But this June, when the much-maligned Vice-President Dick Cheney stopped briefly in town for a fundraiser, his motorcade moved easily through the streets of Portland, mostly unbothered by protesters. Many activists have expressed their disappointment with the community for failing to raise a strong dissenting voice against the Bush Administration. Moreover, there has been a growing concern that the activist community is defeating itself and its own message. During the Cheney visit, several different factions squabbled behind the scenes about the best tactics; as a result, much of the fuming ire was directed away from Cheney and towards each other.
But a long-anticipated visit by President George W. Bush is presenting Portland's resistance movement with an opportunity to regroup and reclaim its voice. The President is expected to appear at the Downtown Hilton on Thursday, August 22.
Like Vice-President Dick Cheney's visit in June (which raised $400,000 at a breakfast fundraiser), President Bush is coming to bolster Republican Senator Gordon Smith's bid for re-election. With the Democrats current razor-thin control of the senate, Oregon has become a focal point for the GOP. A victory here could tip the congressional scales in favor of the Republicans and Bush.
With so much in the balance--a possible invasion of Iraq; ongoing U.S. intervention in the Middle East; continued assaults on labor and civil rights; corporate impropriety--the ante is being raised for Portland activists to take action.
Local activist Chris Preucil is one of a number of activists who in the past week have called for emergency planning meetings to arrange to "welcome" Bush back to "Little Beirut."
Organizers have their work cut out for them in a local movement that's still picking up pieces from the disjointed protest against Cheney in June, during which a Monday morning rush-hour action became obscured by catty and philosophical arguments between activists. That morning, a number of protesters left downtown frustrated and exhausted. Some claimed that individual egos were preventing a diversity of tactics and thus, replicating the very authoritarian structures they oppose.
"The same principles aren't shared by all the organizations or individuals involved," said Will Seaman, a member of the Portland Peaceful Response Coalition. Seaman is one of a number of activists who hopes that a planning meeting earlier this week will help steer demonstrations against Bush in the right direction.
"What came out of subsequent discussions is that there is never going to be a single voice," Seaman said, referring specifically to a meeting held last month at Northeast's Liberty Hall. At that meeting, various groups that took part in the Cheney protest discussed their differences and began brainstorming for a Bush visit. "The best you can hope for is that different groups are not working against each other," Seaman said.
"I wish there was a way for people to realize that it's easy to be radical, and to realize the power it has," said Lichen Wood, a local activist who has been publicizing the upcoming protest on Portland Indymedia. He also said that a concrete date, time, and place needs to be selected for any action. He plans to post the information on the website.
That may be of use to the Portland Police Bureau, which also remains in the dark regarding most of the plans for the President's visit. Henry Groepper, a spokesperson from the law enforcement agency, said the Secret Service takes complete control whenever a dignitary visits the city. "They say 'this is what we need, and this is where you should go,'" he said. "It's the price of doing business. Lots of federal money comes here that we absorb, so you don't want something bad to happen in Portland."