"We Are Not the Enemy!"
- News for Anarchists & Activists:
"We Are Not The Enemy!" - The Battle of Portland
by William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Report
Saturday, 24 August, 2002
The image is chilling. A middle-aged woman, plainly dressed,
with a puff of auburn hair, is clutched in a hammer-lock by
a Portland police officer dressed in full riot gear. His
riot baton is jammed high under her chin. Around her, three
more armor-clad police officers swarm in, face-masks down.
The woman's face is contorted in terror. In her hand is a
sign protesting George W. Bush.
This was the scene on the streets of Portland, OR, on the
evening of August 22nd as captured by a photographer for the
Associated Press. Thousands of peaceful protesters had
descended upon the Hilton Hotel where Mr. Bush was attending
a political fundraiser for Senator Gordon Smith. They held
signs reading, "Drop Bush, not Bombs," and other similar
slogans. Among the protesters were pregnant women, parents
with infants and small children, elderly citizens, and
citizens in wheelchairs.
According to a report by CBS News, the protest became unruly
when some of the fundraiser attendees were "jostled" as they
moved through the crowd towards the entrance to the hotel.
At that point, the riot police swarmed in, swinging clubs
and dousing the crowd with pepper spray. Rubber bullets were
also fired into the crowd, and snipers were seen on the
roofs surrounding the scene. The protesters responded by
hammering on the hoods of police cars and screaming, "We are
not the enemy!"
A man named Randy, who attended the protest, reports the
sequence of events as follows:
"I was between 5th and 6th on the sidewalk. Maybe the ones
in front were warned to move, but I didn't hear any warning.
It had been a peaceful protest. Suddenly the police came
forward spraying pepper spray. A man nearby with an infant
in a backpack got hit real good. The baby's face was so red
I thought it had quit breathing. From the other direction
came cop cars through the crowd and rubber bullets were
fired at those closest to the cars. I kept retreating but
the cops kept spraying. Lots of people were sprayed,
including the cameraman from Channel 2 KATU."
Other eyewitness accounts from the streets of Portland
similarly describe what appears to have been a terrifyingly
violent response from the police to a peaceful protest by
assembled American citizens.
This is a profoundly disturbing turn of events. Mr. Bush is
protested wherever he goes these days, and the crowds which
attend them are growing. These are not black-clad anarchists
kicking in windows, however. The woman who was attacked by
the police looked as ordinary as any small-town librarian,
and anarchists are smart enough to leave their children at
home if there is a riot in the offing. The streets of
Portland were filled on August 22nd by average American
citizens seeking to inform the President of their disfavor
regarding the manner in which he is governing their country.
They were rewarded with the business end of a billy club, a
face-full of pepper spray, and the jarring impact of a
If America needed one more example of the cancer that has
been chewing through the guts of our most basic freedoms
since Mr. Bush assumed office, they can look to Portland.
The right to freely assemble and petition the government for
a redress of grievances has been rescinded at the point of a
The imperative is clear. Such violence by the authorities
cannot go unchallenged. The next time Mr. Bush appears in
public, there must be even more concerned Americans to greet
him. They must face the baton and the pepper spray, they
must stare into the shielded faces of the police, and they
must stand in non-violent disobedience of the idea that they
are not allowed to be there. The men and women who faced the
brunt of police fury in Portland are to be lauded as
American patriots, and their actions must be duplicated by
us all. The groups which organized this protest, and the
ones to come, deserve our praise.
The media, which spent much of the evening reporting that
only a few hundred protesters were in attendance, must be
browbeaten into reporting the facts from both sides - from
the police, who reportedly detained people like the woman in
the picture "for their own safety," and from the protesters
who took a savage beating for daring to stand against Mr.
Bush. If the battle of Portland is allowed to cast even more
fear into the hearts and minds of Americans, we have lost
yet another swath of freedoms. Stand and be counted if you
The whole world is watching.
William Rivers Pitt is a teacher from Boston, MA. His new
book, 'The Greatest Sedition is Silence,' will be published
soon by Pluto Press.
Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
All my fiction through 2001 and more. Intro by S.T. Joshi.
Lord Weÿrdgliffe and Necronomicon Page:
News for Anarchists & Activists:
Said Smygo, the iconoclast of Zothique: "Bear a hammer with
thee always, and break down any terminus on which is
written: 'So far shalt thou pass, but no further go.'"
--Clark Ashton Smith