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December 9th, 2009 WW Editorial Staff | Rogue of the Week
 

Port Of Portland

What’s a public agency got against peaceful dissent?

     
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GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL: This small sign got Shawna McCarroll booted from a public meeting in a Port of Portland conference room.
IMAGE: Tom Martinez

This week’s Rogue, the Port of Portland, dishonored itself last week with a Soviet-style disregard for free speech.

On Dec. 4, the Columbia River Crossing Project Sponsors Council (who gets a Rogue dishonorable mention) invited public comment on a cheaper ($3.6 billion) version of the proposed $4.2 billion bridge between Portland and Vancouver.

Among the overflow crowd of about 150 in a Port of Portland conference room were bridge opponents, many wearing “No CRC” buttons.

They did not shout, demonstrate or otherwise disrupt the two-hour meeting, which included a limited number of one-minute public comments and brief staff presentations.

Despite an unusual verbal warning at the door that protests would not be tolerated, some bridge opponents discreetly carried handmade signs bearing criticisms such as “Still Bad.”

A Port security guard ejected at least three people for silently flashing the innocuous signs from the rear of the conference room, including one young man who held up his sign after the meeting concluded.

The guard, who works for ADM Security, was dressed in plain clothes with no markings to identify his company or position. After the meeting, he declined to give his name or explain under what provision of the public meetings law he booted the critics.

Port spokeswoman Martha Richmond says the security guard overstepped instructions to keep the meeting orderly. “I think those instructions were misinterpreted,” Richmond says.”

Shawna McCarroll, 33, of Northwest Portland got ejected from the meeting for displaying a modest-sized sign reading “Start Over” (see above). She calls the Port’s response “weird.”

“I was just expressing my opinion in a peaceful way,” McCarroll says. “What if I duct-taped the sign to my shirt? Would that be different?”

Metro Council President David Bragdon, who was sitting at the dais as he has at hundreds of public meetings, says the ejections reflect an intolerance of “any scrutiny or accountability” that has characterized CRC proceedings.

“I’ve never seen that before,” Bragdon says.

 
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