by Lloyd Marbet
We must be the change we wish to see in the world.
On August 22, 2002, the day that George W. Bush came to Oregon to raise a million dollars for the Republican Party and Senator Gordon Smith’s election campaign, I am invited to make a speech, at a Pacific Green Party rally held in Portland’s Waterfront Park. My speech addresses an obvious theme: In a nation where election campaigns are tantamount to legalized bribery, WE NEED TO ENACT CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM!
Throughout my presentation, a military helicopter circles ominously overhead, the noise of its engine so loud that it directly competes with the amplified speaker system. I end my speech by saying:
To protest is fine, but we must change the fundamental structure of Government to represent the interests of all the people. We must stop the military industrial complex and the use of war as means for resolving human conflict. We must change the focus of our economy from “growth for the sake of growth” to sustainability. We must stop the compromise of our environment and the life support systems of this planet. We must Wage Peace!
I then join the march to the North Blocks where another political rally is scheduled to take place. Along the way I remember that my parking meter is about to expire so I leave to move my car to a parking garage, located about five or six blocks from the Hilton Hotel. After parking the car, I walk to SW Broadway Street and then towards the Hilton, where half a block from SW Taylor there is a metal barricade erected across Broadway, blocking any further access. A small crowd had gathered, and beyond the barricade my eyes are drawn to the longest line of Harley Davidson police motorcycles I have ever seen. They are parked across the street from the entrance to the Hilton Hotel. I search for the people I had been marching with, and not finding them, I decided to circle the hotel until I can locate them. I go back to Yamhill Street and up to Park Street, crossing Taylor and SW Salmon where I observe the barricades west of Broadway. There are very few people at them. It is strangely quiet, but I heard chanting in the distance and I continued on.
Turning down SW Main, I see a large crowd on SW Sixth and it is there that I find my friends. I am immediately drawn towards the front of the crowd. There are no barricades at this location but a long line of police dressed in black clothing, protective padding, and wearing black boots and black helmets with plastic face shields. They each hold a baton in their hands. Some wear dark glasses and others cover their faces with parts of their clothing, so very little of their features can be seen. They have no name badges or identifying numbers. Behind them are various police officers talking on walkie talkies, barking orders or taking pictures of the crowd with video cameras. Suddenly I hear the sound of drums coming up the middle of the protestors. They march to the front of the line where they stand in place beating their cadence. A policeman standing directly in front of the big bass drum begins to shove it into the man beating it, but the drummer holds his ground. Other protestors are attempting to talk to the policemen but they refused to respond. I stand silently watching this drama unfold as the drummers later withdraw and the police install metal fences across the street. Soon much of the crowd disperses and I decide to walk down Main Street to Fifth Avenue, in the direction of where my car is parked.
Upon arriving at SW Taylor, I notice that the crowd of people is larger than any I had previously seen. Half way up SW Taylor, towards Sixth Ave, is a metal fence stretched across the street. In the midst of the people standing in front of this barricade, I notice an old man, dressed in a business suit struggling to stand up in a motorized wheel chair. He appears to be trying to talk with one of the riot police that form a long line parallel to the length of the barricade. He looks like he might be in distress and I walk towards the front of the crowd to see if he needs help. Just before I reach him, I run into Sarah Charlesworth, who is standing about five feet to the right of this man. She links arms with me and welcomes my presence. Meanwhile people are beginning to chant “peaceful protest, peaceful protest,” over and over again. My fiancé, Cathryn Chudy, who is standing behind me, points to other protestors blowing soap bubbles in the air just over the heads of the police. Nowhere do I witness any acts of provocation or violence, and the man in the wheel chair, while holding onto the barricade in great earnest, is just talking and seems to be all right.
Suddenly without warning, the police move forward and a woman standing to my left is struck to the ground. She is visibly shaken and angered by what has happened to her. As she is pulled up, I grasp her upper arm to help steady her. At that moment I am hit in the front of my face with a direct stream of liquid. I instinctively turn to the left and the stream covers the right side of my head, hitting my ear. All around people are panicking and Cathy clutches my arm as I reach up to remove my glasses so that I might be able to see what is happening. At that moment an intense fire fills my eyes, I stagger at its force and immediately begin to have trouble breathing as the fumes fill my lungs. I cannot open my eyes. I am shoved by someone and I grope for help as the burning spreads across my face into my right ear. I hear guns going off and people crying out in fear. A woman grabs my hand and asks me if I have asthma. I beg her to please help me as I am desperately seeking water to wash this fire off of me. People start pouring water on me and I keep asking for more. I try to open my eyes to wash them out but the pain is too great..
Different voices talk to me, saying that I should go to a place where they are offering first aid. Cathy and another woman lead me to the steps of a building across SW Fifth between Taylor and Salmon. I lie on my back as the sharp edge of the stone steps grind into my body. I continually beg for water. As it is poured on my face, I wince at the pain but welcome the coolness of the air. Water drains down my shirt and into my pants. Someone pours what they say is Maalox over my face but it does not seem to help. I feel completely disoriented and blind. Suddenly voices around me fill with fear. I am told we must immediately evacuate, for the police may be coming up the street. I am in so much pain that all I think about is getting more water. I reach out my hands and people are pulling me up. Cathy and the other woman lead me to Main street. She asks me if I need an ambulance. I tell her that I need water more than anything else and they lean me against a tree where bottles of water are poured over me. After a while I slowly begin to open my eyes. Approximately an hour has passed since I was first sprayed. I am trying to understand what has happened. I am determined to go back.
Cathy and I walk back to Fifth and Taylor. My clothes are soaking wet. The barricades have been moved half a block to SW Fifth. I stare up the street to the place where we had been standing when first attacked by the police. I am trying to understand why it was necessary to move the barricades half a block to their present location. All that pain and suffering unleashed for what strategic purpose? If the police had needed to move a barricade why not choose one where there were far fewer people? Why not first try to give warning about what they were intending to do before attacking and indiscriminately harming innocent people? The people I was with offered them no threat.
There are no answers to my questions at the barricade on SW Fifth and Taylor. As I stand there in profound sorrow, I realize that this is the price we pay for waging peace.
19142 SE Bakers Ferry Rd., Boring, OR 97009
503-637-3549 / firstname.lastname@example.org