As anti-war protesters made their weekly march through downtown Portland last Friday, as they have done every Friday since late 2001, they were greeted by honks, peace signs--and a water balloon tossed from an open apartment window several stories up.
They were prepared for worse.
Before the march, organizers passed out handouts "reaffirming the peaceful" in the Portland Peaceful Response Coalition, advising protesters to stay more than an arm's length away from hecklers and, "when possible, move away from, not towards, confrontation."
The instructions came in response to a fracas that had broken out the previous week between pro-troop hecklers, many of them homeless youths, and peace protesters. Weeks of tension between the two groups erupted Aug. 1, resulting in assault citations against two of the pro-troop men, including an Oregon Army National Guardsman who spent several years living on the streets.
According to anti-war demonstrators, the disagreement began just after they assembled at the square Aug. 1. Arin Marcus, 27, a Guardsman who has been active in pro-war rallies in Portland, took issue with protesters' signs listing the names of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. "He said he didn't feel that we should be using soldiers' names for this cause," said Gabe Rivera, who held one such sign. Although tension mounted, Marcus eventually left and the protesters began their march along the sidewalk.
When protesters returned to Pioneer Square, however, they found their way blocked by Marcus and a handful of others, standing shoulder to shoulder. When some of the protesters bypassed the group, a shouting match ensued.
"They were trying to create contact with the rally participants," said Christopher Clayhold, a criminal-defense lawyer who plays in the "no-war drum corps" that was at the march. "They would charge quickly through the crowd and try to bump elbows and shoulders with the crowd and then yell, 'Don't touch me.'"
Joshua Noggle, one of the men cited for assault, told police that protesters attacked the pro-troop group with the wooden handles of their signs.
One of the men bumped became involved in a dispute with Marcus. According to protester Carl Shoemaker, Marcus shoved the elderly man, who responded by trying to knee Marcus in the groin. (Marcus told WW he couldn't comment on the incident.) Noggle then reportedly waded into the fray.
Shoemaker responded by showing Noggle the back of his fist, though he insists he didn't strike him.
According to Shoemaker, Noggle then put him in a headlock, choking him so hard he couldn't breathe until another protester came to his aid.
After viewing a videotape of the incident, police cited both Noggle and Marcus with fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor, and issued them 30-day exclusions from Pioneer Square.
Noggle, 22, is listed as a transient on police reports and was one of nine street youths charged with the fatal beating of Richard Crosby, 42, in 2000. Those charges were dropped when he passed a polygraph test.
Marcus may face disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice if found guilty of assault, according to Major Arnold Strong, spokesman for the Oregon Army National Guard. He would not elaborate on what form it might take.