On Saturday, February 4, members of a group called the Portland Action Lab (PAL) conducted a teach-in entitled the “#F29 Direct Action Training” seminar. The goal of this citizens training session was to share PAL’s de-escalation tactics during planned citizen actions such as the upcoming nationwide protest against corporations on February 29, 2012. Training consisted of presentations, round table discussions and participating in impromptu skits to practice the skills presented.
More than one hundred citizens attended the training at St. Francis Church on SE 12th and Oak St. in Portland, Oregon. Some were new to the idea of protesting, and others were from various groups including Occupy Portland, Earth First, and PAL. Classes began at 11:00AM and continued until 6:00PM, followed by a fund-raising party at the Red and Black Café until 10:00PM.
Following PAL’s presentation on organizing smaller “affinity groups,” the presenter randomly chose twelve participants to engage in a role-playing scenario to practice their new tactics. After a few minutes of discussion outside the public view, drums started beating, and the volunteers reentered the room shouting protest chants as three volunteers quickly chained themselves to the center support pole.
Suddenly, citizens playing the role of police officers quickly moved towards the chained protesters until fellow protesters stepped into their pathway, effectively diverting the attention of police. A police liaison approached the officers, loudly asking, “How can I help you?” The officers asked a few questions about the protest, and then proceed to notify protesters that “Arrests will begin in ten seconds.” After a few minutes and a bit of chaos, the facilitator jumps up and announced that the intervention had been successful, followed by loud applause. The room began to analyze what worked and what did not.
As attendee Big John explains, “Portland Police are out of control. They attack peaceful protesters with batons, pepper spray and tear gas.”
Police Chief Mike Reese has taken steps to remedy this problem. Denis C. Theriault, Portland Mercury’s News Editor, reported, “Bowing to a federal probe into how its officers use force, the Portland Police Bureau last night announced a serious new regimen … when cops injure someone or do something like use a Taser, tackle someone, swing a baton, fire a beanbag gun, etc.” (January 4, 2012)
Another attendee, “Butterfly”, offered her reason for attending the seminar, explaining, “I am here because I need to learn about my rights in case I am arrested.”
As an article by KGW.com staffer Michael Rollins reported, “Portland Police Chief Mike Reese announced a policy change that will send a supervisor to incidents where officers have used prescribed levels of force, and prepare a report after interviewing those involved. The chief said the change was recommended by the federal Department of Justice during an investigation into the Portland Police Bureau’s use of force.” The Portland Charter Commission’s Police Accountability Subcommittee will continue with a series of public hearings on proposed Charter Amendments during the month of February.
The planned protest, known by the name #F29 will bring awareness to the existence of ALEC, the acronym for “American Legislative Exchange Council.” This was the first seminar in a series of teach-ins planned for the month of February. Contact PAL at (503) 567-6895, or www.portlandactionlab.org for future times and locations. [Editors Note: There will be an additional training on Saturday, February 25th, at St. Francis, from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM, that will essentially mirror the one described here, and allow new and previous attendees to go to the sessions they may have missed.]