March 9th, 2005 Nick Budnick, Aaron Scott, Becky Ohlsen, Zach Dundas | Special Section Stories
 

2000

     
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May Day Melee

BY NICK BUDNICK

It was supposed to be a May Day rally for workers' rights. It turned into chaos.

Some 350 advocates of various causes gathered in the South Park Blocks and marched through the city, planning to converge on Powell's Books, where the International Longshore and Warehouse Union was negotiating a new contract. Then a protester hurled a newspaper box at a police officer-and mayhem broke out.

Roughly 150 cops, many clad in fearsome black riot gear, unleashed a new style of militarized crowd-control tactics, with appalling results.

* An officer fired "beanbags" filled with lead pellets at the backs of retreating protesters.

* Police clubbed a protester in the knee, apparently because he was not "dispersing" fast enough. Then a mounted cop rammed his steed into the same guy, now limping, as he tried to cross the street.

* Police arrested and cuffed 10 protesters standing peaceably on the sidewalk.

* At least 20 people reported injuries, ranging from black eyes, bruises and open wounds to a thumb broken in three places.

Commissioner Charlie Hales, who was on the scene, was stunned by what he saw, saying it was unclear whether the police tactics "were suppressing bad behavior or instigating it."

The aggressive police response stunned the city. Rather than assuaging fears, new Police Chief Mark Kroeker stoked them, telling reporters Portland should "get accustomed to" the new regime. Mayor Vera Katz issued a statement praising the police reaction.

Then came the backlash, as video images, media reports and eyewitness accounts all pointed to a hideously botched police response-as Katz and Kroeker discovered at a grueling public hearing at Maranatha Church. An internal investigation pointed out several mistakes, particularly in terms of communication and decisions made by police brass.

"May Day 2000 was a real push point; it was a real hot-button issue," recalls Capt. Mike Crebs, who declared the emergency that day. "But I think we've learned from those mistakes. That was probably one of the biggest growing experiences in my life."

This was not the first time Portland had seen clashes with protesters. In 1991 and 1992 the city was known as "Little Beirut," thanks to the intense protests against the first Gulf War and Bush the elder. May Day 2000 was, however, significant for two reasons. First, Chief Kroeker's infamous "get accustomed to it " response was a major PR blunder that set the tone for the remainder of his stormy four-year tenure.

Second, the fallout persuaded the bureau to modify its training so that subsequent police responses were-usually-better planned and less offensive.

Skateboarding is not a Crime

BY AARON SCOTT

Despite what the T-shirts say, skateboarding on the streets of downtown Portland was a crime. Skateboarders and in-line skaters were routinely slapped with fines as hefty as $297 for having the nerve to ride inside the forbidden zone between Southwest Jefferson and Northwest Hoyt streets, and 13th Avenue and Naito Parkway. Finally Commissioner Charlie Hales introduced an ordinance to legalize skateboarding on downtown streets (except the transit mall) and after dark and to slash fines to $25. All Hales wanted was to decriminalize an alternative mode of transportation. Instead, he ignited a civic debate that pitted skate punks and in-liners against Mayor Vera Katz, downtown merchants and the police. Opponents of the change argued that allowing 16-year-old kids to skate alongside 2,000-pound vehicles was madness. Insanity or not, Hales prevailed with the votes of fellow commissioners Erik Sten and Dan Saltzman, and despite the grumpy predictions of doom, there's been no spike in skateboarding accidents since.

The Wayward Elf

Tre Arrow's flight from justice.

BY BECKY OHLSEN

A one-man Monkey Wrench Gang, 26-year-old Tre Arrow hoisted himself to fame when he scaled the offices of the U.S. Forest Service in the summer of 2000 to protest logging in the forests of Mount Hood-and perched on a ledge of the building for 11 days.

Born Michael Scarpitti, Arrow changed his name because the trees told him to. He walked barefoot out of concern for the Earth, and adhered to a strict raw-food diet. Unsurprisingly, he became a polarizing figure, receiving adulation from green activists and rolling eyeballs from almost everyone else.

Arrow was a veritable dreadlock of activity. He ran for Congress on the Green Party ticket, winning 15,763 votes. In October 2001 he broke his pelvis when he fell 65 feet from a tree after a two-day standoff with police and loggers in Tillamook State Forest.

He was also indicted in two arson attacks in 2001-a firebombing at Ross Island Sand and Gravel, which caused $210,000 worth of damage to three cement trucks and which was claimed by Earth Liberation Front, and another firebombing of trucks owned by Ray Shoppert Logging in Eagle Creek.

After the indictment, Arrow dropped out of sight, resurfacing in March 2004, when he was apprehended trying to shoplift a pair of bolt cutters from a Canadian Tire store in Victoria, B.C. That last antic landed Arrow in the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Center.

The FBI considers Arrow a terrorist and wants him back in Oregon to face federal charges of use of fire to commit a felony, destruction of vehicles used in interstate commerce and use of incendiary devices in a crime of violence.

At press time, Arrow was in the North Fraser Pretrial Center just outside Vancouver, B.C., seeking refugee status in Canada. Seldom at a loss for something to protest, he had been on a hunger strike provoked by the injustice of the U.S. legal system and the fact that his Canadian captors insisted on cooking his food. He dropped to 85 pounds before being coaxed off the strike last summer. His extradition hearing is set for next month.

The Great Unraveling

With a title in their grasp, the Blazers staged a collapse for the ages.

BY ZACH DUNDAS

In the seventh and decisive game of the National Basketball Association's Western Conference finals, the Blazers held a commanding lead over the Great Satan, Shaquille O'Neal's Los Angeles Lakers. The Los Angeles home crowd slumped in morose silence as the priciest squad in NBA history-assembled by owner Paul Allen to win a championship, cost be damned-roared into the game's fourth quarter.

Firebrand forward Rasheed Wallace was on his way to a 30-point game. With a win likely to lead to a walkover against a weak opponent in the Finals, the legendary ex-Chicago Bull Scottie Pippen was finally set to win a ring out from under Michael Jordan's shadow. With 12 minutes, four seconds left, the Blazers led the Lakers by 16 points.

Brian Shaw, a backup guard for the Lakers, sank a three-pointer to end the third quarter. Ominous.

And then:

Clank. Clank. Clank. Clank. Clank. Clank, clank, clank, clank clank clank-clank-clank!

In the fourth quarter, the Blazers missed 13 shots in a row. Wallace himself dealt six of the bricks. As Portland sank into a quicksand of bewildered mass psychosis, the Lakers flared to life. Shaw sunk more treys, and Los Angeles surged into the lead. O'Neal terminated the Blazers' waning hopes when he converted a Kobe Bryant pass into a thunderous Godzilla dunk with 41 seconds left to play.

The next day, an Oregonian headline called the game "a macabre horror film." Indeed, the ghost of Game Seven still haunts Portland.

Five seasons later, Pippen, Wallace and most other principals of the era are gone. So is the notion that the Blazers are anywhere near a championship. The team has reeled from off-court crisis to on-court mediocrity, struggling to keep fans' affections and forge a new identity.

Twelve minutes, four seconds, 13 shots in a row. The Blazers still haven't recovered. Have you?


* It starts with a whisper. A former altar boy from Seaside sues the Archdiocese of Portland, claiming that retired priest Rev. Maurice Grammond molested him in the 1960s. Over the next few years, the trickle becomes a torrent. More than 50 other men will step forward with similar accusations against Grammond, who dies in 2002.

* What's that wheezing sound? Thousands of Portland smokers gasp for breath when Multnomah County bans smoking in all workplaces except bars, taverns, bingo halls, truck stops and other dens of iniquity.

* Drowning in a tide of pagers, cell phones and fax machines, Qwest adds the 971 area code and cranks up 10-digit dialing, forever condemning millions of callers to punching needless prefixes. Turns out the number shortage was a misdial. Thanks to smarter allocation, 503 won't actually run out of numbers until 2011.

* Trapped in his car under a 6-foot snowdrift in a godforsaken stretch of forest outside Sisters, clad in a T-shirt and jeans, a 29-year-old alleged Air Force deserter named Thomas Wade Truett survives for 16 days on M&M's and orange juice.

* The Oregon Health Plan gets a dose of bad publicity when it denies an experimental lung-and-liver transplant for Brandy Stroeder, 18, who has cystic fibrosis. Conservatives denounce this bureaucratic incompetence-despite the fact that they've been trying to scuttle the plan for years. Hotel magnate Mark Hemstreet helps raise $300,000 to pay for the operation, but Stroeder later dies while awaiting a compatible set of organs.

* A group calling itself the Anarchist Golfing Association breaks into two greenhouses in Canby to sabotage experiments on genetically engineered creeping bentgrass, sown on putting greens. Their trademark: golf balls adorned with the anarchist circle-A symbol.

* Electricity prices go haywire-hitting $3,250 a megawatt-hour from a usual rate of $14. The Bush II administration would later say it's all part of the joy of energy deregulation. Turns out power traders at Enron's Portland office were manipulating the market with black ops code-named "Fat Boy" and "Death Star." Enron raked in hundreds of millions while triggering blackouts in California and killing fish in Oregon.

* George W. Bush wins Florida. No, he doesn't. Yes, he does. No, he doesn't. Yes, he does. On a 5-4 vote, a deeply divided U.S. Supreme Court overrules the Florida Supreme Court, halts the state ballot recount, and declares Bush the 43rd president-thanks to a chadly margin of 537 votes.

* Eight homeless folks pitch tents on a strip of grass under a downtown Bridge. Cops move 'em along. They set up under another bridge. Same deal. As the population swells, the saga of Dignity Village becomes a media spectacle as the campers push their shopping carts from one spot to the next. The Village finally lands near the airport, where residents set up toilets, showers, garbage service and bylaws.

* Senate Republicans hatch a plot to snuff out assisted suicide by making it illegal for docs to prescribe lethal drugs. Oregon's Sen. Ron Wyden threatens a filibuster. The bill dies in committee.V-J Day. The Kennedy assassination. The O.J. verdict. History pivots on such indelible moments. And no Portland Trail Blazers fan will ever forget where they were on June 4, 2000.


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