All About Dick 

Activists Yell and Scream About Vice-President Cheney

From outward appearances, the gathering may have been a family picnic. Under the shifting summer skies on Sunday, about 400 people gathered in the Park Blocks, just a stone's throw away from the hotel where Vice-President Dick Cheney was lounging. Middle-aged men with pressed khaki shorts milled around with teens in crop tops. With noticeably fewer black-clad anarchists than most protests in Portland, the crowd had a tame and approachable demeanor. But, as soon as speakers began unfolding their complaints about Enron and the war in Afghanistan, it became instantly evident how poisonous the dislike for the current White House administration is--and, more precisely, that most of the seething anger is directed at Dick Cheney.

When Cheney announced plans late last week to attend a Monday morning fundraiser for conservative Senator Gordon Smith, activists around town began to stir up as many people as possible to protest Cheney's visit and shout at his motorcade and hotel room. Beginning with speeches on Friday evening in Pioneer Square, and continuing to a pancake breakfast at dawn on Monday morning, activists kept a constant vigil. Perhaps more than any current politician, Cheney has raised the ire and suspicion of liberal activists.

"It was Dick Cheney who said things like, 'This is a war that our grandchildren will be fighting,'" said Will Seaman, one of the protest organizers, before Friday's event. "He is cynically exploiting tragedy to formalize a strategy he's had all along."

Moreover, speakers and protest organizers point out Cheney's chummy ties to corporate giants. During the 2000 elections, Cheney was forced to divest hundreds of thousands of his financial holdings in energy companies. During the elections, Cheney responded with a ho-hum shrug of his shoulders to accusations that he could use his position as the Vice-President to influence energy policies in America for his own personal gain.

"Dick Cheney is at the center of the corruption of the political process," explains Seamen.

While President George W. Bush has been derided as a "good old boy" who rode his daddy's coattails into office, Cheney has been attributed a dark, purposefully sinister personality. Unlike previous Vice-President Al Gore, who proudly touted his environmental and social programs, Cheney has maintained an unassuming, almost ghost-like profile. However, Cheney does seem to be actively pursuing an agenda, say activists, who see his low-key presence as a smoke screen for stealth tactics.

For example, Cheney has been accused of keeping a tight lid on press information. When an independent investigation requested minutes from meetings between Cheney and Enron officials, the administration balked for weeks. It finally took a court order to pry the documents free. And, when they were finally delivered, pages and excerpts were deleted. Although investigators have not gone so far as to make accusations of criminal wrongdoing, the secrecy and arrogance has raised acute suspicions about what Cheney is trying to hide. His chumminess with mega-corporations also touches a raw nerve for constituents who increasingly feel as if politics are bought and sold like commodities.

Placards held by protesters at Sunday and Monday's events showed a wide range of complaints leveled at Cheney. One sign read "Dick Cheney + Enron = Investigate"; another stated "Homeland Security/Fatherland Gestapo." Activists admitted, however, that they were preaching to the choir, and more information about Cheney needs to be spread to the voting public.

Standing in front of the crowd, local activist Dave Mazza calmly challenged the crowd to take their gripes beyond friends and family and begin a widespread movement. "We need to start going to exotic lands like Beaverton and Hillsboro," he said. "We're not only going to run [Cheney] out of Portland, but we'll run him out of office."

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