PPRC Condemns Attacks on Rights and Obligations to Protest War, Calls on Peacemakers to Continue Non-Violent Acts of Dissent


Event: PPRC Responds to Mayor's Press Conference
Date: Friday, March 28th, 2003
Time: 7:00 a.m.
Place: N/A


"These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest." - Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967

We are filled with sorrow and we are deeply shocked by the violent loss of life and grievous injuries that the US war on Iraq has already brought upon the world, and we unequivocally reaffirm our opposition to this criminal, unjust, immoral war. We also strongly affirm the rights and the moral imperative of every person of conscience to be protesting this war, and we condemn in the clearest terms those who would silence those protests either by calling for heavy-handed law enforcement, or by slanderous attacks on the peace and justice community propagated by the commercial media, or by threats of repressive, unconstitutional legislation.

We further affirm the legitimacy and strong moral tradition associated with non-violent civil disobedience as an important, indeed urgently needed form of dissent against this war. The Portland Peaceful Response Coalition has been and continues to be completely and consistently committed to organizing and promoting fully legal peace marches, rallies and other events intended to express opposition to the war. However, this PPRC policy is in no way intended to prejudice the pro-peace community against other forms of non-violent opposition and resistance to this war.

The PPRC recognizes and decries the costs associated with the greatly increased police functions implemented by the City of Portland, an increase that is partly in response to the anti-democratic, pro-war bullying by certain elements of the business community, most notably the Portland Business Alliance under a misguided and authoritarian leadership. We further recognize, and are deeply grateful for, other elements of the business community who fully support the rights of peace marchers, including the rights of anti-war protestors who have engaged in non-violent civil disobedience. We acknowledge and thank those members of the business community who have further taken positive steps to express their own opposition to this criminal war.

We are deeply troubled by those who would use the costs associated with the additional police activity to blame the peace movement for the shortfalls in our city, county and state budgets. In addition to the growing tragedy of deaths, injuries and psychological trauma inflicted upon Americans, British and Iraqis alike, this criminal war now has the official price tag of over $70 billion, $70 billion that must be financed on the backs of the working poor, the unemployed, and the middle class of this country. All the while the Bush Administration is granting the wealthy and the super-rich further unprecedented tax cuts, and handing out war-profiteering contracts to their corporate cronies, such as to Dick Cheney's former employers at Halliburton.

The costs of this war were a central focus of the peace movement's opposition to the Bush Administration's policy on Iraq. Our call was for funding education, not war; we support a fully funded human services budget, not billions of dollars to send Americans to kill and to die in the desserts of the Middle East. Blaming the peace movement for the defunding of needed human services reveals the profound hypocrisy of those who support financing this horrifying cataclysm of death and suffering that is now unfolding in Iraq. As Martin Luther King, Jr., said with such terrifying prescience, "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

Finally, the PPRC acknowledges the professional, disciplined, humane and lawful conduct of most Portland Police Bureau personnel in implementing their duties over the past eight days. However, we must reiterate our concern with, and we take strong exception to, the disproportionate and inappropriate use of pain compliance and other rough treatment inflicted upon peaceful, non-violent peace marchers and protestors. We recognize that those persons who choose to engage in non-violent civil disobedience face the prospect of arrest and prosecution. But we strongly object to arrest procedures that are disproportionate to the non-violent infractions committed by such protestors. Such inappropriate use of force only adds to tensions and only further discredits the police force in their efforts to implement legitimate law enforcement. We believe that the Portland Police Bureau has demonstrated their ability to enforce laws in ways that respect the rights of anti-war protestors, and in ways that moreover calm rather than enflame the passions of those engaged in active dissent against this war. We appeal to the City of Portland and to the Portland Police Bureau to resist the calls for police action that further erodes the rights of the citizens and residents of this region, and that heightens tensions with the peace and justice community.



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