was a beautiful, sunny 84-degree day in downtown Portland...
with the stingingly delicious smell of tear gas and
pepper spray in the air... the nice thing about pepper
spray is that it burns for a long, long time... even
after showering it leaves a big, angry red mark on your
We were hanging out near a bunch of other journalists
during the President Bush protest of August 22... silently
offering support for some of the causes, and curious
as to the response of the Portland Police Department.
I was also on hand during the unfortunate "riot" back
in 2000 when the police response was generally judged
as too harsh and provocative. I'm here to report that
Mayor Vera Katz and Police Chief Mark Kroeker still
have a long way to go in educating their police force
as to appropriate relations with protesters, and the
community in general.
The protest was peaceful... Some harsh words thrown
for wannabe-Governor Kevin Mannix as him and his Republican
cohorts pushed through the crowd to get to their million-dollar
fundraising dinner for Senator Gordon Smith with the
President of the United States. Mannix walked right
by me... he's very short, no more than 5'7"... and he
had his TV make-up on ready for the cameras and the
photo-ops... "You'll never be Governor of THIS state,
jackass." I said to him as he walked by. I really don't
like that guy. The drums were pounding and people were
chanting "Bush sucks! Bush sucks!" but it was generally
calm. People were smiling. They yelled at the dinner
attendees as they walked through, but it was never menacing.
They were being made fun of...because they WERE funny.
Then the riot cops showed up, replacing the 20 or so
bike cops standing guard next to the barriers. In full,
black stormtrooper attire. It was very impressive. They
ran down in single file, then the leader stopped, turned
around and did a double-arm-outstretch maneuver signalling
them to spread out. They all did... About 12 of them...
Standing legs apart, looking very menacing. The crowd
started chanting the Russian-funeral-dirge-like music
from Star Wars, "DUHH DUHH DUHH DUHH-DA-DA, DA-DA-DA-DUMMMM..."
12 more "stormtroopers" did the same routine. It started
to feel a little tense. The chanting got louder. "PEACE-FUL
PRO-TEST! PEACE-FUL PRO-TEST!" Then the stormtroopers
decided to make it a not-so-peaceful day and announced
a "STATE OF EMERGENCY!" from a megaphone, and told everyone
to move back. We were about 10 feet from the front of
the blockade, but we barely heard what they were saying
over the chanting. Before anyone could do anything,
the pepper spray started spraying and the billy clubs
started pounding. They sprayed EVERYONE... cameramen,
journalists, elderly people, kids, us... and immediately
started walking through the crowd hitting people. We
moved quickly down the block to Fifth and Taylor to
get out of the melee. Police cars started coming up
the block the opposite way, sirens blaring... people
couldn't get out of the way fast enough... we moved
down Fifth Avenue and heard two loud pops... we looked
back and saw tear gas fuming up around the intersection...
people were running trying to find water to rinse out
their eyes... everyone was really PISSED off now...
any idea of keeping this peaceful was beyond hope...
All I can say is: Fuck them... Fuck the cops. Fuck
George Bush. Fuck Senator Gordon Smith. Fuck Mayor
Vera Katz. Fuck Police Chief Mark Kroeker. Fuck Kevin
Mannix. Anyone who treats peaceful, law abiding protesters
and media in this manner doesn't deserve to be in
a position of power in this country.
And if you disagree, you just weren't there. I was.