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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Anti-Cop Protest Turns Out to Be a Discussion Circle (and Other Tuesday Night Disappointments)

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 12:04 AM

Tonight's anti-cop protest and rally in Colonel Summers Park turned out to be more of a vague, self-righteous anti-cop discussion circle. But before I wade into that mess, just a heads up that KGW is reporting that the man police shot Monday appeared to be have cut himself on the neck and arms with knife he later waved at Officer James Walters. That would explain how the man had blood all over his arms, hands and face and also adds to the image of the man as someone grappling with mental health problems.

Also, a friend pointed out to me that there is no Twitter hashtag for this shooting. I'm going to start using #pdxcops.

Anyway, Portlanders angered by the police shooting dropped a banner reading "Police Murder Again" this afternoon over the I-5 freeway before heading to the 6 PM meet-up in SE Portland's Colonel Summers Park. About 60 or 70 people, many in black bloc regalia, formed a circle in the sun on the grass and launched into the event. The group's first agenda item: kicking all media out of the meeting. This may have worked better if someone involved in the protest had not sent out a press release earlier in the day.

Its like a picnic! But not fun.
  • It's like a picnic! But not fun.

The officially-uninviting-reporters-from-our-protest strategy did not take into account reporters such as myself who fail at punctuality. After getting this week's print edition wrapped up and ready for press, I rolled in to Colonel Summers at 6:20 PM to try and document the discussion.

The discussion was, well, anarchist politics as usual, I guess. Fifteen minutes was devoted to the question of whether the group which had met up (many rallied by an announcement saying there would be an anti-cop march) should actually stage a march.

"Does anyone want to offer a proposal to move on marching?" asked a facilitator. Some people were concerned about media and police knowing the end point of the march. Someone suggested communicating the march destination to everyone in the group via text message, which segued into an equally long and inconclusive discussion about how Portlanders concerned about police activities should publicize direct actions in the future. Emails? Flyers? Both?

"The way people are mobilizing right now is through this thing called Twitter which once you get all those phone numbers plugged into it will send a text message to everyone," said one facilitator, suggesting the group set up a Twitter account. Several people complained that they had never used Twitter. "Something must be working already if we're all here," noted one person. "I'm not a big fan of technocracy," opined another.

I think grassroots discussions about police use-of-force are essential. I think citizen oversight of police is key to a free and functioning society. I work to help people become more engaged in their governments and local communities. But this discussion made me want to claw my eyes out. I ditched after an hour of sitting through propositions, pontifications and vague strategizing. After a long, long day of work, eating dinner was a clearly more substantive plan than whatever the listening circle would cook up.

The march wound up happening after all, leaving the park at about 8 PM, according to the Portland IndyMedia Twitter feed, and heading, once again, to the defunct SE police precinct building on Burnside. One lesson learned later from the protest: bikes are not effective anti-cop weapons. At least not when they're used as projectiles.

As the march headed up SE 47th near Belmont, police on motorcycles began closely following the crowd. The protesters were chanting and many were rolling bikes as the motorcycles edged up behind them, running into one bike. KATU has video of what went down in next in what will be forever known as the "bike throwing incident of 2010":

Despite the brief bike vs. motorcycle cop war, IndyMedia says two people were detained, but not arrested. The officer was not injured and the crowd dispersed at about 10 PM.

Mission accomplished?

Update 8:59 AM: It turns out the protester who threw his bike at the officer was arrested. 26-year-old Joel David Dow was charged with one count of Assault in the Second Degree, one count of Assaulting a Public Safety Officer, one count of Reckless Endangering, and one count of Disorderly Conduct. He throws his bike at the cops, they throw the book back at him.

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