Yet, in spite of their success in Eugene and the sympathetic hearings they have received elsewhere along the I-5 corridor, the group's pleas have fallen on deaf ears at Portland's City Hall.
Calling themselves the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the organization is a loosely connected national organization. The resolution passed by the Eugene City Council marked a decided advancement for the group: Eugene was the fifteenth city to pass such a declaration in support of civil rights, and the first in the Pacific Northwest.
Even Betty Taylor, the Eugene council member who introduced and supported the resolution through its process, was surprised by their success. "I was amazed," says Taylor, going on to explain that timing was everything. Taylor claims that the resolution would not have passed in January, when new, more conservative members take seats on Eugene's council. "It is getting a lot of attention," she adds, "that's what it's accomplishing."
Since its passage last week, both Taylor and the sponsor of the resolution, Hope Marston, have appeared on several radio talk shows from San Antonio to Seattle. There was also an article in the Los Angeles Times.
"When we do civil disobedience as a city," says Marston, "it has more of an impact." Since their victory in Eugene, Marston has hit the road, lobbying councils in Astoria and Benton County, where Corvallis is located.
Curiously, Portland City Council, once a leader for social issues, has been silent. The Portland Bill of Rights Defense Committee claims that they have gathered more than 1000 signatures petitioning the council to consider the resolution. Thus far, however, no council member has agreed to introduce the bill.
"Obviously [the council] has shied away from commenting on congressional actions since the '80s," explains Mike Harrison, a senior staff member for Commissioner Francesconi. Harrison refers to an era when city council spoke its conscience about the Reagan Administration's meddling in Central America. He also ponders what impact such a resolution could have. "Will Congress and the administration do what is suggested?" he asks rhetorically.
Some at City Hall also stated that there is a division between local and federal interests, and that comments on federal issues may be outside the bounds for city officials. But in spite of this pledged division, Mayor Katz's office introduced a resolution on Wednesday to accept a $110,000 grant from the US Department of Justice for additional policing in Portland.