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by David Vest

“The Battle of Portland,” as it was named by William Rivers Pitt, took place just a few short downhill blocks from the offices of the Oregonian, which was if anything even more unprepared than Portland’s finest, who failed to provide a “safety corridor” for the Republican fat cats to enter the Hilton unjostled by dissident voices calling them cretins. Portland’s free newspaper, the Tribune, provided far more detailed coverage that did the Oregonian, whose photographers may have been “otherwise occupied.”

The fat cats naturally felt they had earned the right to a pleasant evening. After all, they were ponying up $25,000 apiece to have their picture taken with the Great Unificator. Not exactly chump change, bearing in mind that these same pork forkers are unwilling to spend one dime to salvage Oregon’s crumbling public schools.

“Demonstration Turns Violent,” brayed the Oregonian’s ham-handed headline, in direct contradiction of the story below it, which contained mainly second-hand accounts of police incompetence and misbehavior and precious little by way of direct observation. Perhaps the four blocks was too far to walk, even downhill.

“Kevin Mannix Sparks Riot” would have made a more accurate headline. Wasn’t it Mannix’s complaint about being made to pass through the rabble to get to the event that inspired the cops to move the generally well-behaved crowd back and create the corridor they had forgotten to establish? Did Mannix, as gubernatorial standard bearer, fell the need to “do something”?

After Mannix made it into the hotel, someone thought it a good idea to declare a “state of emergency.” Someone thought it a good idea to drive a police car into the crowd of protestors. When people in danger of being run over banged on the hood of the car in outrage, someone thought it was a good idea to open fire on the citizens of Portland with rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray.

No one, however, thought it a good idea to claim responsibility for giving the orders. When asked who had fired the rubber bullets, which had never been fired at Portlanders before in the entire history of the city, Portland’s courageous Chief Mark Kroeker, a self-described leading candidate to become LAPD’s new chief, said he thought it might have been the Beaverton cops who did it.

Apparently this didn’t sit too well with Beaverton, because by the next morning Kroeker had decided, most decisively, that “it’s not this agency or that one, it’s a unified operation.”

A unified operation for which no one is responsible and for which god forbid anyone should be held accountable. When urged (yet again) to fire Kroeker, Mayor Vera Katz complained about people who think they can “put that kind of pressure on the Mayor” and bragged that Portland’s unpleasantness was not serious enough to leave a “bad impression” on the president, indeed it was only a “blip” compared to “what goes on in other cities.”

The size of the protest came as a “complete surprise” to the White House, said Ari “Watch What You Say” Fleischer. “We were caught off guard.” Nonsense, said the Secret Service’s Portland Bureau, the White House was “kept fully informed.” Not to mention the fact that Bush has for some time been attracting growing numbers of protesters everywhere he goes.

Over the West Hills and down the road a piece, Washington County held its annual fair a few weeks ago. The Mannix for Governor booth stood not twenty feet from a statue of a large pig in coveralls waving a big American flag. David Vest writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He is a poet and piano-player for the Pacific Northwest’s hottest blues band, The Cannonballs.

He can be reached at:

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DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

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