The Smith/Bush police riot of 2002: Five years later, lessons learned.

By Aaron Varhola and Alejandro Queral of Portland, Oregon. Aaron is on the board of directors, and Alejandro is the executive director, of the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center.

Portland2002Last week marked the fifth anniversary of the now infamous attacks by the Portland Police on peaceful Americans exercising their right to free speech while protesting George W. Bush's appearance at a Gordon Smith campaign fund-raiser in downtown Portland.

In what came to be know as A22, Portland police, many clad in black riot gear, clubbed, pepper-sprayed and shot rubber bullets at nonviolent citizens exercising their Constitutional rights to free speech, much like Southern police officers used fire hoses, tear gas, and police dogs on peaceful marchers during the Civil Rights marches of the 1960s.

Among those caught in the police-induced melee included a TV camerawoman, a family of five who were attempting to leave the protest, as well as dozens of other peaceful protesters, many of whom didn't know what was happening until they were doused with pepper spray. Three members of the Independent Police Review Division observing the police tactics also experienced the burn-in-the-eyes and confusion after they too were soaked with chemicals. The police's 'push and spray' tactics were apparently intended to move the protestors away from the target of their protest.

The lawsuit that ensued took over two years to settle and more than $800,000 of taxpayer money. Eventually, the city implicitly recognized police officers had made mistakes which resulted in serious violations of Americans' Constitutional and civil rights. Yet, none of the officers who committed the worst abuses on that day were ever disciplined. In fact, some officers were promoted, despite the serious allegations that their actions violated the Constitutional rights of members of our community. This lack of accountability has left many in the community feeling like the only possible recourse to redress their constitutional rights is through the courts. But what happens if you cannot afford a lawyer, or if the attorney you're trying to retain on a contingency basis (i.e. she only gets paid if you win) determines your case is not worth the risk and turns your case down? The answer lies in a civilian-based oversight system that is independent of the police.

In 2001, Portland created the so-called 'Independent' Police Review division in order to 'help improve police accountability, promote higher standards of police services, and increase public confidence.' But as long as IPR continues to have all complaints of police misconduct investigated by the Police Bureau's own Internal Affairs Division, and as long as IPR lacks the power to compel testimony from witnesses, including officers, public confidence in the process will not materialize. Fortunately, City Council has recently hired an independent contractor to evaluate IPR's performance. The NW Center hopes to see a series of recommendations based on the following principles.

First, the oversight body must be independent and free from conflict of interest, particularly when conducting investigations. It must also have the power to conduct hearings, subpoena witnesses and report findings and recommendations to the public, and must have complete access to police witnesses and documents.

Second, the police oversight body must have access to information from the city and the police bureau which will aid it in addressing policy considerations as efficiently and quickly as possible.

Third, the oversight system must conduct open hearings, which are essential for enhancing public confidence in the process, and should address problems with current policies through hearings and other fora for developing policy reforms.

Fourth, the police oversight system must have a staff and members of the citizen committee that are broadly representative of the community it serves. The oversight body must also have adequate levels of funding and should not be a lower budget priority than police internal affairs systems.

Finally, the oversight board must have the power to recommend disciplinary measures for officers that engage in unlawful conduct or violate internal bureau policy.

The recent firing of Lt. Jeffrey Kaer by Mayor Potter and the suspension of Officer Hythum Ismail also illustrates the need for a consistent police review system with teeth. Only through the establishment of a truly independent and impartial police oversight body will the public's confidence in the process be restored. This is the first step toward rebuilding the community's trust in the police, and the only way by which we will prevent another A22.

  • Meg Ramirez (unverified)

    I'd like to thank Aaron Varhola and Alejandro Queral for this piece and for reminding us of both A22 and the need for a truly independent review board that has some teeth.

    What, if anything, is being done to try to implement any of the four excellent suggestions given above? Is there any movement afoot?

  • Peter Bray (unverified)

    I was at that event. I remember being surrounded by police... I tried to walk up one street, and there was a line of cops with masks on. I walked to the other street, another line of cops. I asked if I could go by... they said nothing.

    A mother and father and a newborn baby were next to me. I believe they were aparty to the eventual lawsuit. They tried to get by. They pleased with the cops. The cops said nothing. A few of us hung back by the cops... well, the cops started marching forward...

    I ran into the nearest Kinkos and got online. Pepper spray was flying outdoors... I felt a bit guilty for sitting in the air conditioned Kinkos, but, shit, who wants to be sprayed?!

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    There is little mention of the riot by the sheriff's posse in Klamath Falls, when they rode down on a group of Klamath Indians and other citizens who were at the A-Canal gate. The posse was there to intimidate them and get them out of the way to allow a group of vigilantee farmers, in violation of federal law, who were opening the gate to let water into the canal against court order. There was no protection from local or state or federal authorities against the onslaught of the Klamath County sheriff's deputies. A friend of mine was there and that was the moment she decided that a group of thugs were now in control in Klamath County and she was going to move as soon as she could. Senator Smith's (and Karl Rove's) support of those thugs and their lawlessness should be a campaign issue.

  • Rebel (unverified)

    Oh Tre Arrow we need you.

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: Rebel | Aug 30, 2007 7:54:23 AM Oh Tre Arrow we need you.

    The fuck we do.

  • raul (unverified)

    The big issue is the military type arms that are being purchased by police departments. It also reflects in their attitudes- and the " War on ---- " mentality.

    Police officers are not soldiers, and the mindset between a soldier ( sworn to kill enemies and win wars ) and a police officer ( paid to protect citizens and uphold civil order ) should be worlds apart.
     Getting the police officers out of their cars and into the community would do wonders when it comes to law enforcement. Remember the beat cop? They were allowed to interact both positively AND negatively with citizens, as opposed to racing to the nearest bad guy.
      Removing the culture of omerta ( silence and protection ) in bureau would also be a big help. The rights of the citizenry should be more important than protecting your buddy's job-
      Also, maybe a class on The Constitution and the value of The Bill of Rights, and an annual refresher class- with maybe a dose of history and the reason our founding fathers  ( and dare I say mothers ) drafted these documents.
    Maybe these officers thought they were doing good work? Maybe they need to fear disrupting the American process at the peril of losing their jobs, and maybe their own freedoms?
  • Joe Smith (unverified)

    I introduced legislation in the 2005 session (HB 2427) which directly addressed the needs Aaron and Alejandro aptly describe. Since my term expired when the legislature convened (and my friends weren't in charge!)I was unable to push for its consideration. I hope someone takes it up again in 2009. You can find the language of the bill through the legislature's website.

  • (Show?)

    Personally, I come away with an entirely different lesson: if you want to be effective, don't let yourself be filtered through the media - go door to door.

    I mean really, what do all these great big protests do? Sure, it's fun to vent. But in terms of changing voter's minds? Worthless.

    The reason is simple. The only way anyone even knows about this is through the news. Or maybe I should put it the way Tom Tomorrow does - the Action McNews Network! Seriously, if there is a way to smear you on TV, the networks will find it.

    So canvass instead! Canvass canvass canvass. Consider it your own personal one or two person protest, except you actually get to talk to people without the filter. Studies show that for every 14 contacts you make, you change one vote. It sounds bad, but it's the most effective means of political communication by far.

    Yeah, yeah, police riot... blatant miscarriage of justice... etc, etc... The point is that these corrupt Republican police can only use tear gas when they have the modicum of an excuse (they can't follow you around spraying tear gas all over residential neighborhoods, after all). So don't give them one.

  • DAN GRADY (unverified)


    We the beloved and honorable Americans,we freedom loving Americans, we protectors of democracy, we Americans.

    We are indeed Americans, yet are we truly freedom loving protectors of democracy, do we project honor, and are we beloved anymore?

    Why? Do you really need to know? Do you need anyone to tell you? If you read, and post on this blog, I dare say you don't!!

    So, I beg my fellow Americans to recognize that if you are a registered Republican that you rejoin America the free, home of the brave, and VOTE FOR A DEMOCRAT!

    Yes, the Democrats need a back bone, but a super majority in both houses, and a Democrat in the White House for a couple of terms will do it. If they don't roll back the distortions in our constituitional and representative democracy, then I will be the first in line to vote for whomever will!

    Happy Thoughts;

    Dan Grady

  • Anon (unverified)

    Remember that Gordon Smith and/or his staffers had two elderly women arrested at Smith's Portland office because they had the audacity to demand answers to their questions about the Iraq War. Those women spent the day in jail.

  • Dave Mazza (unverified)

    Thanks to Aaron and Alejandro for this piece that reminds us how "un-progressive" Portland is when it comes to how we police our city.

    The IPR was the fruit of Mayor Vera Katz' effort to block the creation of real police accountability in Portland. Following another police riot - the May Day 2000 debacle -Mayor Katz appointed a blue ribbon committee that spent several months researching review boards around the nation. At the same time, some of us, skeptical of the mayor's commitment, launched a ballot initiative campaign - PAC 2000 - to place on the ballot a measure that would have created a civilian police review board built around the same criteria Aaron and Alejandro have cited. When the mayor's own committee recommended a structure similar to PAC 2000's, she announced she wasn't bound by their findings. In a move to pre-empt the ballot initiative campaign, she charged city auditor Gary Blackmer with pulling together a proposal that would mollify some of the critics while taking the steam out of the ballot measure campaign. A skilled politician, Mayor Katz achieved her goal of averting a political disaster for her administration, but at the coast of saddling Portland with an ineffectual review board that pays lip service to the idea of police accountability.

    As Aaron and Alejandro point out, the IPR has consistently failed to curb police misconduct in Portland. It could not do otherwise, being a solution to a political problem rather than to a problem of injustice.

    Portland's progressive community needs to support the NWCCR's efforts to build real police accountability in Portland. That means real support - donations, volunteer time, speaking to our friends, neighbors and families about the importance of these issues. It also means holding our elected officials accountable for their failure to create the same in our police bureau.

    Dave Mazza Local Writer and Chief Petitioner of the PAC 2000 and PAC 2002 campaigns.

  • (Show?)

    I wasn't down there that evening as I actually had to be a class I was helping to teach then. Somehow I'm glad I wasn't seeing as though it got so nasty.

    Hopefully some improvements come from this terrible event including oversight.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    So, free speech cost me and you almost $1,000,000.

    Just don't post any images of the Portland Police in their leather hoods, we beg you!

    It'll just turn-on fat, creepy, balding, white, geezer Republicans, in Boise and here on the AM radio dial.

    The stories I could tell... but won't.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    I mean really, what do all these great big protests do? Sure, it's fun to vent. But in terms of changing voter's minds? Worthless.

    Like the WTO protests in Seattle, the civil rights marches in the South, the crowd in the Washington Mall when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I have a dream" speech 40 years ago, the strikes along the waterfronts in 1934, the protests led by Viktor Yuschenko in Ukraine, etc. Never achieved a thing.

  • (Show?)

    You think the Seattle WTO protests were successful, Bill? OK, well I guess you can believe anything if you try hard enough. But back in my neck of the woods, the WTO is stronger than ever. That whole protest backfired as soon as the anarchists started smashing storefront windows.

    And please don't attempt to equate a relatively small band of activists whose main goal is to shout down politicians (no matter how deserving are of such treatment), with mass popular movements headed by overwhelmingly charismatic leaders giving legendary political speeches. You got your heart in the right place, Bill, but you ain't no Martin Luther King.

    And quite frankly, if MLK had given his speech in today's media environment, all the public would have heard on T.V. would be "I have a dream" followed by an immediate cut-away to Anne Coulter in the studio screeching "He's so liberal, he's asleep!".

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: Bill Bodden | Aug 30, 2007 4:33:54 PM

    The WTO protests in Seattle set back efforts to address the problems and concerns the protest was ostensibly being staged for. You might argue that it was due to subversive non-aligned agitators and anarchists which screwed things up, but the Seattle protest has turned a lot of the legitimate arguments and concerns about organizations like the WTO into a political punch-line and dismissible in the minds of many.

    The last protest in this country which made a rats ass difference was nearly 35 years ago (Vietnam) and even then it is mixed on what effect it had in changing public opinion in opposition to the war.

    Changing minds is done much more effectively door-to-door and neighbor-to-neighbor as mentioned up-thread.

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: Steven Maurer | Aug 30, 2007 5:09:59 PM


  • Israel Bayer (unverified)


    I'm not going to try to argue you on the point that marches, etc. don't change a thing, but what I can tell you is that my experience at the WTO changed my life and many people's lives that have since dedicated their lives to activism. The WTO woke me up to those history book examples, and you can't argue that direct action hasn't contributed to numerous postivie changes in our lives. It's a revolution of the heart, and if you've never experienced that you probably aren't going to get what those events did for countless people that have gone on to be a part of something special.

    Right now more than ever we need balenced accountability. The marches sometimes bring out certain aspects of behavior for certian individuals with law enforcement, but if you are poor, addicted, etc. you feel that every day. It may not be always by the boot, but regardless if you are being asked nicely, or being forced to do something - discrimination is discrimination. In the context of drug-free zones, criminalization of the homeless, war on drugs, etc. - it's our policy makers that have put police in the awkward circumstances of carrying out laws that violate human rights.

    In the context of certain individual officers that cross the line. They should be punished the same way any of us would if we handled a peaceful circumstance with violence. Police officers put their asses on the line every day of the week, but so do social workers, firemen, etc., etc. and it's not acceptable for those professions to use violence to defuse a potential circumstance.

    We must be fair to officers, but it also has to fair to the people they serve...

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    Posing demonstrations against canvassing is a false opposition. Why do candidates hold rallies? Because there are things that come from gathering together. But as the current situation of the anti-war movement shows, reliant as it has been on mass demonstrations, Steve Maurer has a point, especially if you want legislators to do something.

    It's not quite clear if Steve is advocating canvassing in a social movement context, or saying that movement activists should canvass in Democratic Party campaign contexts. It is worth noting that social movements that aim to change opinions as well as express them sit uneasily with "professional" politics that tends to put winning elections as the foremost goal and to tailor rhetoric and aims to conform to perceived current opinion.

    It also is worth noting that Earl Blumenauer, Tom Potter and Carolyn Tomei among other elected officials all thought it worth their while to address the last big anti-war rally in Portland. So, rallies, canvassing, lobbying, going to hearings -- both/and, all of the above.

    Steve's insouciant dismissal of police violence and his recommendation "not to give them an excuse" by not gathering at all is disturbing. The right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition for the redress of grievances is one of a number of fundamental constitutional rights under severe assault at present. Gathering does not give the police any excuse to violate our rights. An opportunity is not an excuse. We should not give an inch toward any implication that such police abuses are justified. We should insist on our rights by exercising them.

    If I'm not mistaken, Raul is one of BO's libertarian conservative interveners? I concur with his remarks. Portland's particular embodiment of the nationwide militarization of policing was greatly accelerated under Police Commissioner/Mayor Katz and ex-L.A. Chief Mark Kroeker. In addition to a genuinely independent review board, it would be worth having a broadly participatory police policy review process to re-evaluate methods, tactics, equipment, and prescriptions for action with a view to reversing inappropriate militarization. This and related issues form ground on which libertarians and human rights-oriented liberal/left progressives need to increase cooperation.

    Dave Mazza, in addition to providing useful history, also is spot on as far as I am concerned. Like him and others I'd thank Aaron & Alejandro for the original article.

  • DJD (unverified)

    To Raul: Soldiers are not only sworn to do war, they are PAID to do war. In fact study after study shows that the main reason the majority of kids join the military is travel (they need money to do that) and money/college money; they could care less about freedom and democracy. And police are not just paid to enforce laws, they are SWORN to enforce laws. They swear an oath, and they sign an ethics pledge. And the police can go to jail if they dont follow "LAWFUL ORDERS" from those appointed to give them orders, just like soldiers.

  • DJD (unverified)

    Why don't you all quit knocking the police. Since they are doing such a horrible job, well heck, why don't you all just go to the City of Portland HR website, and sign up to take the next hiring test. The Portland Police and many other local agencies (Clackamas and Washington Counties come to mind) are going through a massive hiring right now due to retirements and expansion. They would love to have you. They love having fresh, bright and motivated officers on thier staffs who are fully ready to implement the great concept of community policing and other community empowerment based policing ideas. So instead of complaining, do something. They pay real good, all the training is free and you make lifelong friends. Go for it!

  • (Show?)
    But back in my neck of the woods, the WTO is stronger than ever. That whole protest backfired as soon as the anarchists started smashing storefront windows.

    The one bad apple theory. And people keep saying it's the leftists who are into purity.

    So that's the fault of the thousands upon thousands of other people who went to Seattle to protest? The labor unions and environmental groups and human rights activists are all discredited because you allow the story of a few anarchists to color your view of the WTO protests?

    Could you turn that around and say that the Democratic party is wholly tainted by the actions of a few Blue Dog Democrats in Congress? That one or two conservative Democrats in the Senate basically mean that Democratic principles mean nothing? I mean, there's a higher percentage of conservative Democratic Senators in Congress who voted for the FISA bill last month than there were anarchist protesters at the WTO protests.

  • (Show?)

    Look Chris, I'm not excusing the behavior of felons who happen to be wearing a police uniform. I'm just asking people to think about their ultimate goal.

    It it to feel good? Or actually change things?

    Now Israel's experience of having his life changed by the WTO protests is a moving testimonial, and if those protests turned a single life of inactive political frustration into one of dedicated positive activism, then I can't call them entirely wasted. But still, that's the exception rather than the rule. Hundreds of Political and Social Science studies show that canvassing is productive, while protests are quite often counterproductive.

    Nor is Protests vs Canvassing a "false choice". No matter what your level of involvement, everybody's time is finite. All political activities are, by definition, competing for the same resource - you - so if your goal is to actually change things then every political action you could take needs to be measured against each another for effectiveness.

    In fact, a lot of it already has. As I already said, it takes 14 human contacts to change one vote. But it takes about 130 phone calls to do the same thing. So which is better? (Trick question - it depends: phoning can be so much faster and cheaper in rural areas that it makes up for lack of effectiveness.)

    But I can tell you this: political protests are so shaky and fraught with risk that just about every political consultant runs away from them as fast as they can. And the fact that progressives have for years engaged in such amateur-hour antics, instead of doing the things that actually work, is one reason why conservatives have been able to win election after election, despite the fact that 80% of the public agrees with our positions.

    I'm kind of tired of that. Howard Dean is too. Which is why he's pushing his Neighbor to Neighbor program, not a "Scream Uselessly Two Blocks Away From the Bush Fund-raiser so you can get smeared as kooks by your local FOX affiliate" program.

    The change is strategy seems to be working, too.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    Steve: Your problem is that you cherry pick facts that suit your agenda and ignore others. You didn't by any chance pose as "DJ" a while ago, did you? He had the same modus operandum. As others have indicated, the WTO gatherings had an effect. They were followed by the G-8 protests in Europe so that that organization now practically looks for some closet where they won't be bothered by protesters.

    What about the other examples I suggested. The civil rights marches and the gathering in the Washington Mall where Martin Luther King, Jr. had a historic impact. (And, what in your peculiar way of thinking caused you to have such an absurd idea as to think I might have been equating myself with MLK, Jr? Did you think you might score a point even if you had to stoop to a tactic like that?)

    Too bad, Ghandhi wasted all those rallies trying to get independence from Britain. It's still a British colony, isn't it? Maybe if Hitler's brownshirts had gone door-to-door with leaflets instead of their mass rallies, Hitler might have become chancellor of the Third Reich. I can just see your mind working on this one, Steve, thinking I'm advocating a fascist takeover.

  • Croqued Messr Te (unverified)

    There are no parallels between Portland in 2002 and the civil rights abuses of the 1960's. None.

    To suggest otherwise only serves to diminish the insitutionalized racism and brutality of the police departments and KKK members/apologists that gleefully observed those abuses.

    Civil dissent and free speech rights do not include trying to intimidate (pushing, spitting, blocking access) to the Bush supporters who were trying to enter the hotel fundraiser. The courts have upheld the city's right to require permits in advance of demonstrations, especially those that pose a hazard to the general public and seek to block the roads and rail systems.

    We only have to look back to those subsequent protests which spilled over to I-5 and many downtown bridges to understand the risks of unfettered protest.

    Your free speech rights do have limits.

  • (Show?)

    Steve, my ultimate goal is to change things. More proximate goals toward that include feeling good. If people don't feel good about what they're doing, they won't do it. Feeling good is not a bad thing.

    The secret a lot of people don't know is that canvassing and phone banking can make you feel good, because you feel like you've done something substantial. If you want to get more people to do the face to face work, I'd suggest not saying you have to choose between feeling good and being effective. Another false opposition.

    Rather, focus on how good it feels when you've done something effective. And also how good it feels to connect to people personally about things that matter.

    As to time, I am looking at it differently than you though I'm not sure we couldn't come to an agreement. For someone like you, who already is committed and dedicated to politics, I won't argue with your evaluation of how you best spend your time. But most of the people who turn out for demos aren't committed or dedicated to politics that way. You're right that demos are relatively easy -- and that's all the many people have time for.

    More importantly, most of them are afraid of canvassing or even phone banking. When people don't even know their neighbors (maybe less of an issue in small-town or rural places than in cities and suburbs, but a big problem those places, which is where most of the people are), it's not so surprising. Our media and electoral culture also encourages cynicism and treats politics as dirty business. Bothering people about it is made to seem impolite, rather than coming together for civic concern. And if you haven't done it, canvassing or phone banking can sound as if it's going to be repetitive and boring.

    So for me there is a process question about how you get people into doing that work. Most of the younger people I have known (from college, grad school and when I used to teach college) who have gotten into serious organizing oriented politics -- whether electoral or union organizing -- started with going to demos. The people who drew them in deeper were the organizers who first showed them that even turning out a decent demo takes organizing. Then they got them into the face-to-face and follow-up phone calling work bit by bit. Gradually they learned not to be afraid of it. They learned not only about its effectiveness measured in some technocratic way, but that it is profoundly more democratic than either mass media politics or mass demonstration politics.

    Done right, it increases the sense of power and potential ability to affect things for both activists and those who they engage and draw into more activity.

    It seems to me that one of the genius' of the Bus Project is that it tries deliberately to create visible, structured path for such development.

    Variants of that kind of process involving a wider age-range also appears in most historical social movements that have made institutional change. The Civil Rights Movement made Martin Luther King, Jr., not the other way around. In Montgomery, Alabama, the bus boycott had been planned for and organized for months ahead of time by a core of experienced people linked by work around churches, education and trade unions. Rosa Parks did not act spontaneously, but deliberately, and was chosen for her unimpeachable respectability -- an earlier incident was rejected for starting the boycott because the woman involved was vulnerable to a smear campaign in certain ways. Martin Luther King was recruited to be a public face for the movement as a young, dynamic minister who was new to town. He came into the process relatively late. Once involved, he took his own enormous talents forward, of course. But everywhere and always he relied on locally organized networks -- there was considerable resentment of his parachuting into local situations and not sticking around for the aftermath, even as local movements needed and used his charisma and fame. Because of illegal deprivation of the franchise to black people, electoral canvassing was not much of an option, but there was a great deal of face-to-face work, combined and integrated with protests, that drew more people in and got them more involved in the face to face work.

    Our current media discourages organizing by portraying the Civil Rights Movement as a matter of spontaneous action and great leaders. The truth is the opposite. Organization and demonstration complemented each other.

    I could write a similar long paragraph about the role of dramatic strikes in building the CIO unions in the 1930s and their interaction with electoral politics. It was the combination that changed so much and created two generations of liberal power. I say again, false opposition.

    When I have done "protest" focused movement politics, I have always tried to argue for more continuous organizing, face-to-face work, and figuring out how to engage with electoral politics. Here I am arguing for the same thing in the opposite direction. The next time ten or twenty thousand people march and rally against the war in Portland, or some smaller number has a vigil in a smaller place, don't look at them as amateurs wasting their time. Look at them as people who want to be active, some of whom may only have the time to turn out for events like that, but some of whom could be brought to do other kinds of work if treated with respect, given the right tools and knowledge, and helped to overcome fear or reticence in order to experience the good feelings of face-to-face work.


    In my life, one of the obstacles I have encountered toward really changing some things is political professionals who often actually don't want to change the things I want to change, because their careers are tied up in the structures of ways of doing things politically that are designed to cater to the people with money to pay for stuff.

    A current example is the health-insurance reform debate. All I really want at this point is an honest debate in which the eminently successful public provision systems of most other industrial countries, which all have higher satisfaction ratings among participants than the U.S. system, are given full and fair airing. That's not to say any of them are perfect -- but neither is our current system, and all of them are better than ours.

    But if I raise the point even of wanting equal airing on this blog Kari says I'm an ideologue. Actually it is the people who say paying attention to any system you can attach the word "market" to is inherently preferable to allowing serious, full and equal consideration of public provision, and should be done as quickly as possible to get away from public provision discussion.

    One of the reasons people turn to methods you call "amateur hour" is that the "professionals" are so arrogant and treat them with disdain. Also, "professionals" tend to separate technique from content, whereas for ordinary folks, who are amateurs, issues of content, morality, and feeling good about trying to do the right thing actually are significant motivating factors.

    Of course, there are distinctions among the "professionals" too. Clearly you are on the right side of those in focusing on real organizing as opposed to purely media-oriented approaches, which are the equivalent of trying to conduct wars using only air power.

    A different kind of "professional" problem for progressives is the reliance on the non-profit lobbying model -- nominally membership organizations, often focused on single issue areas, in which "members" really are donors buying political services who have no real influence on what the organization does. Here again there is a political class that has a professional/career stake in demoralizing and demobilizing aspects of the political system.

    This kind of passive consumerist politics probably detracts from getting feet on the pavement a good deal more than protest politics, frankly. One of the more interesting features of the internet revolution is the efforts of some groups to move beyond that passivity, and link donation/media/lobbying politics, electoral mobilization, and demonstration politics.


  • Monsieur Croque Tea (unverified)

    Portland is to Selma, Alabama as Paris Hilton is to Nelson Mandela.

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    No Bill, I don't masquerade as anyone. And the only "tactic" I've used is called "sarcasm mixed with humor". It deflates greatly overheated rhetoric - such as your trying to equate an absurdly ineffective anti-Bush rally with Martin Luther King's greatest political speech.

    Insofar as the rest, I could argue, but I won't bother. It's clear that you love protesting with your friends, and no amount of dry facts are going to change that. I could tell you that it was MLK's televised speech, not his audience, that moved America (which is why the words are still quoted today). I could explain that Ghandi's fame came from organizing poor farmers by going door to door, his chief political weapon was the strike, and that far from encouraging protests like you are in favor of, he stopped anything that gave the British-Raj an excuse to pretend it was a riot. I could even point out that NAZIs were masters of political leafleting and precinct campaigning, and had largely acquired complete power before having the rallies you see in Triumph of the Will.

    But you don't care. You like protesting, so you're determined to believe they're effective, whether they're actually effective or not. All facts are "cherry picked" if you don't like them, and you'd rather drown in cherries than break off protesting.

    So I'm going to just agree to disagree and call it a night.

  • (Show?)

    You didn't by any chance pose as "DJ" a while ago, did you? He had the same modus operandum.

    DJ is a well-known troll here at BlueOregon - and he's not commenting from the same IP as Steve Maurer.

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    Good post, Chris. And I must admit you have a point. Rallies do get some people involved, and they probably do look a little less scary than making cold-calls, door-knocks, and lit-drops. And if it serves a path towards getting people to be truly effective, then I'm in favor of it.

    But I wonder - are the people you're trying to grow into political activists the same ones that are pushing up against police barricades and screaming their lungs out?

    If they are, they've got a skewed sense of bravery. Cause I've been on a lot of doorsteps. I've seen doors slammed. But not once have I got a face full of pepper-spray.

  • Israel Bayer (unverified)

    I believe Aaron and Alejandro wrote this post to futher the discussion on police accoutability. They're proposing a healthy path to do this.

    The debate on protesting, marches and organizing do touch on this, but the just of this is the idea that we can become a progressive and innovative city in the way we deal with police accountability that touches many peoples lives for a myraid of reasons. While we do have the right to free speech and the right to block access to institions and their supporters who effect the people - we also have the right to have a say in those who keep the peace on a day-to-day basis.

  • (Show?)
    But I wonder - are the people you're trying to grow into political activists the same ones that are pushing up against police barricades and screaming their lungs out?
    Civil dissent and free speech rights do not include trying to intimidate (pushing, spitting, blocking access) to the Bush supporters who were trying to enter the hotel fundraiser.

    How do either of those quotes relate to the fact that the police attacked "a TV camerawoman", "a family of five who were attempting to leave the protest", "dozens of other peaceful protesters", and "[t]hree members of the Independent Police Review Division"? Why are the police attacking innocent people? Who is more out of control?

  • (Show?)

    The police, obviously, Darrel.

    But that's not the point I'm trying to make. To go back to my counter of Bill's rather silly arguments, both MLK and Ghandi were renowned for stopping these exact kinds of protests. Not because they disagreed with their goals, but because they were at best ineffective, and at worst, could be used as a pretext for police violence (up to murder) under the guise of riot prevention.

    Again, it's a question of what your goals are. I'll accept other people's assertions that organized marches under parade permits can get progressives to dip their toes in the water of organized political involvement, but these raucous gatherings of people standing nose to nose with police hurt more often than they help.

    And neither of them is anywhere nearly as effective as what the Bus Project does.

  • Miles (unverified)

    So what role should the police union play in this effort for greater accountability? The unions (specifically Robert King of the PPA and, to a lesser extent, the PPCOA) are stridently and vocally opposed to any external oversight of police activities. Given the union's stated view, should they be at the table if we want to achieve real reform? Or is one prerequisite to achieving greater oversight and accountability actually to reduce the union's role?

    Many of the barriers to oversight are actually enshrined in the collective bargaining agreements of the PPA (e.g., inability to interview officers immediately without union representation, which some say gives the cops time to get their stories straight; also extensive due process process rights for officers that make it almost impossible for the city to get rid of the bad apples -- case in point, almost everyone believes the Jeffrey Kaer firing will be overturned on appeal).

    Also, the PPA and PPCOA are extremely powerful in city politics. One barrier to better oversight is that those unions have the ability to turn out hundreds of volunteers to canvass for -- or against -- City Hall candidates, as well as donate hundreds of thousands of dollars. So if you run on a platform of greater oversight, you can be pretty sure you'll be targeted for defeat.

    Finally, I would second DJD's point that one way to improve things is to become a police officer and change the culture from the inside.

  • (Show?)

    Steve, once again I have to say you are nailing it. Spot on as the English say.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    And the only "tactic" I've used is called "sarcasm mixed with humor". It deflates greatly overheated rhetoric - such as your trying to equate an absurdly ineffective anti-Bush rally with Martin Luther King's greatest political speech.

    Wrong, again, Stephen. You made a categorical statement that mass protests are, to use your word, "worthless." My point in response was to show that mass protests can be productive. This is not to say that all work out well, but to write all of them off on the basis of some failures shows the same intellectual dishonesty inherent in condemning a group of people on the basis of a few people within that group. That's the problem with categorical statements. One of the beauties of the English language is that it has many qualifiers we can use to be more precise in our statements.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    Stephen: In your opening statement, this is what you said, "I mean really, what do all (my emphasis) these great big protests do? Sure, it's fun to vent. But in terms of changing voter's minds? Worthless."

    Among several examples that I considered contradicted the preceding, I cited the massive gathering on the Washington Mall when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I have a dream speech."

    This is how you attempted to shoot that down: "I could tell you that it was MLK's televised speech, not his audience, that moved America (which is why the words are still quoted today)."

    I would be the last to downplay MLK, Jr's speech, but do you think it would have achieved the same national and world-wide impact if he had given it in some small church, or even a large church, in some city in the South without the presence of television cameras? It was the enormous gathering of people on the Washington Mall that got the television news cameras there to record his speech. And, when the cameras panned the crowd they put King's speech in context and gave it much greater impact.

    In his speech King said, "But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition." The cameras brought those words to a greater impact when they forced their audiences to see real, live African-Americans by the thousands who were "still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation," living "on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity" and "languishing in the corners of American society and ... an exile in his own land." With those visuals of thousands of the people King was talking about, his speech could not be written off as some abstract theory as some would have liked to have done. They were the prosecutor's conclusive and damning evidence.

    Contrary to one of the erroneous conclusions you have carelessly ascribed to me, I am not gung-ho for mass protests. While I do believe they can be effective, I don't believe all are. To the contrary, some can be counter-productive, so we should be judicious in their implementation. And, the words we use to describe them.

  • Thomas Ware (unverified)

    The TOPOFF 4 Full-Scale Exercise

    A Rigorous Full-Scale Response to a Coordinated Attack Taking place October 15-24, 2007, the TOPOFF 4 Full-Scale Exercise (T4 FSE) will feature thousands of Federal, State, territorial, and local officials. These officials will engage in various activities as part of a robust, full-scale simulated response to a multi-faceted threat. The exercise will address policy and strategic issues that mobilize prevention and response systems, require participants to make difficult decisions, carry out essential functions, and challenge their ability to maintain a common operating picture during an incident of national significance. As in a real-world response, agencies and organizations will deploy staff into the field and will face realistic incident-specific challenges, including the allocation of limited response resources and exercise actions needed to effectively manage conditions as they emerge. Planning and preparation for the exercise will also help strengthen working relationships between departments and agencies that are critical to successful prevention and response in real emergencies.

    Extensive National Participation The T4 FSE will involve more than 15,000 participants representing Federal, State, territorial, and local entities. For the first time, a U.S. Territory, Guam, will participate in the TOPOFF series, providing an opportunity to practice coordinated prevention and response activities between the continental U.S. and a U.S. territory. At the Federal level, exercise play will be marked by the coordinated participation of multiple agencies and departments. For example, in addition to response, DHS will be exercising prevention through its Terrorism Prevention Exercise Program (TPEP). In the weeks leading up to the full-scale exercise, law enforcement and intelligence community players will work the information gathering, intelligence analysis, and information sharing capabilities that help to thwart terrorist activities. In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will mobilize around emerging public health issues related to a radiological emergency, and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) will run concurrent exercises to address global terror threats.

    Exercise Scenario The T4 FSE is based on National Planning Scenario 11 (NPS-11). The scenario begins as terrorists, who have been planning attacks in Oregon, Arizona, and the U.S. Territory of Guam, successfully bring radioactive material into the United States. The first of three coordinated attacks occurs in Guam, with the simulated detonation of a Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD), or "dirty bomb," causing casualties and wide-spread contamination in a populous area near a power plant. Similar attacks occur in the hours that follow in Portland and Phoenix. An RDD is not the same as a nuclear attack. It is a conventional explosive that, upon detonation, releases radioactive material into the surrounding area. Although it does not cause the type of catastrophic damage associated with a nuclear detonation, there are severe rescue, health, and long-term decontamination concerns associated with an RDD. Real weapons will not be used in the scenario, but the response will be mounted as if they had been.

  • Frontal Lobotomy (unverified)

    So....Thomas Aware, are you suggesting that a multi-agency SIMULATION of a coordinated response to a terrorist attack is really just an excuse to trample on civil liberties and militarize local responders?

    Or was the above press release cut and pasted into the wrong thread?

    Or would you prefer the reduction ad absurdum logic of Tenskawata: the Department of Homeland Security is merely preparing to launch the next big terrorist attack...cause we all know that George Bush was the mastermind of 9/11.

    Maybe you should use more tinfoil? Because the vast majority believe that trying to prevent/respond to terrorism is a good thing; not a transparent facade for the Next Big Conspiracy.

    Better yet, if Operation T4 FSE is the blueprint of our first responders conspiracy to attack us, do you really think they'd issue a press release?

  • Will Newman II (unverified)

    I am reminded of Lenny Bruce's story of why we have police (from memory, so not word for word - and cleaned up a bit.):

    You may not believe this, but a long time ago there were no police. Everybody was just hanging around, and it was a mess.

    One day a guy said, "Let's get organized. Let's all agree that we eat here, sleep here, and s**t here. OK?"

    And everyone agreed, and things went well.

    Then one day the guy wakes up and sombody is urinating on him, and there is all this noise and ruckus.

    "Hey! What's going on here!" he says.

    "Religious holiday." is the reply.

    So he goes to another guy and says, "I have this job for you. You remember when we all agreed that we'll eat here, sleep here, and s**t here?"


    "Well, some people are getting out of line. Do you see that building over there with the bars on the windows? Well, your job is to grab anybody who is out of line and throw them in there. Got it?"


    "Now, you're gonna hear that it takes a certain kind of mentality to do this kind of work, but that's all Bullst. Remember, Out of line - in the cphouse. OK?"

    "Yes. But... why don't you do it yourself?"

    "Well, I would, but I gotta do business with these a**holes."


    While there are certainly bad police (there are bound to be bad apples in any group that large) that is not the point. The point is that the entire structure of the police force is flawed. The people who determine who is "out of line" have a vested interest in protecting themselves, and in not exposing themselves as the ones who make the rules.

    We need to take back the authority and responsibility for making the rules, and we need to have a police force that is responsible to the public, not the "movers and shakers" and their paid for politicians operating in the myth of democracy.

    A public police review board with real teeth is just one step in the right direction.

    As I once testified before such a committee, "I find it frightening that all a police officer has to do to avoid responsibility for shooting and killing an unarmed civilian is to state that they were in fear of for their life.

    Everytime I see an armed police officwer I am in fear for my life. Does that mean I can shoot them, and kill them, and suffer no consequenses? I hope not."

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