By Shelly / US Citizen and Organizer – 2005-01-20 12:54:46
OREGON (October 17, 2004) — It’s been an intense couple of days. The quick background is that I organized a demonstration on October 14th when Bush came to southern Oregon. After his rally at a nearby Expo, he was to spend the night in the little town of Jacksonville, Oregon (pop. 2000 or so).
We chose the town for an unWelcome rally and march, so that people wouldn’t have to be disempowerd by a free speech cage, deal with the Republican traffic jam, or be forced to stand along a highway near where the President was giving his speech.
Anyway, I spoke three times with the Chief of Police in Jacksonville & once with the Sheriff so that they knew exactly what we were planning and we could safely exercise our First Amendment rights.
The chief said he was primarily concerned about hostile conservatives hassling us. The Sheriff ‘s last words to me were: “If everyone stays on the sidewalk, we won’t have any problems.”
This was an event for all kinds of people: low-key, lots of families, no civil disobedience. We handed out 1/4 sheets on non-violent codes of conduct, kept our crowd of 200-300 people on the sidewalk. We had a 100-foot long red carpet of UNwelcome upon which people wrote their criticisms of the administration’s policies, which we rolled out on the sidewalk.
The rally and march were peaceful and successful; people felt energized and empowered. Then during our vigil to unwelcome the motorcade, police attacked protesters standing on the sidewalk without provocation.
Secret Service officers began pushing people off the sidewalk onto the street, police officers shoved those same people back onto the sidewalk. Women with children in their arms were grabbed and pushed, young kids were pepper-sprayed. An elderly man was knocked to the ground. While he was crawling on the sidewalk, a younger man shielded him with his own body. The young man was shot in the back at point-blank range with pepper pellets. He has burning open wounds. We have all of it on videotape. The media is suppressing most of it.
During the police attacks, I was across a narrow side street from the area being suddenly cleared. Police trapped me on that stretch of sidewalk in the throng of Bush supporters. I was on the leading edge of that group in the first row of people facing riot cops, at the intersection being cleared. We were not pushed back. I was safe from police abuse because I was among Bush supporters. Only protesters were pushed back from the intersection through which the motorcade passed.
This was not a security move by the Secret Service. If they were trying to ensure the President’s safety, they would have pushed people back on both sides of the street. In addition, if police had wanted to clear the area without incident, they had plenty of time. The President was dining. They could have used his entire mealtime to secure the area, rather than waiting until the moment of his departure from the restaurant to suddenly bark garbled orders, push people, and shoot people in the back as they “failed to disperse.”
Yesterday, we held a press conference in front of Jacksonville City Hall; tight message, great testimony from victims and eyewitnesses. We provided raw video footage showing police aggression including the incident outlined above. One channel showed a bit of the “shielding” footage, but with no context or explanation.
The other channel showed the injuries to the man’s back, but included police rhetoric that violent protesters caused the melee. Also, that station chose to ignore our damning footage of police violence and ran our image of a line of riot cops standing in formation.
This same “news” station aired extensive, chirpy coverage of the honeymoon suite where the President stayed, including the remains of his breakfast and the discarded carton of milk. They also showed the empty patio at the restaurant where he had dined.
It is only when you know the quality of information and footage provided to the news media that you can fully grasp just how much they sanitize and suppress, or sometimes just plain bumble.
I have a lot to do right now, including organizing a facilitated conversation for the traumatized children to process their feelings, and talk with attorneys about our legal standing. We are also working on video documentation of witness accounts and planning a citizen forum on community policing.
I would like people to know the real story. Please forward this to friends and family around the country who would be interested. The independent media website in our region has more coverage submitted by citizens and independent journalists: http://www.rogueimc.org/ There are some early reports that have inaccuracies, such as the type of weapons police deployed, but the reporting is more substantive than what is on most commercial media.
Here is an AP story: http://www.oregonlive.com/newsflash/regional/index.ssf?/base/news-8/1097821147133260.xml&storylist=orlocal#continue
It’s not too bad, but includes an outright lie by Jacksonville City Administrator that demonstrators caused the disturbance by pushing police.
At the end of the night, when I was finally reunited with my family, I thanked my spouse for keeping our children safe from the police.
It is a sad time for dissent. They want us to be afraid to even stand on the sidewalk holding a sign. They want to marginalize dissenters and make citizens and families afraid to assemble.
This story is far from over.