3,500 rally and march for peace in Portland!

REPORT BACK: 3500 march for peace and economic justice on October 15th in Portland.

Friends,

Saturday saw what was no doubt the largest Portland antiwar march at least since 2008-- a fair estimate is 3500 people as we had at least 5 loosely packed blocks. After we'd left the South Park Blocks, headed down Salmon St to 1st Ave, then headed back up Main St, you could see the tail end of the march across 3rd Av still coming down Salmon. The turnout was no doubt bolstered by the solidarity between the peace march organizers and the Occupy Portland movement, which brought in a good chunk of the crowd with a feeder march from their encampment before the rally began at 1 PM.

Before getting to a description of the day's events, two pieces of good news:

1) Last Thursday, the Oregonian reported that Mayor Sam Adams told them he was planning to put forward some version of the "Bring the War $$ Home" resolution based on the National Conference of Mayors' resolution!

>> http://blog.oregonlive.com/portlandcityhall/2011/10/peace_activists_call...

Keep contacting City Council to show your support.

>> http://www.pjw.info/wardollarshome.html ; and

2) Even bigger news, and we have to hope that there's not a secret escape hatch here: The Associated Press is reporting that President Obama has decided that the US will withdraw _all_ of its troops from Iraq by December 31.

http://www.koinlocal6.com/news/national/story/U-S-abandons-plans-to-keep...

What about the contractors? What about the huge embassy the size of the Vatican? What about the rumored combat forces to be put in Kuwait in case they are "needed"? We shall see, but for now, a sigh of relief.

The speakers at the rally, including host Cecil Prescod of Ainsworth United Church of Christ and KBOO, got the crowd educated and energized around the points of the political platform of the day: "10 Years in Afghanistan: End the Wars-Bring Our $$ Home." Wael Elasady of Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights connected the efforts for self-determination in the Middle East to the Occupy movement. Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (who is speaking tonight-Monday-at the Unitarian Church at 7:30 PM) engaged the crowd with a spoken word performance that covered the issues of eroding civil liberties and encouraged people to stand up for change. Penny Dex of Iraq Veterans Against the War was joined by some of her colleagues on the stage to talk about the experience of veterans who are used by this country but then not cared for. And Meredith Reese of the International Socialist Organization and Jobs with Justice connected the struggle of the labor movement to the peace movement and the Occupy movement.

Morris McClellan (AKA Mo Mack) who had welcomed the crowd with a short set of songs, sent the march off with a rendition of "Stop the war" to the tune of the National Anthem.

The crowd was energetic and the No War Drum Corps set a great vibe up at the front end of the march as it snaked about 30 blocks through downtown. When we reached SW 4th and Main, we stopped , flowing around the Elk statue which is the center of Occupy Portland's "territory." There, Chris Ferlazzo of Jobs with Justice further emphasized the importance of solidarity of the movement. Grant Remington of Veterans for Peace explained that the original second speaker for that spot, a widow of an Afghan war veteran who committed suicide rather than return to Afghanistan, had been unable to make it down due to child care issues-- yet another symptom, it was noted, of the same economic struggle expressed by the action.

From there, we headed up to Broadway and then around to the First Unitarian Church at 12th and Main. Although the folks at the front end of the march used the "human megaphone" to encourage people to head into the church for the forum, only about 100 people (including some who had not gone on the march) were in attendance there. About 10 organizations had tables set up and the forum got started just before 3:00 PM.

Laurie King, also with Jobs with Justice, acting as host, welcomed the crowd and contextualized the growing discontent with American policies by invoking the struggles in Wisconsin and elsewhere to defend workers' rights. Veronica Dujon, sociology professor at Portland State University, described the damage done by US policies in both broad and specific terms, keeping the image of a soldier and an Iraqi child up on a projection screen to remind folks of the grim realities of those policies. Martin Hart-Landsberg, an economics professor from Lewis and Clark College, connected foreign, domestic and economic policies, noting how many human needs could be met if not for the bloated spending on the military in general and the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan in particular. Shahid Buttar laid out a number of civil liberties infringements that have worsened since 9/11, including the specific effects on communities of color, religious communities and immigrants.

An informal poll taken of the forum audience showed that about half had come from Occupy Portland, and that the largest number of folks who showed up had heard about the event via email, word of mouth, and through KBOO 90.7 FM, one of the day's cosponsors. (If you went to the march but not the forum and heard about it some other way, please let us know... it is very helpful when we plan our outreach efforts.)

All said, it was a great day, great weather, and a huge success in terms of once again integrating the economic message with the peace message.

As for media coverage, we got a decent story on KGW-8, which correctly noted the crowd size was "3000 to 4000 people":

http://www.kgw.com/news/Peace-march-in-Portland-includes-Occupy-group-13...

KPTV-12, despite being a Fox affiliate, had decent coverage as well. We also got coverage on KATU-2 (including images from inside the Forum!), but they put the numbers at 1000 and made some snarky remarks. The usually friendly KOIN didn't show our march or even mention it, BUT they had a live reporter at Occupy Portland where one of the community banners was stretched across the camp: "How is the war economy working for you?"

OPB radio's not so great story is here:
http://news.opb.org/article/protesters-unite-anti-war-march-portland/

Portland Indymedia has a video up I haven't seen as well as some stills with text over-estimating the crowd size as 5000:

http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2011/10/411326.shtml

Prior to march, we had a few boosts, with the Portland Mercury running a copy of the day's flyer:

http://blogtown.portlandmercury.com/BlogtownPDX/archives/2011/10/14/rall...

The Oregonian slightly got its facts wrong about Peace and Justice Works joining Occupy Portland (Occupy Portland endorsed the event that PJW helped coordinate, is more accurate):

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2011/10/round-up_of_occupy_...

But even worse, the Oregonian's Saturday editorial claimed our march was in conflict somehow with Occupy Portland and that the two events converging was not the stars aligning properly (which I would say, it was, since we set the march route weeks before Occupy Portland took over the space at 3rd & Main), comparing the so-called conflict to a "Portlandia" sketch:

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2011/10/what_is_and_isnt_fre...

In addition, it pretty much is a call to action to start ticketing the Occupiers for their violations of laws, which to me are trumped by the US and Oregon Constitutions. But more on that later.

Finally, Occupy Portland has a quirky little video taken on a pedi-cab that was in and out of the march; about 2/3 of the video is not taken during the march. The most interesting view is at the very end where they show the stop at Occupy Pdx-- where protesters were up the block to the west and way down the block to the east, thousands strong:

http://occupypdx.org/2011/10/16/day-10-drum-beats/

Thanks to everyone who helped make the day a huge success, including and especially the 40 groups who were cosponsors or endorsers!

Let's keep up the struggle-- it may take years, but eventually we see the walls start to come down.

--dan handelman
Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065 (Office)
iraq@pjw.info
http://www.pjw.info/Iraq.html