I was amazed to read your Rogue of the Week in the June 18 issue. One seldom sees a newspaper column that ridicules someone for asserting his or her First Amendment rights. Most editors realize that their livelihoods depend on those protections. Arresting Mr. [Josh Raisler] Cohn for protesting peacefully is harassment by any reasonable definition of the term. Hanging a banner where other people can see it isn't a crime, and no one should be arrested for doing it.
The column twists itself into a rhetorical pretzel trying to uphold the First Amendment while simultaneously attacking Mr. Cohn for asserting his free-speech rights. You write that the police complaint against him may be unconstitutional, but insist that he's guilty of something. Guilty of what? Guilty of still believing that we have a right to voice our opinions?
The same right which protects public protest is the one that protects Willamette Week's right to publish. You're shooting yourself in the foot when you write that a protester should be arrested for hanging a banner. Don't expect many tears if the city revokes your license to put newspaper dispensers on its sidewalks.
Southwest 3rd Avenue
The Rogue Desk responds:
We didn't induct Cohn into the hallowed Hall of Rogues because he unfurled a banner on the Steel Bridge (which, by the way, is against the law, no matter what Mr. Sklar thinks) but because he called us to complain about police harassment when he knew damn well he was guilty as sin (which he eventually admitted on the phone). As we mentioned in the column, we have no problem with civil disobedience--so long as its practitioners are willing to face the music. That's how you make a political point. Doing what Mr. Cohn did--breaking the law and then squeaking "Harassment!" when he got pinched--smacks of self-righteous whining.
Regarding the article about Zoo Bombs ["Speed Demons," WW, June 25, 2003], I think WW's coverage of the TriMet-issued exclusions, and their subsequent retractions, was misleading. The article insinuates, in simple terms, that WW played a key role in getting the exclusions revoked. That's untrue.
In an ongoing effort to remain organized, Zoo Bomb support wrote letters to TriMet, successfully contesting the validity of the June 8 exclusions. Every Zoo Bomber cited by TriMet that night received a letter saying their exclusion was revoked.
Taking credit for what Zoo Bombers consider an important victory concerning their rights is an oversight of all the hard work Zoo Bombers have done to gain respect from authority figures. The issue may seem trivial to you, but in the politically charged climate that is Portland's bike community, these battles are taken, and fought, seriously.
We certainly don't want to diminish the Zoobombers' glory in getting TriMet to tear up the tickets it issued to 31 mini-cyclists the night WW came along for the ride. We still believe WW's involvement helped unsnarl the red tape. TriMet officials didn't even know about the incident until WW reporter Lauren Dake called them up to ask about the agency's policy toward the Zoobombers. One official even denied TriMet had issued any tickets to Zoobombers until Dake explained that she herself had been written up. We can't help feeling that the prospect of publicity had a lot to do with TriMet's impressive burst of backpedaling.