Saturday, March 22, 2003

Portland War Protests Revisited

This Portland blogger compliments the Portland police for their conduct during the March 20th war protests. From what I saw as a neutral observer on 3rd Avenue, I was impressed by the conduct of both sides. The police and other officials seemed very professional, calm, and sensible, almost going out of their way to maintain harmony rather than stir up emotions. The demonstrators also seemed to be acting sensibly. On a few occasions, some demonstrators approached me or my friends and engaged us in conversation. But I got no sense of conflict or impending violence. Basically people were waving, saying hello, and asking whether we wanted to join the march. At no time did I feel in any sort of danger from anyone. It reminded me of a kind of unofficial Rose Parade.

I am writing this to counter the tendency of the media to focus on a small set of extreme actions. From some of the reports I've seen, you might get the impression that either Portland is turning into a cruel "police state" or, on the other hand, that the demonstrators are all violent, America-hating anarchists, determined to smash windows, burn the flag, and scare people. Neither of these ideas is anything like the feeling I got from being there, which was that some people were expressing their views, while officials tried to keep things flowing smoothly and prevent problems.

Compare this to the events in Yemen, where according to the New York Times:

The government said protesters opened fire on the riot police, setting off a gun battle that killed two demonstrators, one of them an 11-year-old boy, and left three police officers hospitalized in critical condition.

I was glad to see that Portlanders are pretty reasonable people, even during unusual times.

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