Over the past year, travelers passing through Portland International Airport regularly saw a table lined with placards questioning the government's account of the Sept. 11 attacks and slamming President Bush as an "international terrorist."
But PDX travelers will no longer be sharing the airport's corridors with table displays. Effective Sept. 30, the Port of Portland revised the airport regulations on tables, banning them and leaving the 9/11 table's occupant lamenting the tables' loss after being allowed for seven years.
"I had amazing conversations with people," says David Morrison, a 59-year-old Portland book dealer, agitator and self-described "9/11 truth activist" (see "Skeptics Corner," WW, Aug. 22, 2007).
Morrison's table, at one time between the ticket lobby and the security checkpoint at the A, B and C gates and later moved to the D and E gates, had literature, DVDs and 32-inch-tall posters.
Morrison says he never had trouble getting the OK from the airport's operations-department managers for his activities. However, he says the airport denied his permit to set up his table a few weeks ago due to the new regulations that ban "tables, stands, chairs or other structures." The previous regulations allowed table permits to be granted for free. Table occupants couldn't collect money or signatures, use voice amplifiers or obstruct traffic.
But port officials say they changed the rules because the tables caused congestion during busy hours.
Morrison calls that "absurd," and suspects the airport took enough heat, either from travelers or others, to consider changing its policy.
In 2007, PDX received four complaints regarding free-speech activities, according to Steve Johnson, airport spokesman. Three of them were directed at Morrison for the content of his information.
Under the new regulations, people can still distribute materials to passersby. But Morrison contends no more table means he is less likely to snag travelers' attention.
"I'd have to get inventive," he said. He has considered getting a flashy American-flag suit, but adds, "I'm getting a little old for that."
Among 76 applicants seeking tables at PDX in the past year were the American Federation of Government Employees, Military Families Speak Out Oregon and the Air Line Pilots Association.