A BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
August 30, 2002
The Portland Protests
by Rob Moitoza
I am a Viet Nam era Navy veteran. I served a couple of those years aboard a destroyer off the Florida coast. I was fortunate to have avoided seeing combat. Others were not so lucky.
Last week I attended the anti-Bush War protests in Portland. It was an interesting day. I decided to wear my "King George" crown and red cape... only In MY America, the PEOPLE are king! I also carried a sign saying "Vets against Bush."
As I was walking toward the park where protesters were gathering I was met by a man who called out, "You're a vet?" I said, "Yes." He said "Me too." I said "Great!" He said, "Only I don't agree with you." I said, "Well, that's fine. In this country, you have a right to disagree." For the next few minutes this guy questioned my veteran status and made threats, "I could knock you on your ass right now."
Not wanting to get into a fight with this macho idiot, I walked into the park where there were lots of people. I figured if he was going to try to hit me I'd have plenty of witnesses. As I passed by some bike police, they saw what was going on and actually came to my defense. They called the guy over and had a talk with him. Of course, this didn't stop the guy, but by now several other people including a couple more vets had come to my defense.
There were several hundred people assembling in the park and speeches had begun. I made my way to the speaker area and asked if I could say a few quick words. I was given the okay and told the crowd that I didn't appreciate my veteran status or patriotism being questioned. However, I did tell them who didn't serve... Dick Cheney, Trent Lott, John Ashcroft and the rest of the "chicken-hawks." The truth is, I don't really care whether a person served in the military or not. During the Viet Nam war I think it was just as courageous to go to Canada. But for anyone in the Bush regime to call US unpatriotic because we don't want to send more boys off to this idiotic Iraq conflict is unconscionable.
The march began. To my pleasant surprise I saw NO hecklers. People were smiling and waving at us from office windows. I suspect that most of them agreed with us, but maybe they just aren't aware of how serious the Bush threat is yet. By the time we reached the Hilton Hotel area, there were somewhere between two thousand and three thousand of us. (As a musician of nearly 40 years, I'm pretty good at estimating crowd sizes. I also have pictures.) Snipers and guys in black suits taking pictures were on the Hilton rooftop. A black helicopter with a sharpshooter in the door circled overhead. (Yes, friends, there really are black helicopters!) We marched around the blocks many times. The crowd was made up of people from every walk of life. There were many women, elderly, families with children, every race, color, and creed. Bush referred to us as a "fringe group." Yes, I guess people who believe strongly enough in freedom and democracy to come out and protest ARE a fringe group... but you ain't seen nothing yet. If Bush goes into Iraq without the consent of congress or the people, you are going to see protests that make the Viet Nam protests look like childsplay. To question the patriotism or heart of these people would be a big mistake. This was U.S.A. at it's finest.
By now it was after 6 P.M. I had been marching since 2:00, I ain't no young buck anymore, and so I decided to start heading out. I had made my statement. About that time I smelled pepper spray. I had not seen anyone throw anything... nor heard any kind of warning. Even if someone did throw something, these police were in full riot gear. Pictures from Portland.Indymedia.com show police pepper spraying the front row indiscriminately. Surely there was no justification for this. Women and children were being hit. My guess is that there were a couple of macho "rogue" police who were trying to start something. Maybe the crowd was just too peaceful and they needed to do something to turn this into a confrontation.... make us look bad. I really don't know for sure. What I can tell you is that I met and talked to people all day long... and they just weren't the violent type. The Bush administration will use any means to discredit those who disagree with him, and I'd put nothing past him. It started to get the feeling of Nazi Germany, and I wondered how long it would be before people just started disappearing... hauled off to camps run by John Ashcroft.
I had already been questioned on my Veteran status. Would it get to a point in our country where they'd be saying "Show us your papers?" Would they be painting a Bass Clef on my door? It hasn't gotten there yet, but obviously protests are not welcomed by the Bush regime. They don't believe in freedom of speech. I realized that we are truly fighting for our democracy here.
WE are the patriots. George Bush is a tyrant. He must be stopped.
Good luck to all.
P.S. Next day I manned a booth at the Rolling Thunder Democracy Tour event in Seattle. 5,000 plus people showed up for this event. None of the major news media covered it.
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[BuzzFlash Note: Rob was quoted in this AP story: "Portland, Ore., police use pepper spray on protesters at Bush events"]
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