ordinance handbooks at length and consult the city attorney's office to find possible infractions, it is clear that the focus is not on law enforcement.
There are serious crimes occurring in Portland on any given Saturday night, and the victims of those crimes are being slighted by a police force that is instead giving an inordinate amount of resources to intimidation of those who are exercising their First Amendment rights.
Demonstrations against Foie Gras cruelty are held weekly at Bluehour. All who are concerned with ending cruelty towards animals, protection of the Constitution, and having city officials serve citizens are urged to attend.
250 NW 13th Ave
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