Portland Police: beanbags, death and waffles/Sharon Pearson in OR

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 29 Nov 1998 22:01:59 -0400


FWD via wmnofstl@cruzio.com (Becky Johnson)

November 20, 1998

Portland Police:
beanbags, death and waffles

by Sharon Pearson
for Street Roots

It's getting harder to live constitutionally free
in Portland-particularly for feeling folk: people
hankering for big birthday parties in spacious
public parks, angry people struggling against
voices in their heads, homeless people trying to
catch a few winks, and activists risking arrest
trying to expose a prejudicial and discriminatory
law.

Law-the primary purpose of which is to protect the
citizenry-continues in my opinion, to be
interpreted with wide discretion in Portland by
too many short-sighted authorities.

To fire six beanbag rounds into a crowd of 40
protesting citizens in Northeast Portland, simply
because they failed to disperse or disperse in the
right direction after being ordered by Portland
police to do so, is reminiscent of eight
individuals from the National Guard who fired upon
Kent State students May 4, 1970, wounding nine and
killing four.

To over-react to the ravings and gyrations of
Dickie Dow, a mentally disturbed Portland citizen
whose breath was pepper-sprayed and chest
compressed by eight Portland Police officers which
caused his death October 20, is reminiscent of
torture and death in the "insane asylums" of the
1950s.

To harass, arrest, fine and incarcerate homeless
Portland citizens (men, women and children)
year-after-bone-crushing-year for the harmless act
of sleeping, is reminiscent of England's treatment
of its poor in the late 1800s.

To ignore 30 activists from Portland's Campaign
for Legal Places to Sleep (CLPS) who, in protest,
assembled (without a permit) to commit an action
of civil disobedience by deliberately defying
Portland's anti-camping ordinance, is reminiscent
of nothing.

Nothing, because ignoring people fired up enough
to deliberately break a law and risk arrest,
beanbag bullets or pepper spray, is a relatively
effective and new (80s-90s) strategy designed to
make light of or diffuse an otherwise
confrontational situation.

However, if analyzed, this strategy reveals the
wide discretion Portland Police have been given to
waffle: thereby upholding or not upholding a law.
For example, Portland police-by their actions-were
aware of the location and time of the intended
unlawful civil disobedience action to be taken by
CLPS November 2 at 11th and Morrison. They trailed
CLPS' about-to-be law-breakers-at one time hiding
in some trees and bushes-but it was clear they
were privy to each planned step of the action.

They chose, however, not to arrest or ticket a
single person involved in the four hour action. As
a result, more than a few people who were directly
or not directly involved in the action have asked
some interesting questions: Has the result of this
non-enforcement of City Ordinance 14.08.250
(Camping Prohibited in Certain Places) given
activists in Portland new-found freedom to
assemble and protest without paying for permits?

Or has this privilege only been extended to the
Campaign for Legal Places to Sleep?

Or could it be that the Portland Police feel more
inspired to enforce laws at night, as opposed to
during the day in full view of office workers,
sidewalk strollers, media photographers and Max
riders? Or are their arrests finely honed to
include only homeless people?

Or was their strategy one of recognizing that if
they did not arrest CLPS law-breakers then
observers would quite naturally conclude the
action had police sanction? But what about the
red-faced business man who stormed out of his
office and walked over to the squad car
complaining he couldn't concentrate because of the
chants and drumming coming from CLPS? Was his
business in the wrong part of town?

Currently Charles Moose, Portland's chief of
police who lives in Northeast Portland, a place
the chief thinks many people feel
"disenfranchised," is bitterly complaining to the
Portland City Council. Exhibiting, in my opinion,
the emotional stability of a five-year old, Moose
complains that because the victims of the beanbag
assault had taken their protest to the hallowed
area near his home, he is now "unable to defend"
his "house or home" and can no longer "encourage"
new officers to live in Portland.

How sad.

Perhaps the good chief should move his family to a
shelter where people don't just feel
disenfranchised. Perhaps then, he would feel more
appreciated.

And then there was today, in which the Campaign
for Legal Places to Sleep received a letter from
Terry Anderson, aid to Commissioner Gretchen
Miller Kafoury, who offers to sit down and talk
with me (because my name was signed as "organizer)
"if I like." She says, in her brief letter, that
she has been "involved with homelessness in
Portland for over ten years as I have."

Uh, huh, sure. I recall Anderson well. This is the
same sister who refused to let me speak to Kafoury
when I blew the whistle about low-income senior
citizens receiving injuries from falling and
improperly aligned elevators at Hollywood East.

And now-today-she encloses a copy of a letter she
wrote to the churches who supported us,
"reminding" them, that there are "many ways and
organizations to assist homeless campers and those
in shelters or transitional housing." And further,
Anderson has the unmitigated audacity to inform
the churches that "families with children are the
greatest unmet need at this time."

Talk about strategy.

Well, I don't "like." Quite frankly, if I were to
sit down with any short-sighted authority on
behalf of any homeless people anywhere, it'd have
to be with someone a bit farther up the
short-sighted chain-like Moose or Katz.

November 12, CLPS members held a meeting to decide
whether or not the group wanted to continue
rabble-rousing for the good cause presented to
them by the mostly single homeless brothers and
sisters in Portland. Also attending the meeting
were two activists who presented new strategies.
At the conclusion of the meeting CLPS members
unanimously agreed to keep on keeping on.

Undaunted by beanbag bullets, arrest, pepper spray
or waffling police, members for the Campaign for
Legal Places to Sleep have tested the waters and
found them lukewarm. The strategy now is to boil
them.

"What would happen if one woman told the truth
about her life?/The world would split open."
...Kathie Kollwitz

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