25 Arrested at Protest Against U.S. Bombing of Iraq

December 16th: As Congress began debating the impeachment of President Clinton, U.S. bombs began landing on Iraq. Portland activists responded to this situation by organizing an emergency antiwar demonstration in front of the Federal Building.

Some of the protesters marched over to a "Don't Impeach Clinton" rally a few blocks away, causing concern, getting media attention. Afterwards, as protesters tried to leave the rally, Portland horse cops followed them through the downtown area. Several protesters were forced to walk in circles for about a half an hour before the cops finally gave up. When the cops were asked if they didn't have something better to do with their time, they responded that they were "being paid by the hour."

This unprofessional behavior on the part of the PPB foreshadowed their extreme overreaction to civil disobedience at the protest on the following day. As hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside of the Federal Building, several people decided to link arms and block the road. Riot cops immediately appeared on the scene. One protester was grabbed by the hair and dragged to the ground, where he was placed under arrest.

The cops began to seal off the area around the Federal Building and to bring in reinforcements. The demonstrators, feeling entrapped by the cops and desiring to make their message heard, decided to start marching, eventually heading towards Pioneer Place, the heart of the shopping district of downtown Portland. Before the cops could get there, hundreds of demonstrators entered the mall and began chanting "bombs are dropping while you're shopping." After about 5-10 minutes of mall occupation, the protesters returned to the street to find a hoard of cops awaiting them. The demonstration moved on to the "living room of the city," Pioneer Courthouse Square.

As the demonstration came to an end, the police gave a dispersal order and grabbed random people who remained. It soon became clear that it didn't matter whether the demonstrators were on the sidewalk or in the street, or whether they had done anything. Over the course of the night at least 25 people were arrested. Back in the Central Precinct, police asked protesters for information about the "leadership" of the group, as well as questions about their previous political involvement and their likely future political involvement.

The protesters were released early in the morning after being held overnight. As this article goes to press, there is some confusion over what exactly is happening with everyone's cases. The twenty- plus lawyers who have donated their time and energy to working on this issue know of 23 cases, while the police press release states that 25 were arrested. In some of these cases the police have already dropped the charges. The lawyers have asked the judge to consolidate the remaining cases. However, at least one protester has been fined $300 for "disorderly conduct," and the lawyers have not been in touch with this person or anyone else who has already been fined.

The violent behavior of the PPB mounted police towards protesters continues unabated. At a recent demonstration, the horse cops pushed a Peace and Justice Works activist up against the wall, but he was able to escape injury. The horses, who face extremely exploitative and cruel treatment themselves as police vehicles, are used at these demonstrations to kick people and push them around.

We must call for an end to this kind of police involvement in political repression. In theory, citizens should have every right to protest without the fear of police retaliation. These horse cops that are showing up at every single demonstration downtown should take some classes in conflict resolution and learn some respect for the people they are supposed to be "protecting," instead of following them around, videotaping them and arresting them for no reason.

Copwatch has heard that an undocumented Malaysian woman was arrested at the protest. She may have been deported. If you have any information about the fate of this woman or any of the other arrested protesters, or if you want to support the "Portland 25" somehow, please call Peace and Justice Works at 236-3065.

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