PPRC Marchers Call on Community to Condemn Attack on Friday Rally, Reaffirms Commitment to Peaceful Response to Belligerents


Event: PPRC Rally and March for Peace
Date: Friday, August 8th, 2003
Time: 5:00 p.m.
Place: Pioneer Courthouse Square

The Portland Peaceful Response Coalition Friday 5:00 p.m. rally at Pioneer Courthouse Square is calling for a community response against the violent attack that occurred at the August 1st peace rally and march. "The last two Friday rallies have been the target of aggressive and belligerent harassment, and last week’s rally ended in a very serious assault on our marchers by several young men," said Will Seaman, a regular participant in the Friday peace rallies. "Fortunately none of the injuries were life-threatening and the two primary culprits were quickly apprehended by the police, but the assault included the use of chokehold that might have seriously injured one of our marchers." Seaman said they are calling on the community to condemn the attack on the weekly peaceful gathering, and to come out to show their solidarity with the marchers. The weekly peace rally at Pioneer Courthouse Square has been held for over nineteen months, starting in November 2001.

PPRC spokespersons said that this week’s gathering would emphasize the group ’s commitment to the weekly peace rally and march at Pioneer Courthouse Square and would include discussion and training in ways to respond to confrontations with persons trying to intimidate the marchers. "We have been and will continue to be committed to peaceful opposition to our country ’s criminal wars and violent foreign policy, and we will make every effort to meet this kind of belligerent and violent harassment with determined, steadfast non-violence," said Seaman. "We are happy to engage in rational, mutually respectful dialogue with those who disagree with us, but we will not be intimidated by the kind of thuggery we witnessed last Friday."

PPRC spokespersons expressed concern with the degree of organization reflected in last week’s harassment of the marchers. When the marchers returned to the Square last Friday, they were met with a line of between six and eight young men blocking their entry through the Southwest corner of the square. Many marchers went around the blockade of this public thoroughfare, and several marchers engaged with the young men who continued to shout abuse. "We’ve never had to deal with a mob like this trying to block our way through a public space," said Seaman. "And when the result is violent assault on our marchers, we have to raise the question of whether this incident might involve more than the usual elements of hot weather, alcohol and an excess of youthful machismo."

One eyewitness account of the incident is appended below.

 

Eye Witness Account :

"There was a pretty significant attack on the PPRC peace rally and march participants Friday at Pioneer Courthouse Square. There were minor injuries (lacerations, bruises, a previous injury was opened up and bleeding pretty badly), but none serious (as far as I could tell)".1 "As we experienced last week (from a different heckler), a single person started aggressively harassing our rally as soon as we started. Several very courageous people tried to isolate him from our group, but he pushed into our circle and was yelling insults and obscenities at us. After a few minutes, we moved out on our march. (The person who was harassing us last week was identified as being present among the crowd that was standing close by, the crowd that this week's 'counter-protestor' was a part of.) "When we returned to the square, about eight or nine young men were standing side-by-side blocking the usual path that we take back into the square, the Southwest corner (Yamhill & Broadway). The drum corps and most of our group went around them to the right, avoiding this rather belligerent, but ultimately ineffective 'Maginot Line'. Some peace marchers confronted them however, and exchanged heated words. At some point shortly thereafter, the true assault began."

"Where I was standing, I could see that a shirtless man (wearing a camouflage hat) had one of our people in a headlock, what looked like a chokehold, and it appeared to me that he was straining with every fiber of his strength to choke our friend. Several people were trying to pull the shirtless man off, to stop him from choking our friend, but they were failing, and it looked to me that our friend was indeed in very serious distress and could not breath. He was grimacing and it looked like he was in pain. Eventually, one of the peace marchers leapt onto the back of the shirtless man, and that seemed to break up the chokehold. At this point, I called 911, because there was not a single policeman anywhere to be seen."

"Eventually, several police officers showed up. Statements were taken from witnesses, and we have been told that the shirtless man and the original instigator were cited and barred from the Square for two weeks."

"Fortunately, there was a man video taping the incident, and we have several very good witnesses. However, this incident, in conjunction with the harassment from last week, suggests that there is rather more planning involved in this assault than the usual sort of harassment that we've experienced."

1. It was later discovered that one of the marchers had suffered what appeared to be a knife wound.

 


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