People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Anti-Corporate Rally Becomes Melee With Help from Eugene Police
On June 18th, activists around the world protested a meeting of the "G-8" (the eight wealthiest industrialized nations) and global corporate dominance. In Eugene, organizers planned a "Reclaim the Streets" event including speakers, microradio broadcasts, and other activities. What started out as a joyous, rebellious event was snowballed by the police and media into an event devoid of its intended issues. Although the media made passing reference to the purposes of the action, they consciously chose to spin the demonstration as an uncontrollable riot. They reported that attendees "banged on cars...and shouted at motorists" (Oregonian, June 20), yet neglected the fact that some cars were actively trying to run over pedestrians. One passenger even leapt out of a car and whacked a protestor on the head with a wrench. Throughout the event there was a large police presence in full riot gear which decidedly set the tone for the events that were to transpire.
The demonstration turned up about 300 attendees. People had brought radios in order to listen to music that was to be broadcast all day on Radio Free Cascadia (a low-power community station) but were disappointed to find the signals crossed with a classical music station. It was then that people became bored and began to stray from the meeting point. Police encircled the places they thought people were headed such as City Hall and Nike Town. It was the opinion of many that the participants were ready to disperse at this point, but were afraid to because of past experiences. Many people had been targeted at previous demonstrations after they began to leave in smaller groups. When the crowd reached Washington-Jefferson Park, police started shooting tear gas and going after anyone they could catch. They were seen using pepper spray on people even after handcuffing them and forcing them into pain compliance holds.
According to the June 19 Oregonian, the police did not begin arresting people until nearly five hours after the protest began. The article quotes City Councilor David Kelly as saying "The police showed amazing restraint." Police making the first arrests hours into the protest was a form of "restraint," but Kelly must also consider firing tear gas and making random arrests "restrained" to make such a broad statement.
Eventually, twenty-one people were arrested, mostly on charges of disorderly conduct and rioting. All riot charges were subsequently dropped except Robert Thaxton's. He remains in jail at PPR deadline. He originally faced a charge of attempted murder of a police officer, which has since been downgraded to assault, and also faces the charge of inciting a riot. These are serious charges that seem extremeor, more precisely, intimidating. On a flyer calling for aid to Thaxton, he is quoted as saying one of the officers who threw him down, whacked him in the head, and broke his nose "threatened to come 'get' me in the holding cell later. He also told me that I was lucky he didn't pull his gun and shoot me."
Police were also busy harassing videographer Timothy Lewis. They held him in jail just long enough to secure a search warrant to confiscate his tape, then they let him go and dropped the charges. Lewis, who works with the Eugene-based community access show "Cascadia Alive!", has been arrested at earlier events while attempting to videotape. Though the District Attorney "determined that Lewis' tape was legally seized as part of a search warrant and can be used in investigation of the riot," (Register-Guard, June 22) it is customary for a journalist's notes --or in this case, raw footage--to be protected materials unless they have been published. One "objective" mainstream station, KVAL, agreed to cooperate with the police.
Clearly, not everyone was on the same wavelength; even within the anarchist community there are many differences of opinion on whether property damage is violence. While some activists involved in planning the demonstration were willing to sit down ahead of time with police to discuss the peaceful protest they had planned, others arrived on the scene who eventually smashed windows at "a bank, a hotel, a fast-food restaurant and a furniture store" (Oregonian, June 20).
It is clear that harassment continues as Eugene Police again overreacted at a July 16th Reclaim the Streets action. Local activists report this event turned up 200-250 people (though the Oregonian said 25). It was another attempt to focus on the issues of global, corporate dominance. Some demonstrators even brought windows in case people who had their windows smashed in June wanted to smash back. When 3 people showed up in masks, police leapt into action, pulling their face masks off and searching them. They let two go later but held the other one overnight for the possession of a knife--which they termed a "concealed firearm violation." People were concerned that this was a direct attack on their right to protect their identity, with the aid of masks, from police who have been known to harass activists.
The Associated Press (July 17) proclaimed "Law and order reigns as anarchists march," noting that police remained on the periphery "to avoid any feeling of intimidation." On the other hand, KGW- TV showed footage of helmeted State Police practicing attack formations while carrying nightsticks in the days before July 16.
While some folks have taken their protests to City Hall, others thought that events like the Reclaim the Streets demonstration would be a good time to discuss how to deal with police harassment. It is another example of different people using different tactics when trying to make change.
In related news from Eugene, Brenton Glicker, 15, whose house was raided in connection with the Nike Town "riot" of October, 1998 (after his fingerprint was found on a protest sign see PPR #17), was convicted of second degree burglary and disorderly conduct. He was charged mostly on the basis of the political literature found in his room. Police allege that Brenton then violated his terms for release by being at the June 18th demonstration.
Information for this article was gathered from interviews with individuals in Eugene, as well as
the Oregonian, Associated Press and the Eugene Register-Guard.
Folks can send support for Robert Thaxton or Brenton Glicker and find out more information by writing Anti-Authoritarians Anonymous, PO Box 1131, Eugene, OR 97440.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.