September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

Story:Armed with police-state favorites, such as pepper spray, truncheons, teargas canisters and guns that fire marble-size rubber bullets and beanbags, police on Aug. 22 attacked non-violent demonstrators in Portland, Ore. during a peaceful demonstration.

The crowd of demonstrators, estimated at 1,300 people, gathered to air grievances against President George W. Bushs war and economic policies. Demonstrators chanted, "Drop Bush, not bombs," and carried signs that read, "Its the economy, stupid." They gathered outside of the Hilton Hotel, where the president was taking a break from his month-long vacation to raise campaign contributions from well-heeled Republicans.

Lawyer Alan Graf, a police-accountability activist told reporters, "Without any provocation, as far as I could see, (the police) started pushing people, using their night sticks, spraying pepper spray indiscriminately into peoples faces."

Don Joughlin and Corinna Joughlin, expecting a peaceful demonstration, brought their three children. All of their children are less than a year old, and at least one was pepper sprayed. "There was no warning, no ultimatum, nothing," Don Joughlin said. "I wasnt in the street. I wasnt blocking traffic. I was engaging in peaceful protest."

Other witnesses, who said the crowd included seniors, babies in strollers, and people in wheel chairs, reported seeing snipers on nearby rooftops. One demonstrator, Mike Pullman, reported that he was shot seven times with rubber bullets that were fired into the crowd. He showed reporters injuries on his chest, arms and leg sustained from the so-called non-lethal ammunition.

News photographer Beth English and other employees of KPTV TV were pepper sprayed. Englishs film shows a police officer aiming the pepper spray directly at her face.

A police spokesman justified the action by saying, "Were not here to control youĂ–. Youre here to film. But if pepper spray is deployed, Im sorry, but youre going to be part of that."

So much for the police motto: "To protect and serve."

The overwhelming majority of the people who took part in the protests werent black-clothed anarchists with their faces covered by scarves, or left-wing extremists waving red flags and calling for the bloody overthrow of the Bush government. They were every-day Americans, peacefully assembled to protest ill-conceived government policies that favor an oligarchy comprised of the richest of the rich.

The demonstrators, who faced the helmeted and heavily armed police, are todays real heroes. Its courageous to be among a crowd that expresses ideas that oppose the policies of an authoritarian government whose leaders are drunk on power. Its terrifying to be caught in the chaos of a peaceful demonstration turned violent by baton-swinging cops packing guns.

These are the times that bring out the best and the bravest. Martin Luther King, Eugene V. Debs and other great Americans came out of such an environment and faced violent government actions that resulted in their being jailed. Cowardly leaders of repressive governments will do anything to hold on to their control over the people.

A cadre of right-wing zealots, whose lust for power will not be sated until all dissent is squashed, leads the Bush government. The first casualty was the press, which allowed the government to intimidate news reporters into silence. The media quit asking questions when Bush told Americans, "Youre either with us or youre with the terrorists." Already, the mainstream press was like a dog that was beaten too much. It cowers before its cruel masters, the corporations that only look at ratings and advertising revenues as its gauges for success. As newsroom budgets plummeted, so did gutsy investigative reporting. Individual reporters in the molds of Ida M. Tarbell and Edward R. Murrow are forgotten in the flash of sound bites about shark attacks and a semen-stained dress.

A compliant nation is segmented by race, religion and gender by a small ruling elite, who realize that a united people are much harder to control. Already Attorney General John D. Ashcroft is seeking ways for postal workers, truck drivers, bus drivers and others to report on the activities of the nations citizens. The USA PATRIOT Act, overwhelmingly passed by a spineless Congress and signed into to law by a president plagued with a middling intellect, gives the government rights usually reserved for police states, including searches of our homes without judicial oversight, the authority of a religious fanatic attorney general to jail people indefinitely without trial and headline-seeking prosecutors to listen in on jailed suspects conversations with their attorneys.

So, those among us who are courageous enough to take to the streets in protest of a government that offers policies of war, pollution and business deregulation instead of peace, clean air and restrictions on the culture of greed that has gripped our nations financial centers, get ready for an escalation of the state-sanctioned violence that occurred in Portland.

Expect a harsh crackdown on those who speak against the buffoons who occupy the White House, the warmongers who plot world war in the Defense Department and the paranoids who steal our civil liberties in the Justice Department. If you protest against these things, expect your career to be ruined, expect your reputation to be destroyed, expect to be imprisoned, expect to be beaten or worse. Expect your neighbors and even your closest friends to turn against you.

Tragedies of this sort have occurred in the U.S. during other repressive eras of American history. A brief review of our nations recent history recalls the times of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s, when teachers, movie actors, writers and others were accused of being communists. Their lives were ruined because of the hysteria fostered by a few over-zealous fools.

During World War II 120,000 Japanese-Americans were incarcerated in "relocation" camps during the wars duration. Normally rational Americans feared that the Japanese-Americans, thousands whose families had been in the U.S. for generations, were thought to be spies for Imperial Japan.

In 1919 following a rash of terrorist attacks, that included mailed bombs to prominent business and government leaders, shook the nation. A few weeks later a series of planted bombs, one of which destroyed the front of then Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmers residence, escalated the hysteria. These actions unleashed a fury, mainly against immigrants, that resulted in violent FBI raids and arrests of 6,000 suspected Communist terrorists. As with the 1,400 who were arrested in Ashcrofts persecution of mostly Middle-Eastern men, hardly any of those arrested in 1919 were terrorists.

As these events show, history repeats itself--only not in exactly the same way.

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