Around the country, police rein in dissent
On a campaign swing through Arizona on September 27, President Bush was met by hundreds of protesters in both Flagstaff and Phoenix who addressed many issues but chiefly opposition to war. Reuters reported that, "As Bush addressed the Iraq situation in Flagstaff, a protester shouted out 'What's the real reason Mr. Bush -- oil money?' She was quickly led away."
In Phoenix, police on horseback moved to reign in the protest crowd as it flowed off the sidewalks, provoking the arrest of six people, including legal observer Eleanor Eisenberg, Executive Director of the Arizona Civil Liberties Union. While the other charges have since been dismissed, the municipal court case against Eisenberg for obstruction and interference with authority is in pretrial discovery.
For more information, contact Eisenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Bush delivered a major pitch for war in Cincinnati on October 7, up to 5,000 people protested outside the Museum Center while he spoke. When most of the crowd returned to nearby Laurel Park for a closing rally, a few hundred blocked the exit from the Museum Center. Police on horseback rode through the crowd to disperse it, and arrested six people by one account.
The next day in Knoxville, Tennessee, police attempted to corral several hundred demonstrators into a restricted "free speech zone" out of sight from the Convention Center where the President was hustling bucks. The zone proved porous, with police chasing down a few protesters with signs who passed their barricade to reach the sidewalk opposite the Convention Center and join the simply curious pedestrians who were allowed to gather there, without signs. Three women with signs who crossed to a landscaped median were arrested when they refused to retreat to the "free speech zone." Anne Hablas, Lissa McCleod and Libby Johnson were charged with failure to obey a lawful order. Johnson, whose husband Erik is now serving six months in prison for trespass at the School of the Americas, was also charged with impeding traffic when she sat down in the middle of the street. The three women will be in Knoxville City Court on November 22. For more information, contact the Knoxville Area Coalition for Compassion, Justice & Peace, P.O. Box 379, Lake City, TN 37769.
Last August 23, while one of the largest protests in Stockton, California history was kept out of sight of the visiting President, a heckler in the Civic Auditorium challenged Bush to explain why he would drag the country into war and make us less safe at home. Medea Benjamin was forcibly removed from the hall, but not charged.
"Safe at home" was far from the result of Bush's brush with Portland, Oregon, the day before. Up to 3,000 people had turned out to protest not only the war moves on Iraq, but administration policy for removing trees and civil liberties, as well. Marchers converged near the hotel where the President was staying. Provocatively, riot police pushed into the crowd to disperse it at one end, while police lines prevented retreat on the other. Pepper spray and rubber bullets were in abundant use. One family was sprayed directly in the face when they pleaded with one officer to let them through the barricades to safety from the deteriorating situation. Only three arrests were reported. The family and four others have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city, mayor, chief of police and up to 50 unnamed officers over their actions.
Hundreds returned to the streets of Portland October 26 in a solidarity march with those in Washington and San Francisco. When some marchers briefly occupied a military recruiting station, police arrested an Indymedia videographer, only to question and release him later without charges.