April 13, 20033
As We Go Marching
It felt great being on the protesting streets. Best cure for reading about tragedy is to get off your couch and fight. A sunny April 12 Saturday in Portland and four thousand people were marching against the war and not showing any signs of dangerous depression. Last big march we had saw 25,000 on peace parade and the spirit was zany ferocious. I feared a few hundred people would show up since the conquest phase of the war is almost over and it's clear nobody in the White House is listening. But this was a good crowd and when its numbers are added into the D.C. march and the half million in Rome and Spain and many other places we can be sure that a massive opposition movement exists as permanently as Dubyas love of war and executions.
The march congregated at the waterfront circled though downtown Portland and culminated with a rally in Pioneer Square. There were very few hecklers along the line of march. They insisted that we should support our soldiers and we said we did, with inescapable logic, because we wanted to bring them home now.
Unfortunately the organizers had chosen a funereal tone. There were the predictable coffins and die-ins. Mexicans can pull off the death festival with life affirming energy. With them it goes back to the Aztecs. But when Americans try to play at death--its just deadly and uninspiring. Especially when the usual tales of woe folk songs are sung in the manner of a dirge.
It was nice to see a growing number of protesters marching under open Jewish colors. The anti-Semites have been trying to blame the war on the Jews. This is the most grimly Christian presidency in recorded American history. Right-wing Jewish advisors and Sharon are designated to be the power behind the throne and that just goes to show how predictably dumb Jew hating can be.
Indeed to the Jewish contingent goes the best slogan of the march.
The last time we followed a Bush, we wandered in the desert for forty
If you dont get it, read up on Passover.
- Stew -
March 20, 2003
Dom, Portland peace activist, ended his speech by proclaiming the old and golden, Sixties slogan, "Power to the people." And the people were about to demonstrate their power by shutting down or jamming up major sections of Portland. They were trying to punish Bush for invading Iraq and showing contempt for our planet's noblest aspirations.
We started out in Terry Shrunk Plaza with a rally, maybe 2,000 were present. The high spirited solidarity that was obvious at the last Portland march continued to energize the protesters. And with drum like sounds most of the crowd, including many students who left school early, soon headed into the streets, marched around the Plaza several times and then headed into the downtown for some bold and creative disruption.
Those who remained in the Plaza continued with their speeches, networking and petition signing. They also expressed support for those who were pushing the city into purposeful chaos.
Both the rally and the march lacked a permit but as one speaker declared, "Bush doesnt have a permit to make war!"
The marchers managed to stop traffic on two bridges and three Interstate highways, through a combination of putting their bodies on a line where cars couldn't go and holding random sit-ins. The police did some pepper spraying, bean bag shooting and clubbing but were obviously under orders to act with some restraint. The disrupters were quite aware that similar actions against the war were going on all over the world and that certainly added to their confrontational capacity.
Arrests were taking place but festivities of the people's power continued into the AM and were covered live and continuously by the local Fox affiliate. "The Whole Oregon Was Watching."
- Stew -
March 15, 2003
One More Time
It was raining again when we arrived at the waterfront. It had been raining for a week and it seemed like the weather had joined the Bush Junta. Suddenly, bright and warm sun came out. And the largest peace demonstration in Portland history took place. Rain returned, but only at the end of festivities.
The local media is trying to convince us that the crowd was only 20,000. Nonsense, that's what it was the last time, and this incredible event was a third again bigger and better.
The organizers seemed to have learned that their rallies are unimportant and boring. And that it's the people's march that counts. They kept the speeches brief this time but that didn't matter. The crowd was so large that most of us were out of hearing range. I did feel bad about not seeing Congressman John Lewis's appearance. He was a major figure in the Martin Luther King wing of the civil rights movement. But then joy! There was Brother Lewis working the crowd and pressing the flesh. I had a chance to shake his hand and thank him for coming to Portland and remaining a nice guy.
There was an odd, only in Portland twist to the massive event. Local Anarchists and their pals had organized a separate gathering that had it's own rally, march and site. The big difference being that anyone who wished, could speak at their rally and that no permit had been negotiated for the march. There was some concern that this could lead to confusion and division within the antiwar world. But when the Anarchist brigade appeared in the distance with their huge red and black flags, they were roundly cheered by the more moderate peaceniks. I think these irrepressible characters are starting to express the growing inner anger of the more pacifist inclined. The liberals aren't ready to engage in creative disorder just yet, but they are glad now, that someone is doing it.
The main march was enormous, circling downtown Portland and returning to the waterfront. What impressed me this time around was the creativity and the exuberance. Previously things might have had a bit of a moralistic and pious undertone. Of course the neo-Yippies were also present and much fun was evident. But this time, by way of costumes, the best being a completely naked casually marching man, wild slogans, a grand variety of individuals (Teamsters and Bhuddist Monks) , hilarious signs and the general ambiance of madcap protest, we could experience the full welcome reincarnation of the 1960s war on boredom and death.
The Sixties again, but this time around, it isn't only for bohemians.
I carried a sign that said "War isn't Kosher." I was marching with a group of Jewish activists who are fed up with anti-Semites calling Bushian madness a Jewish conspiracy. Suddenly an absolute psychopath, the kind you expect to be wielding a knife, grabbed my arm. He mumbled incoherently and then proceeded to recite in ancient Hebrew, the first line from the Shamah. The most sacred of Jewish prayers. He then angrily looked into my crazy eyes with his own. Without missing a beat I replied by reciting the second line. We formed an instant bond for peace. Joyous, the madman departed.
This may have been the last demonstration to prevent war. The next one will probably be to stop it. The mood could have been down, sad and forbidding. But there were no signs of depression or defeat. New people were joining our ranks. Morale was high and getting more so. Cowboy Bush may try. But he's never going to rule us.
Signs on the line of march: Buck Fush, Kiss Me I'm French, Lesbians Against Boys Invading Anything, Peace is Patriotic, Smoke Bud-Not Baghdad, Fuck Bush and His Oil War, Frodo Has Failed-Bush Has The Ring, Who Would Jesus Bomb? Stop Mad Cowboy Disease, a dog wearing a poster proclaiming--Bombs Kill Puppies, and millions more.
- Stew -
February 15, 2003
Bring It All Back Home!
Millions of people are today demonstrating against the war. In Eugene Oregon, Seattle, Oslo, Los Angeles, London, New York City, Paris and even Israel. Nothing big was scheduled for Portland. But in the era of Bush, demonstrations happen. And there were a bunch of spontaneous outbursts of civilization taking place in downtown Portland.
We came across one such event on Broadway and Main. A young crowd, kind of punkish but far from totally so, were disrupting traffic. Playing games with the guzzlers. Slowing them down, pounding on them and doing no real damage. Harmless fun. But not exactly creating a peaceful society either.
The cops could have short circuited the games by redirecting traffic. There were lots of them around and it would have been an easy task. But we live in the era of Bush and those kids might have been Iraqi spies.
Instead the cops chose to employ chemical weapons against their own people. Spraying a burning fluid into the faces and eyes of eight protesters. It was probably pepper gas, and in moments three of the kids, two guys and a young woman were lying on the sidewalk, faces burning, red and copious tears pouring out of their eyes, they were in a state of shock and hellish disorientation. The police provided no medical attention for their victims. But the gas guzzlers were once again heading down Broadway in an unmolested manner. Take that Saddam!
- Stew -
It's a kind of secular miracle. On January 18 , 20 to 25 thousand marching against the Bush war. It's a record for peace marches in Portland Oregon. Even beats the Sixties.
All kinds of people, carrying all sorts of signs, and chanting various and sundry slogans. Even a few marching bands. About 25% raised their hands when asked if this was their first peace march. My first, was in 1960 over atmospheric H-bomb testing. I've done it countless times but this one was special. There is no draft and the war hasn't started. The message is clear. Bush is single-handedly rebuilding the protest movement. Creating something that will be larger and much more varied than in the 60's. Even the wretched Ronald Reagan couldn't manage this feat! Boy, the people hate Bush. You can tell from the hand made signs and the chants. One really pissed off participant went so far as to wear a Bush mask and a small rocket at penis level.
The march was fantastic. It offered hope in a dark forest. But, as usual, the rally sucked. There were some good speakers but they went on for far too long saying things that had already been said and said again. This time, there was almost a rebellion. The crowd kept interrupting speakers chanting "March, March" and some did actually break away and start marching against orders. Most remained however for the official OK, but they felt like kids doing High School detention.
Another problem came from two speakers who repeatedly attacked Israel, without condemning Palestinian terrorism or supporting Israel's right to exist. This brought some angry crowd comments about "this isn't why we came here." I know Jewish people who stayed away because they feared being exposed to this type of unbalanced Middle East style politics.
I really admire the demonstration organizers for devoting their lives to these events but honestly, they are going to have to learn about holding informative entertaining and brief rallies or just stop having them. One last and very strange note. There were real Nazis at the rally. Some were present in a stealthy way, hiding behind anti-Israel signs, but one guy (having a small kid present for protection) was actually sporting a large black swastika on a red patch, in the middle of his cap. He made it through the whole rally. In the Sixties, he wouldn't have lasted for a minute.
- Stew -
December 25, 2002
Most Americans think Bush has not made his case for war. Some ask why aren't more people in the streets protesting? Todd Gitlin, Ellen Goodman blame the current antiwar movement for being a retro 60's retread. The 60's slogans are too simplistic for now. Saddam is no Ho and Americans (however mistakenly) blame Saddam for 9-11. They want a movement with complex (if boring) slogans. I'm different. I'm amazed that so many are demonstrating against a war with Iraq. Because the war hasn't started. Because there is no draft. Because the climate is so repressive. Go back to 1964 when there was a war when there was a draft when the country was much more hang loose. And you'll find that the largest antiwar demo was 6,000 strong in NYC! We get more than that in Portland NOW!
By all means hurt a tyrant's feelings, say Saddam Sucks. Say it loud but don't run down what we've done and don't tell George Bush that we are pushover has-been relics. He's supposed to be scared and cautious of the Vietnam Syndrome. Remember, that's us.
- Stew -
November 30, 2002
Deck the Halls
Yesterday (Nov 29) I visited Pioneer Sq. here in Portland. It's the busiest shopping day of the year with everyone trying to buy and give away happiness in the era of Bush the Barbarian.
The Square was filled with a million consumers and much more. There was the new Volkswagen Beetle Convertible to gaze on, a giant Christmas tree, an off-tune choir of Christendom's carols, a gang of "Jews for Jesus," a very large Chanukah menorah, some angry Arabs giving out their message, three masked women giving out "buy nothing" leaflets, a bunch of silly men dressed like Santa Claus, and a broadly acted pro-peace in the middle east skit being put on by "Jews for Global Justice."
In this surreal scene, it was the skit and the skit alone that attracted the attention of the police. Including some in those new frightening black skinhead-looking battle fatigues. A cop told a representative of the performers: "End this immediately. You don't have a permit. If you don't stop it, we will."
And the person told them it was only scheduled for ten minutes and promised to pass on the advice. The skit continued. The police went nervously back and forth on their walkie-talkies and decided ten minutes wasn't such a long time to avoid the embarrassment of beating up Jews on Chanukah. And doing it in front of TV cameras.
The Portland cops are starting to look like thugs but in absence of FBI agents pushing them along the path to chaos, they retain certain practical tendancies.
- Stew -
November 17, 2002
Portland Peace March
Just back from a rather large peace demonstration. I am tired but feel some hope. First, there was a 1 o'clock pre-march rally in Pioneer Square. The site of numerous massive pro-peace demonstrations during the first Gulf War. I was surprised to see a turnout so large as to be comparable with the Gulf war protests. Up to ten thousand people packed the Square. They were warm and enthusiastic, really ready to make their vital statement. And how amazing their grand numbers. After all, the war hasn't quite started. The UN is still going through some peaceful motions that do represent a last long shot hope of avoiding disaster.
And unlike the Vietnam peace movement of the 60's these rebels do not fear a draft. So their militant presence is based on pure good intentions. Unfortunately the pre-march rally was a disappointment. Many of the speakers pushed their personal grand philosophies and causes -- and it seemed sometimes like the impending Iraqi conflagration was just a bit peripheral to their oratorical interests. Such is the stuff of coalition building, every group wants to get their two cents on the table -- and it can make for a fairly uninspiring event.
As usual, the inspiration came from the determined people when the march began. In such large numbers they took to the streets, with hand made signs and that most enduring of slogans "No war! Peace Now!" Onlookers, including those on city buses tended to universally friendly reactions.
The Portland police although dressed in horrible new black storm trooperesque uniforms, kept their cool and did their job of redirecting city traffic. I could see by their facial expressions that they were somewhat surprised by the event's size. If policy makers in Washington, DC have a scintilla of sense left in their heads they will take note of the Portland event and treat it as a warning. War with Iraq may very well mean chaos on the homefront. If Americans are supposed to be united in a war against terrorism, attacking Iraq is not exactly an intelligent way of creating that unity.
Judy and I dropped out of the march near its conclusion. She has an annoying cold and I a middle aged back ache. There will also be a post-march rally in the Square. I hope it will be a bit more politically relevant, the second time around.
- Stew -
Stew & Judy - Portland 2002
November 10, 2002
Back From Berkeley
I'm back from Berkeley. Are you depressed about the elections and the Bush Junta coronation? I've got a nice story to tell. It might cheer you up.
The Alberts had a reunion brunch at the West Side Bakery and Cafe in Berkeley. Eighteen people, all old time 60's types, were in attendance. I gave a little speech. And everyone present had a few words to say. We had lots of laughs and ate a good deal of food. When it came time to paying the bill, the waiter told us that some guy at the next table had paid our bill! And that he had left the restaurant.
We are talking about a bill that might have gone as high as three hundred bucks! Our benefactor explained to the owner of the restaurant that "these people had opposed the draft, ended the draft, and probably saved my life, I'm just trying to pay them back."
My god were we stunned. It felt like a small miracle of great solidarity. And it helped all of us get through a very tough week.
- Stew -
October 30, 2002
Antiwar movement before the war,
100,000 in Washington
and plenty in SF
and this time it's without a draft
this time the killing will be voluntary,
the dying too,
and so many are so angry about blasting Baghdad
and have such different desires
than George Bush.
Have we finally found
an objective measure
of human progress?
a society is considered
to be demonstrably improving
its moral character
by the growing number of its citizens
that hate George Bush
disown George Bush,
who just open their windows
At a concert in Denver
a song to Paul Wellstone
"The Times They Are A Changing."
- Stew -
Maybe they are.
October 27, 2002
Bad Moon Rising
Paul Wellstone's plane went down on Oct 25. His wife, pilot, daughter and campaign aides perished with him. Nobody knows why it went down, but I'm betting Ashcroft put a curse on the plane. Wellstone is the second individual on Ashcroft's enemies list to perish in a private plane crash. The first was his opponent in the Senatorial election, who went on to run as a corpse and beat him.
Wellstone in the Senate was an impossible dream. Imagine a left-wing Jewish college professor with an amateur wrestling background getting elected to the US Senate, forget about it, it's not going to happen, but it did. He won two terms in office and was on his way to a third. This despite the White House handpicking his opponent and shadowy right wing foundations spending millions on a Slander Wellstone Campaign. Appropriately, Paul Wellstone's last vote was against war with Iraq.
Wellstone's death forces me to think how dangerous it is to become an influential liberal in America. There doesn't seem to be much longevity in it. Remember JFK and RFK and Martin Luther King? Who all fell by assassination. And labor leader Walter Reuther who went down in a plane crash? And Allard Lowenstein who was murdered? The death of these very powerful liberals helped change the political face of America. With these people gone, it was a lot easier for the right-wing to take power. Wellstone's passing makes it that much easier for the Bush gang. And of course big shot conservatives all seem to die rich, old and in their beds surrounded by greedy relatives.
On Oct 26 people all over the world demonstrated against the Bush war with Iraq. And many thousands were in the streets of St. Paul. Minnesota, Wellstone's hometown. The extremely large crowd was a passionate tribute to Paul Wellstone and his fighting dream.
- Stew -
On Oct. 22, I found myself marching in the sunny
fall streets of Portland, Oregon. This time the protest was against the
war at home. It was a rally against police brutality.
P.S. Still crazy after all these years?
Berkeley 1968 ---- Portland 2002
October 5, 2002
On Oct. 5, I marched in a large anti-war demonstration in Portland OR. The paper says 6,000 attended and Indy.Media says close to 12. I put the figure somewhere in between. It was a very mixed crowd, from people even older than me to young kids. Old ladies in tennis shoes and some very edgy punks. It was a long march, that began and ended with a rally. My favorite sign? "We're back! " And we are.
On the same day, thousands marched from San Francisco to NYC and even in Brattleboro Vt. And over a million and half turned out in Italy and a little while back a half million in Blair's England. And even thousands of Geneva Swiss took to the streets. Will it matter? Probably not for now. Will Bush permit demos in America when we go to war? Probably --but it wont be easy getting permits - and better not try it, if you don't have one. Unless of course you're into masks, bandanas and blood.
My big question (aside from why my body is so sore and depressed today) is - how many people demonstrated yesterday -- who never demonstrated before?
- Stew -
October 2, 2002
The Monster Mash
rule the world,
drink its blood
and eat its soul!
Become a manly self-actualized monster
of greed and death.
And Bush promises
you wont even have to
get off your couch
or turn off
- Stew -